When a child is baptized, God’s family participates by promising to encourage and support the child’s parent(s) in the nurturing of that child’s faith. Those promises require us to do more than provide programs on Sunday morning and during the week. In addition to welcoming, enfolding, including and praying for that child, we need to support and encourage families by providing them with the tools they need to tools to nurture faith at home.
In a recent Banner article on the Ten Benefits of Family Bible Reading, author Harriett Mostert notes that "family Bible reading has become one of the casualties of busy schedules." She's right. Between basketball practice and ballet recitals, school meetings and mid-week programs, music lessons and homework assignments; it's difficult enough to carve out time to eat a sit-down supper, not to mention forging time to talk about faith. However, I wonder if a 2014 interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:7 might read a little like this: talk about God’s faithfulness with your children when you eat breakfast and while you zip up their coats, as you walk to school and when you carpool to soccer, while you help them do homework and while drying the dishes, when you share snacks and tell stories, as you go to bed and when you wake up. Talking about faith needs to be as normal and as regular as breathing. And as God’s family, we’re called to help the families in our congregations make that happen.
It was a desire to provide families with do-able devotions that led the CRCNA’s publishing ministry to create God’s Big Story cards. A family devotional with a game-like feel, God’s Big Story cards is a box of 165 cards; each featuring a suggested reading from scripture, a matching story symbol and 6 follow-up ideas (Re-tell, Pray, Praise, Wonder, Share, Respond) for each story. Geared towards children aged 5-12, each boxed set includes a color coded die that a child can roll to help select which follow-up idea the family will use. (My personal favorites are 'Wonder' and 'Share' because they invite all ages to think more deeply about the story and to share personal stories of God at work.) Families are much more likely to use something at home if they have tried it first at church, so there’s also a free downloadable Family Event available for congregations to use as a fun way to introduce families to the cards and to encourage them to set aside time for family devotions at home.
Because we believe in the importance of family devotional time (and we’re pretty sure you do too) we’d like to challenge your congregation to consider how they might make devotional tools such as these cards available to families. At Willoughby CRC in Langley, they purchased a box of God's Big Story cards for every family in their congregation, plus extra sets for grandparents and guests. Other congregations have ordered sets and made them available for parents and grandparents to purchase. Do you have money left in your children’s ministry budget this year? Is there a person in your congregation who might like to support faith nurture in families through a donation that would enable you to purchase a set for each family? We invite you to consider ways in which you could encourage families to make and keep a New Year’s resolution to share faith stories and spend time in God’s story each day.
To help you support families this Christmas, we’re providing you with a free download of God’s Big Story card #82, ‘Jesus is Born!’ (see attachment). Forward them to families or print off as many copies as you need and pass them out at church this month for families to use at home as part of their Christmas celebration. We hope it will plant a seed that encourages families to make and to keep a New Year's resolution to talk about faith and to spend time together in God's story each day.
We'd love to hear about the other ways you are encouraging families in your congregation as they nurture faith at home. What other devotional tools have your families found helpful?