As many of us continue with worship and/or Christian education at home, The Advocate Ministry Team thought these perspectives from Lib Caldwell, long-time APCE leader and friend, provide a timely reminder on the value and importance of nurturing faith at home – it’s what we do. We share this piece from our Fall 2007 archives.
Living the Faith at Home
It’s Saturday night and a family of teenagers sits down for dinner. Friends of two of the teenagers join them for the family meal. Hands reach out for the blessing, which they have been singing together since the boys were in preschool. One of the friends has learned the blessing since he has been a regular dinner guest at this table. In explaining this to the other friend, the mother says, “It’s what we do.”
“It’s what we do!” We say thank you to God for health and strength and food to eat. Some speak of the important role of parents in helping their children “find faith at home.” I don’t think the issue is really one of finding faith at home as much as it is living the faith at home. Essential is helping parents make connections for themselves between practices of faith experienced at church (prayer, reading and studying the Bible, caring for others, exploring ways to live faith fully and responsibly in the world) and living these practices at home.
It’s really easy for parents to abandon their role as primary faith educators. All the reasons seem very logical when articulated: “I don’t know enough to teach my child.” “You’re the professional, you teach them.” “Isn’t bringing them to Sunday school enough?” “I really don’t know what I believe, how can I be responsible for my child’s faith? Isn’t that your job?”
It is our job as educators and pastors to help parents name their fears and at the same time claim some agency and responsibility for the parental role as one who possesses both interest and abilities in nurturing a child in the life of the Christian faith.
Essential in this job is helping parents be attuned to their own spiritual practices. Craig Dykstra’s list of spiritual practices is a good beginning point for dialogue with parents.1
- Telling the Christian story.
- Interpreting Scripture.
- Confession of sin and reconciliation.
- Encouraging others.
- Being in service and witness.
- Suffering with neighbors.
- Providing hospitality and care.
- Struggling to understand the context of life.
- Criticizing and resisting the powers of evil.
- Working together to create social structures that sustain life in accord with God’s will.
Practices address fundamental human needs and conditions through concrete human acts. They have practical purposes: to heal, to shape communities, to discern. Practices are done together and over time. Practices possess standards of excellence. When we come to see some of our ordinary activities as Christian practices, we come to perceive how our daily lives are tangled up with the things God is doing in the world.
Dorothy Bass reminds us of how simple and ordinary things we do every day involve us in God’s continuous recreating of our world. Our job is to help parents become attuned to the ways they can parent their children so that faith expressions are possible. Some parents are well prepared to do this; others do not know how.
In thinking about the opportunity parents have in “making a home for faith,” here is a simple checklist for parents. As educator or pastor of a church, what would you like to be able to expect from parents in this partnership of nurturing children in the life of the Christian faith?
Ideally, we hope that parent(s) are able to:
- Read a story from the Bible or a children’s Bible storybook.
- Tell a story from the Bible.
- Be comfortable with a child’s questions.
- Make time sometime during a week for practices of faith that are important to them.
- Ask faith questions — engage work, the newspaper, and the Christian faith.
- Struggle to understand and interpret affirmations of faith.
- Be a participant/lay leader in worship and religious education.
- Explain the meaning of the sacraments; Baptism and Communion
- Explain the meaning of Christmas and Easter.
- Explain what it means to be Christian.
- Have a basic understanding of other faith traditions (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim).
- Involve children in practicing faithful response to the two great commandments: to love God and to love our neighbors.3
It’s what people of faith do: love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our might. We keep these words of God in our hearts and we remember that we should tell them to our children and talk about them wherever we are, at home or away, when we sleep and when we get up to meet a new day. We live these words so they are visible before us in the actions of our hands, in the ways they open our eyes to the world and know that they are written so they are visible to us on the doors or our homes.4
Advocate Addendum: None of us – parents, educators, pastors – needs more to do in these days of Zoom school, Zoom church, and Zoom meetings. Re-posting this article is not intended to be a call to add to our ever-growing list of “to do’s.” Instead, reflect and consider what can be put on your “It’s what we do” list? Affirm ways that you, your family, and your church families live your faith in your daily lives. Encourage people to be attuned to God’s presence and activity in the day-to-day acts of living. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself.
1Craig Dykstra, Growing in the Life of Faith (Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 1999), 43.
2 Dorothy Bass, Practicing Our Faith, A Way of Life for a Searching People (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1997), 6-8.
3 This list is adapted from Elizabeth Caldwell, Making A Home for Faith, Nurturing the Spiritual Life of Our Children (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 2000), 40-43.
4 A contemporary adaptation of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.