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Year 3-6 Introduction

At this age belonging is of paramount importance, which means faith development is by association with family, friends, church, school or teachers (“I am what I belong to”). This fits in well with Rev. John Westerhoff’s description of this second stage of faith development as Belonging Faith or Hemler’s description of Affiliate Faith.   Children at this age want to belong to something and are great “joiners”.[1] In terms of their development of moral reasoning children’s focus on social approval leads them to work out that: “If I want people to like me, I’d better be a nice person.”[2].  Living up to other people’s expectations also helps them to feel good about themselves. Kohlberg points out that, whilst this type of thinking can be a great source or cooperative and caring behaviour, children at this age can also easily confuse what’s right with what other people want you to do. 

A powerful pedagogical vehicle for learning at this age is story, since children often choose to associate and build empathy with the characters.  Children at this age start sorting out the real from the make believe.  Although symbols, beliefs, moral rules and attitudes are interpreted very literally at this age (e.g. heaven and hell are real physical places and God is literally a person up in the sky), story can become an important way of giving unity and value to experiences.[3]     Biblical Foundations in Years 3 – 6 will thus focus on creating an understanding of what it means to belong to God, His people, His world and His church.  Learning will mainly be through exploring relationships in the Bible and the lives of students through the mode of story and personal experiences.

[1] Steven R. Hemler in What are the Stages of Faith?

[2] Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning

[3] James Fowler, Stages of Faith.