By: Marilyn Sharpe
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them
to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are
away, when you lie down and when you rise. —Deuteromy 6:6-7 NRSV
How do we follow Moses’ injunctions? There are four key spiritual practices that every family can use:
Caring conversations Be present, really present with the child. Listen deeply and respectfully so you get to know the child. Share who you are and what you care about and believe.
Congregations can help families identify where they already have their best and most caring conversations. Pastors and educators can affirm these moments in families and encourage them to continue.
Devotions Adding talk about God can move caring conversations into times of devotion. Look for God in everyday experiences. Read the Bible together and put yourselves in the stories. Develop a lively awareness of the sacred in the daily.
Congregations and church staff can identify resources appropriate for family devotions. Send home or email family discussion sheets from Sunday school, vacation Bible school, mid-week programs or camp. Provide an assortment of children’s Bibles for families to try out.
Rituals and traditions Include God in everyday routines by blessing one another, making the sign of the cross on the forehead and saying, “Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Jesus loves you and we do, too.” Pray for one another. Say grace at mealtimes. Develop bedtime rituals that include a Bible story, song of faith, and prayer. Write prayers to use on birthdays and other family celebrations.
Congregations can include children in simple rituals during worship or in church school that can be used at home.
Service The three family spiritual disciplines above will lead families to service in God’s world, a loving and grateful response to God’s love for us.
Congregations can include all generations in short-term mission projects. When church leaders talk about mission, include the ways children do simple things that help their families, from collecting cans of food to doing chores around the house.
These four family spiritual disciplines can change as children grow, but they can be practiced throughout life.
Marilyn Sharpe, principal of Marilyn Sharpe Ministries, helps parents and congregations work together to pass on faith and values to the children we all cherish. She is an author, congregational coach, speaker, trainer, and retreat leader.