In this course, you will study the relationship between children, the Bible, and theology. The aim of this course is to orientate you to this field of study. It will guide you to develop a solid understanding of the relationship between children, Bible, and theology in theological thought and research. You will be introduced to key concepts, issues, trends and leading scholars in theological engagement with children and childhood. You will also be equipped with the knowledge and skills to do theology in a way that engages seriously with children and childhood.

The field of study into which this course fits is Systematic Theology, but the subject matter cannot be confined only to this subdiscipline. Therefore, the course follows an integrated theological approach by giving attention to biblical, systematic, historical, and practical theological perspectives (cf. Lewis and Demarest 1996, Smith 2013).

This field of study will also interact with Childhood Studies. You will start the course with the observation and evaluation of the involvement of children in a practical ministry situation. After your practical observations, you will explore biblical and theological perspectives, including exegesis of some important Biblical texts about children and childhood. The course will culminate in finding ways for you to personally contribute to the study of theology and children.

At the end of the course, you will be able to explain the importance of the engagement of theology with children and to do theology in a way that engages seriously with children and childhood. Along the way, you will be challenged to look deeply into your own theological thinking and ministry regarding children. Hopefully, you will respond by making the appropriate adjustments to your own theological thinking and ministry, as well as that of your local church.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Deduct a congregation’s theological thinking about children by observing and evaluating the place and role of children in a worship service.
  • Articulate the understanding of childhood in a specific biblical passage.
  • Explain the implications of Jesus’ engagement with children in Matthew 18:1- 14 and 19:13-15 for our theological understanding of childhood and the church’s contemporary ministry.
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of key concepts and issues in recent scholarship around children, bible, and theology
  • Describe different ways of doing theology that takes children seriously into account.

Course Outline

  • Unit 1: The Role of Children in Ministry and Theology
  • Unit 2: Biblical Perspectives on Childhood
  • Unit 3: Jesus’ Engagement with Children
  • Unit 4: Key Concepts and Issues
  • Unit 5: Doing Theology that Takes Children Seriously

Required Reading
Asbridge N 2009. What is a Child?, in Richards, A. and Privett, P. (eds.), Through the Eyes of a Child: New Insights in Theology from a Child’s Perspective, pp. 1- 20. London: Church House Publishing.
Berryman J 2007. Children and Christian Theology: A New/Old Genre, Religious Studies Review 33(2), 103-111.
Bunge MJ 2003. A More Vibrant Theology of Children, The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University
Gilbert J et al. 2009. Listening to the urban child, in Collier, J. (ed.), Toddling to the kingdom, pp. 181-192. London: Child Theology Movement.
Grobbelaar J 2016. Resources on theology and children, in Grobbelaar, J. and Breed, G. (eds.), Theologies of childhood and the children of Africa, pp.1-50. Cape Town: AOSIS.
________. The grammar of combining the vocabulary of theology, children and Africa, in Grobbelaar, J. and Breed, G. (eds.), Theologies of childhood and the children of Africa, pp. 51-91. Cape Town: AOSIS.
________. Jesus and the children in the Gospel of Matthew, in Grobbelaar, J. and Breed, G. (eds.), Theologies of childhood and the children of Africa, pp. 132- 186. Cape Town: AOSIS.
________. Doing Child Theology: History and methodology, in Grobbelaar, J. and Breed, G. (eds.), Welcoming Africa’s children – Theological and ministry perspectives, pp. 42-87. Cape Town: AOSIS.
Ibita M, Bieringer R 2010. (Stifled) voices of the future: Learning about children in the Bible, in Dillen, A. (eds.) Pollefeyt, D., Children’s voices: Children’s perspectives in ethics, theology and religious education, pp. 73-115, Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters.
James AL 2012. Key Concepts in Childhood Studies (SAGE Key Concepts series). London: SAGE Publications.
Marfo K, Serpell R 2014. Child Development in Africa: Views from Inside: New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mwenisongole TA, Mligo ES 2018. Pastoral Counseling for Orphans and Vulnerable Children: A Narrative Approach. Eugene: Resource Publications.
Ntarangwi M, Massart G 2015. Engaging Children and Youth in Africa: Methodological and Phenomenological Issues. Cape Town: Langaa RPCIG.
White KJ 2008. “He Placed a Child in the Midst”: Jesus, the kingdom and children, pp. 353-374, in Bunge, M. J., Fretheim, T. E. and Gaventa, B. R. (eds.), The Child in the Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing.
Willmer H 2009. Child Theology and Sin, in Collier, J. (ed.), Toddling to the Kingdom, pp. 193-199, Child Theology Movement. London.
Wright HR 2015. The Child in Society. London: SAGE Publications.