The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers dietary guidelines for living a healthy life—we call the structure of these guidelines the “Food Groups.” Well, what about “Spiritual Food Groups”? These four faith practices—caring conversation, devotions, service, and rituals/traditions—represent the basic ways we stay whole and healthy as followers of Jesus. They are ways to practice the means of grace, helping us extend God’s love and saving work to the world. These practices not only strengthen the faith lives of individuals and communities within households, but they also serve as the means to strengthen a thriving congregation through healthy, nurturing, faithful homes.
• Caring conversations. Caring conversations express an interest in others—their hurts, their joys, their concerns and dreams, their values and faith. Caring conversations require time to be available to listen and to speak. In our role as ministry leaders, we can help families by inviting them to “holy ground” in their lives—the space and intentionality they need for precious, caring conversations to take place. Offer ideas, gatherings, and opportunities for them to be strengthened and nurtured by the love and mercy of God, through the support and guidance of others and genuine interest in others.
• Devotions. Devotions are a way to practice the presence of God through the Word of God. Many families and individuals need help with the language of prayer and faith in daily life. Developing a devotional life involves leaning into a consciousness and a way of life more than following a formula to accomplish a certain task. Family devotions connect the generations with the faith, hope, and love found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, set against the backdrop of a world that often speaks and operates very differently.
• Service. Service to one’s neighbor is the calling we are given through the life and message of Jesus Christ. For a Christian, the love that we have first received from God motivates our service. Service communicates this love to others and is a concrete expression of our faith and values. Family service projects are a vital way to pass on faith from generation to generation. Children and youth are greatly influenced by the modeling they see in others, especially the practices and priorities of parents and other family members.
• Rituals and Traditions. Rituals and traditions are patterns of behavior lived routinely—their purpose is to communicate meaning in life. The way people greet one another each day, a table grace, bedtime prayers, the blessing of a Christmas tree, a birthday or baptismal anniversary celebration are all examples of family rituals and traditions that can effectively communicate the underlying values of the Kingdom of God. Return to “The Beatitudes” in Matthew 5—Jesus offers us a creative palate for establishing new rituals and traditions, embedded in His litany of “Blessed are…” values.
For guidance, clarity, and momentum in building a congregational environment that is “rich soil” for thriving, consider inviting the input of one of our highly trained and experienced Vibrant Faith Ministry Leadership Coaches. Find out more, and connect HERE.
Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching Services for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach).