04 Mar Growing Faith at Home
The demands of parenting can be joyful at best – and also incredibly overwhelming. So often we just get by day to day, and we feel like we play a constant game of “catch up.” Often our frenetic lifestyles cause us to miss important opportunities to stop and talk with our children about faith. Without an intentional focus, we too often leave the “faith talks” to our once a week (at best!) trips to church.
But did you know that what Mom and Dad say, and what Mom and Dad do are the primary factors that influence whether or not a child will grow up to have faith? The formation of faith involves so much more than formal “Christian Education” – it is the learning and experience of faith through the folds and creases of everyday life. And it is the responsibility of the whole congregation.
The season of Lent is the perfect time to embark on a “fresh start” to discern how you can grow faith at home by making use of your family’s existing routines. It really is as simple as weaving faith into the conversations, rituals, and traditions that we already naturally do with our children. The “experts” in faith development have narrowed it down to 4 “Keys” to growing faith at home.
Several years ago I found the article below urging parents to be more intentional about creating a faith-filled home, and I am delighted to pass it along to you as you contemplate the fresh start of the Lenten season. This was written by Marilyn Sharpe – a “Giant” in the field of faith formation, dedicated to helping congregations equip households to nurture faith in all of the generations, all of the time, wherever they are.
“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush; anxious for greater developments and great wishes and so on; so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have little time for each other; and the home begins the disruptions of the peace of the world.”
Lent is an excellent time for taking a look at exactly what it is you want to pass along to your children — what’s essential and what’s not, what weaves the fabric of your family together from today into tomorrow? These four keys are an excellent place to start!
Key # 1) Caring Conversations: Caring conversations are the floor under all of our close relationships and are the way we model and transmit Christian values and faith to the next generation. Listening deeply, respectfully, and with great care, and speaking with love and gentleness helps children experience the love of God. Responding to the daily concerns of our children gives us their trust and the credibility to invite them to express God’s love to others.
Key #2) Family Devotions: (or, Finding God in Everyday Life)Turn up the “God language” under our caring conversations and you have family devotions. Adults need to learn the Christian message and the biblical story, finding themselves in God’s story and God in their story, in order to be able to pass on faith to their children and to other adults. Sometimes, devotions use Scripture, a devotional text, and prayer at a set time in a set place each day. Sometimes, it grows out of spontaneous conversation and wondering aloud how God might be present in the sunset or current events or a family celebration and what God might be calling us to do in response. Our Christian faith shapes the whole of our lives and involves a lifetime of study, reflection, and prayer.
Key #3) Family Rituals and Traditions: We already have a multitude of rituals and traditions. How do we wake one another up, say goodbye for the day, welcome one another home, and say good night? How do we celebrate birthdays and holidays? What stories and recipes and activities and values shape our identity as a family? How might we pray for one another when leaving for the day, when facing a hard decision, when dealing with stress? Find God in the midst of these daily or seasonally repeated experiences, and we will suffuse family life with God’s presence. This makes it very clear what our family values, believes, and promotes, and how faith shapes us individually and as a family.
Key #4) Family Service: Why would we do service as a family? Isn’t it enough to do it individually? Learning that “faith is caught as well as taught,” we understand that we need to be together as a family, linking the generations, to serve as a loving response to what God has already done for us. Together, we have a chance to talk about what we have done, why we have done it, and what we have learned. This is the way to make service a joyous opportunity to love God back, to say “thank you,” to be the light of Christ for others. Serving with children makes it a habit, a spiritual practice, a faithful way of life.