Last Child in the Woods

I debated reviewing this book on the Desperate Pastor blog, because it's not a book on leadership, pastoring, ministry, etc. But I could not shake the belief that it is an important book for the Church and for church leaders.

I'm talking about Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. The author's premise is that today's children face a "nature deficit," one that negatively affects imagination and creativity and leads to numerous dysfunctions and disadvantages for them and for the society they will live in as adults.

The book hit home with me. Though I grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs, I spent more waking hours in the woods than in my house, it seems. I fell in love with Creation. It shaped me in many ways, as it did most kids of my generation. These days, however, only the most aware, conscientious, and involved parents can tear their children away from TV, computers, video games, smartphones, and other indoor and relatively sedentary pursuits to go outdoors and explore creeks, climb trees, turn over rocks, and get dirty.

Louv explores the current and coming outcomes of this "nature deficit." He warns of effects on education and national parks, science and society--all of which concerns me. But I couldn't help but consider the impact of this deficit on the church, as well as the possible role the church has played in the problem and can play in the solutions.

Sure, much of our children's church experience and Christian education takes place (and maybe always has) indoors. But what will happen in a generation or two if church leaders have a shriveled sense of the splendor, beauty, intricacy, and majesty of Creation? What effect will a "nature deficit" have on how future Christians and church leaders read and understand and teach the Bible? Will our theology suffer? And what role should the church be playing in addressing this societal shift? Are there ways for the church to champion Creation in constructive ways? Should more churches--even in urban settings--be helpful in getting kids outside, taking them camping, teaching them to garden, taking them hiking, giving them never-to-be-forgotten experiences in nature? Is this one of the ways for the church to connect our spiritual mission with a cultural need?

I think these are important and urgent questions. I recommend Last Child in the Woods, and hope it will spark something for you.

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