A New Faith Forming Ecosystem Part 3: Family

by | Mar 24, 2015 | children, faith formation, family, Featured, parenting, youth ministry

This series on the new faith forming ecosystem is developed from John Roberto’s new book, “Reimagining Faith Formation for the 21st Century,” available from LifelongFaith.com.  You can find part 1 (overview) here and part 2 (intergenerational relationships) here

The family is the single most important influence on religious transmission and faith practice—a truth demonstrated in research studies, the Christian tradition, and pastoral experience. The faith of parents and grandparents, their role modeling, their teaching, and their warm and affirming parenting style are key factors in religious transmission and developing highly religious children, youth, and young adults.

In the new faith forming ecosystem, congregations need to equip families as centers of faith formation developed around three essential elements.

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1. Nurturing family and parental faith 

We can nurture family and parent faith through their participation in church life and family/intergenerational program that immerses them in the Christian tradition, Christian practices, and Christian way of life. Intergenerational participation creates a shared experienced of families developing caring relationships, learning together, sharing faith, praying together, serving, and celebrating rituals and traditions, and helps to develop the faith of parents and grandparents—increasing their confidence and competence for engaging in faith practices at home.

We can nurture family faith through a variety of activities and resources developed around eight essential faith-forming processes—caring relationships, celebrating liturgical seasons, celebrating rituals and milestones, learning the Christian tradition, praying and spiritual formation, reading the Bible, serving people in need and working for justice, and worshipping God. With the abundance of high quality digital faith formation content and activities, we can now reach families in the context of their daily lives—anytime and anywhere—through their mobile devices.

We can nurture parental faith and develop their faith forming skills through targeted programs of theological and biblical formation at church and online, and by providing training that teaches how to parent for faith growth and be a role model for  children—all offered in a variety of learning formats to make it easy to access the programs and content.

2. Developing parenting skills

We can develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence of parents (and grandparents) by utilizing the best research on effective parenting, including how a close, warm, and affirming parenting style facilitates religious transmission, and how certain parenting characteristics and skills facilitate the development of a strong parent-child bond and children’s happiness, health and success: love and affection, stress management, relationship skills, autonomy and independence, promoting education and learning, life skills, behavior management, healthy lifestyle, support for spiritual or religious development, and protection and safety.

We can provide programs (gathered and online), a variety of digital resources, and support to help parents develop effective child-rearing practices that are conducive to building strong families and promoting faith transmission, offered in a variety of learning formats to make it easy for parents and grandparents to participate.

3. Strengthening family life 

We can strengthen family life by focusing on the assets that build strong families. In The American Families Asset Study, The Search Institute identified 21 key qualities or assets, which help all kinds of families become strong.

  • Nurturing relationships: positive communication, affection, emotional openness, encouragement for pursuing talents and interests
  • Establishing routines: family meals, shared activities, meaningful traditions (holidays, rituals, celebrations), dependability
  • Maintaining expectations: openness about tough topics, fair rules, defined boundaries, clear expectations, contributions to family
  • Adapting to challenges: management of daily commitments, adaptability problem-solving, democratic decision-making
  • Connecting to the community: neighborhood cohesion, relationship with others in the community, participating in enriching activities, supportive resources in the community (The American Family Asset Study, Search Institute)

These assets can be utilized as the foundation for whole-family programs, parent programs, online resources and training, mentoring for parents, and much more—all directed toward building a healthy and strong family life.

Dive deeply into each area the ecosystem as part of Vibrant Faith University. 

Read part 4: Age-specific faith formation.

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