About Us

Hi! We’re so glad you’re here. At Real Kids Real Faith, raising kids can overwhelm us, but it also makes us belly laugh on the regular. We’ve taught bike riding, personal hygiene basics, and how to make a bed, all in the same morning. We’ve also struggled to explain a hamster’s death to a 5 year old and the reasons we need to move again.

Somedays, we’ve wanted to give up, but brief moments of joy overtake us: glimpsing our child’s crayon drawing, snuggling together before bed, walking slowly down the street collecting ‘treasures’, and watching our toddler discover ketchup. We’re struck by our kids’ ability to compose songs about ANYTHING, and how they ask big questions at the most inopportune times.

Along the way, we’ve wrestled with our own spiritual journeys. We’ve had powerful experiences that shape us, but we know that, just like our kids, we’re still in process. So, as we see the challenges children face, we’re reimagining problems as possibilities. We want what you want, a real faith to sustain kids – all kids.

We Believe

  • Love makes a family and families come in all shapes and sizes (All are welcome here)
  • Families are primary sources of nurture for children (You’re necessary)
  • Spirituality is vital for children’s flourishing (Like sleeping and eating)
  • Community connections help families explore their spiritual lives (We’re in this together)
  • Spirituality shapes how we act in the world with compassion, mercy, and justice (Be the change)
  • Diverse relationships create empathetic humans. (Different is good)
  • Research helps us understand ourselves, our children, and our world (Science matters) 

We Bring

  • Over 180 books read (and 1 written) about childhood and parenting
  • Attendance at 176 parent-teacher conferences
  • More than 27 sex conversations with children asking about their private parts
  • Hesitant explanations for six pet deaths
  • Screen time strategies that are occasionally effective
  • Four decades of collective teaching about spirituality to children, families and community leaders
  • Hundreds of chaotic carpool moments responding to deep questions.
  • Countless nights spent wondering if we’re getting it right

Karen-Marie Yust

(she/her) Director

A professor, writer,and mother of three adult children, Karen-Marie began researching children’s spirituality 33 years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. Parenthood and scholarship have converged for her since that season. Her children were 9, 5, and 2 when she finished her doctorate from Harvard University. The kids called her dissertation “The Great Big Paper,” as it emerged slowly from the dot matrix printer in her attic office.

Having since published four books and countless articles on spirituality, Karen-Marie still feels as comfortable on the carpet with preschoolers and legos as she does in the lecture hall. (Some days she prefers the legos.)

Karen-Marie focuses her scholarship on how cultural shifts shape children’s spiritual lives. Most recently she has explored the impact of digital media on spiritual formation. (And she found a lot of good!) Now, as she listens to her grown children talk about having their own kids, Karen-Marie feels even greater motivation to discover new ways of supporting family spirituality.

Erin Reibel

(she/her) Associate Director

Erin is a mother of four school-aged children. For the last 20 years she has helped other people discover and expand their spirituality. When she’s not refereeing creative kitchen science experiments or acting as a Home Tech Support Desk, she’s passionate about helping her kids connect their spiritual lives with their everyday lives. This happens most often around the dinner table, where they talk about life, death, and whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.

Erin gave birth to three children while in grad school. These experiences shaped how she moved her beliefs from theory to practice. She’s been paying attention to the intersections between parenthood and her professional work ever since.

Parenting four unique kids has taught Erin to innovate. While regularly recreating discipline and communication strategies has its challenges, Erin appreciates the four strong personalities that refuse to let her fall into a parenting rut (or get much rest, ever.) She’s finally stopped waiting for predictability and learned to welcome the surprises and gear shifts of wild family life.

Sam Zeigler

(she/her) Administrative Assistant

Originally from Ohio, Sam has lived in four states (Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania) and two countries (the US and France) so far. She’s a whiz at keeping files organized and information flowing for Real Kids Real Faith, using a colorful computer keyboard she built herself.

Sam loves to travel, visiting national parks throughout the country with her large extended family for ‘reunions’ every few years. She’s also drawn to the arts and fills her life with creative outlets, such as knitting, writing, painting and playing clarinet, saxophone, and flute.

Sam began doing photography as a meditative practice a few years ago, when she updated her ten-year-old camera. Every day quickly became – and still is! – ‘bring your Nikon to work day’ as she looks for beautiful and interesting things to capture in her lens.