About a month into our COVID-19 stay at home order, my husband and I decided to add a Labrador puppy to our already full house. Our rationale was that it would be a nice distraction since we were all stuck at home, and one more dog wouldn’t be a big deal since we have four kids to help.
Well, our puppy Red is now five months old, and there have been many moments of regret. The messes, the chewing, the biting, our furniture, our carpet, our shoes . . . why did we think this was a good idea?
But those moments of regret were just that—moments. One look at that cute, squishy face and my shoes don’t matter all that much.
There’s one thing I will never regret, though: the conversations we’ve had about this puppy and what it takes to care for and build trust with this little creature have been fun, enlightening for all of us, and surprisingly full of faith.
In my work with Faith Formation Ministries, I get to research and learn about faith formation at home. The practical, everyday side of forming faith is what intrigues me the most. Maybe because I still have kids at home, but I also think it’s because teaching faith to our kids was always meant to have a practical side to it. Think about Moses telling the Israelites to “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19) You can’t get much more practical than that. God created the most effective way to pass faith on to the next generation—to talk about it as you live it!
I think kids learn about the importance of faith by watching us be responsible, care for each other, and work through struggles. But the “faith forming” really happens when they hear us work through our daily lives with God at the center of our decisions and actions.
In our house, at the stages our kids are at, our conversations usually happen in the car. But since COVID hit, we’re home more, and we get to talk while we walk the dogs, make dinner, and clean up after the puppy. We’re having conversations about college, summer jobs, racism, and whose turn it is to let Red out. We talk about why their dad chose to go into telephone communications and why I chose the college I did. We talk about how I decide who to vote for. Explaining how my faith has impacted my life helps them understand how their faith can impact their lives.
Faith-forming conversations don’t always have to include the word “God” or “Jesus.” They can be simple, short, or seemingly mundane. But this kind of communication makes a lasting impact on our kids and how they do their own lives.
Every day holds opportunities to show your children something about God and their relationship with him. Every chore, every car ride, every moment can be a faith conversation, sometimes without either party realizing it’s happening. That’s what an “every square inch” faith is all about.
Now, you don’t have to walk around trying to think of ways to make everything a teachable faith moment. You don’t want to suffocate your kids with faith conversation. I have to practice how to do this well, and I screw it up probably every day. I’m also surprised by how God uses my screw-ups and my practice runs and puppies to help me parent in a way that will hopefully build an “every square inch” faith in my kids.
So as you do life with your kids, have those conversations about life and love and work and puppies. Let God steer your words and let your kids ask the hard questions as well as the easy and funny ones. Don’t hide your decisions from them. Don’t hide your joys or your hurts. Talk about them with your kids in conversations that show your faith and show God’s love for them in your family’s everyday, ordinary life.