Busy. Overwhelmed. Chaotic. These are the words I hear most often when I ask people to describe today’s families. Because of this busyness and the shifts in society and parenting, churches everywhere are seeing a decline in attendance and engagement from young families and are struggling to know what to do about it.
I recently traveled to Peoria CRC in Iowa to share about Faith Formation Ministries’ new Family Faith Formation Toolkit. Pastor George Den Oudsten had heard me speak on family faith formation at an annual event in Des Moines the January before, and he asked if I could do something similar for his council and congregation. They had already decided to dedicate some time to this concern. Pastor Den Oudsten was also planning a sermon series on “Faith Stories” and “Tell Your Children,” so it worked out that on the last weekend of their series, I was able to spend a couple days there to present on family faith formation.
We gathered on Saturday night with three other churches. Together, we walked through the changes our society has gone through over the last hundred years and the effects of these culture shifts on the family’s ability to help form faith in their children. We then talked about some basic shifts in our thinking that could help churches not only be encouragers and supporters of young families, but also a place where young families learn the impact their role has on the faith journey of their kids and learn how to live into their own faith in such a way that their kids grow in their own faith.
On Sunday morning the Peoria CRC congregation graciously gave me their Sunday School hour to meet with their families. We talked about the importance of being intentional in everyday conversations so they can turn into faith-forming moments for kids (and parents, too!). We used the Building Blocks of Faith as our guide (for more on the Building Blocks, visit Faith Formation Ministries’ online toolkit).
We started with the first Building Block, “I Belong,” and together as families around tables worked through a sample activity on everyone’s need to belong. First we all shared five good things in our lives. Then we talked about God’s love and how God shows us that love. Family members shared stories of times when they felt God’s love. Everyone then learned how to say “I love you” in a different language and took turns saying it to everyone around the table with their name attached to it: “Trudy, ninakupenda” (Swahili). The room was filled with laughter and smiles, and it seemed everyone got an idea of what it feels like to belong and to be loved.
When we got to “I Am Called And Equipped,” we shared around the tables what everyone wanted to be when they grew up or why we are in our current profession. Then we went around the table and told each person one thing about the gifts we see in them: “You love to help your sister when she reads. I think you will make a great teacher someday.”
Then we shared Bible verses about God doing a good work in each of us and equipping us for that good work. To end the Sunday School hour, we went around the table and everyone had to say these words to the person on their left: “You are God’s good work!” What a blessing to see these families bless each other and affirm that they are called and equipped by God!
When the hour was over, I shared with these wonderful families how blessed I was to witness the beautiful conversations around each table. I was filled with wonder at the different flavor each conversation took on, which seemed to flow from the age and maturity of those seated around each table. What a testament to the wisdom of our God in creating families and in so often commanding us to “teach your children!”
As I drove home that day, I found myself praying for more opportunities to share this kind of experience with families and congregations. We are God’s family, and when we share our faith, lives change. Mine included.
Faith Formation Ministries provides congregational faith formation leaders the opportunity to meet in-person or connect digitally or by phone with members of our team and other ministry leaders for coaching and support. Whether it’s a one-time, one-on-one conversation or a long-term peer group, we are here to help. For more information about our regional catalyzer, visit crcna.org/FaithFormation/coaching!