Professional Mission Statement

Regarding the Spirituality of Children and Adolescents

Interfaith Chaplain Marian Johnson, M.A.

I have been working within this area of study and assisting children and adolescents with their spirituality and character development for over 20 years. Approaching each child or adolescent with a profound sense of their inherent worth, calling forward that same inner beauty and then assisting the youth to speak with their true voice is the core of all that I do. True spirituality is understanding that there is a beautiful and unique being within each child that lies in wait to be discovered and strengthened - beyond the behavior, actions and words that would have us believe otherwise.

Utilizing many methods of teaching and communicating that offer a healing presence, I am able to reach the deepest aspect of the youth so that they may find who they truly are. Allowing them to ask the questions, express the disappointments, release their doubts and fears in regard to this idea that we call “God” or a “Higher Power” brings profound awareness and healing. Offering possible ideas and positions regarding spirituality and religion allows the youth to find the truth of who their Creator is while learning that spirituality is a lifelong journey.

Children and adolescents that have experienced trauma, tragedy, crisis, abuse and neglect do not respond well to the more common and traditional versions of religion and spirituality. Concepts that reflect an all-powerful, all-protective deity often are totally inappropriate for their situations and can even bring further upset to their fragile emotional conditions. Instructing a child in the idea that God will always protect them when that is not the situation for their lives, does not echo or validate their emotions of pain, isolation, depression and anger. A new way of presenting spirituality and religion has been developed and implemented in a way that embodies truth, dignity, freedom and inherent value for the child/adolescent and the Higher Power.

Here is the latest news article (September 2011) that reports about my spiritual work with children. You can see the complete article icluding the story, photographs and video with this link:
http://www.mcall.com/health/mc-health-interfaith-20110926,0,6544399.story

Incorporation of expressive arts that include music, drawing, clay work, mosaics, creative movement and drama is part of my program and children and teens relate well to these modalities. Spending time in nature and outdoor activities, such as planting flowers, is also a way to deepen spirituality. They find their talents and abilities sharpen as they work with me in these creative ways.

Learning about many aspects of world religions that support ideas of hope, healing, inspiration and courage are expressed and discussed. Teachings from sacred texts, spiritual teachers, inspirational modern writers and social activists are also shared. Through listening and sharing these writings, a youth’s truth can find resonance with a world religion that may offer further guidance and support. Some youth already have a chosen spiritual path and ask to learn more about that particular faith, which can be customized to their needs.

Community outreach is also a vital part of spiritual work with youth. Finding ways to share their gifts and compassion as well as helping them to develop these traits occur within these programs. Realizing the value of their presence in various community settings, such as an assisted-living program visit or singing at a community house of worship broadens their sense of self-worth and purpose.

Although the majority of my programs are in the area of general spirituality, faith-specific activities can be appropriate for some children. Also, educating youth to the basic tenets of world religions in a safe, non-coercive environment can deepen their awareness of the importance of diverse cultures and religions. Meeting clergy and leaders from various world faiths can provide a reduction in a tendency to have religious prejudices later in life.

This interfaith education can also ensure a more successful professional career for these youth when they understand a larger number of cultural dynamics. This can also provide an opportunity for the youth to experience the support of a specific faith community and be another support system that is available for the youth upon his/her return to the larger community. 

With all this being said, I still believe that it is the manner in which a professional spiritual teacher approaches a child that sends the true message of a Higher Power. The approach that is sincere, real, compassionate, respectful and certain affirms that each child holds value and the right to a life of hope and happiness. The certainty that a Higher Power exists is offered in an open and experiential way. Supporting the youth as they journey to understand that connection is the spiritual teacher’s highest form of affirming their free will and call to purpose in life.

MJJ 2013