In a recent webinar, Marilyn Sharpe of Vibrant Faith stated that only one out of ten families talk about faith or God anyplace outside of the church building. When she asked a congregation why this might be, one woman remarked, “I didn’t know we were supposed to.” As Sharpe points out, many families do not feel equipped or empowered to nurture their children’s faith. Instead, they hope the church and/or a Christian school will take the lead on and do the vital work of nurturing a child’s faith formation.
In January a cohort of 16 children’s ministry leaders from 10 different CRC churches embarked on a four-month journey with Faith Formation Ministries to wrestle with this question: How can the church empower, equip, and encourage families to be the center of faith formation?
For the past few months we have explored the current state of families and have begun to identify places of faith practice, working toward a “family at the center” approach to faith formation (as recommended in the excellent resource Families at the Center of Faith Formation, among others). As we have listened to families in our local churches, we are discovering what parents need in order to engage with family faith formation. Here are just a few of our observations.
Families need a variety of ways to engage in family faith formation
Every family is different, and when it comes to faith formation, one size does not fit all. While some families enjoy devotions over the dinner table, other families want something more kinesthetic, such as a “faith walk” out in nature. As you encourage parents to engage in family faith activities, think holistically and provide opportunities that engage mind, body, and soul.
Parents need tools that are easy to use
Living in a global pandemic is hard, and trying to balance school, work, and family life under the constant anxiety of Covid-19 is exhausting. This cohort is discovering that, as we engage families, simpler is better. As one children’s ministry leader mentioned, we quickly have learned that parents do not have the bandwidth for doing a Sunday school lesson at home. So how can we create fun “family night” activities that encourage conversations about faith? Another children’s ministry leader reminded us that not everyone has the same resources—the same amount of disposable income or time—to do various activities. That means we should provide a variety of easy, fun, family faith activities that parents can choose from.
Parents need encouragement
As one cohort participant stated, parents are eager to participate in the faith formation of their children, but they need the church to come alongside them, helping them imagine what family faith formation looks like.
It is important for ministry leaders to show families how to do faith formation at home and not just tell them what to do. This “showing” can occur in many different ways. Some children’s ministry leaders are using Sunday morning worship services to demonstrate what a family faith activity might look like. Others are posting videos so that parents can see how an activity might be done. Another leader is embracing the old-fashioned method of talking and listening to parents.
Whatever method you choose, it is important for ministry leaders to come alongside parents and provide support and guidance as families learn to grow together in Christ. Check out the “Family Faith Formation Library” section of our Family Faith Formation toolkit for resources that can help.
So far, this cohort experience has been a space for listening, discovering, and sharing of ideas. We are hoping to launch another cohort in the fall and when we do, we would love to have you join us. Follow the CRC Children’s Ministry Facebook page for updates.
Mimi Larson is Faith Formation Ministries’ Children's Ministry Catalyzer. If you have questions or challenges about faith formation in children, welcoming children in worship, choosing curriculum, equipping volunteers, empowering parents, and more, contact Mimi at [email protected].