The Hungry Mind, by Susan Engel

Children’s curiosity is both a curse and a necessity for religious leaders. What pastor or church school teacher hasn’t cringed when a well-planned children’s lesson goes off on a tangent because of children’s questions? Yet children learn to wonder precisely by asking questions and receiving answers, says Susan Engel, and wondering is an essential disposition for Christian discipleship.

Engel, a developmental psychologist, has spent over a decade studying the origins of children’s curiosity and the relationship between educational systems that teach to the test and a notable decline in children’s expressions of curiosity. 

She is particularly interested in “epistemic curiosity,” which she defines as “the urge to know about things that have no obvious or utilitarian function.” Epistemic curiosity is what leads children to the wonder about God and unseen things that constitutes a spiritual life. Engel offers an understanding of what curiosity is and, indirectly, ideas for encouraging curiosity through conversations, classroom activities, and an ethos of congregational inquiry.