As we begin the process of accompanying churches as they focus on and nurture the faith lives of parents through our 4th Soil Parenting Project funded by The Lilly Endowment, we will be reflecting here on our discoveries and challenges and hoping we can share those with you even as they are occurring.
20 churches left our Denver 4th Soil Launch Gathering at the end of April with just one big idea: Connecting with Parents. We hope and pray that throughout the work of the grant, Parents will come to connect more deeply in faith in Jesus, and will be able to more fully connect to that faith and its consequences for their lives with their children.
But “Connecting” for all of us humans is the first ingredient in building that 4th Soil that bears much fruit. And do I need to remind you that most parents today are profoundly lonely and do not have the connections they need to live well or lead their families? But it all begins with a relationship, so we begin with CONNECTING.
So we gave our churches two connecting activities to help them connect with each other. This summer, our churches will gather parents for a dinner party and give them the opportunity to connect with others and talk about their lives and their faith. Our ministry leaders need to begin this project by hearing from parents about what it is like to be a follower of Jesus who is raising children now. Our churches were delighted to have the opportunity to just connect with parents and help them connect with one another. Many of them said, they had never done this before.
As fall comes around, our churches will choose from a variety of experiments to allow them to connect more deeply and with more of their parents for their second activity:
Tools for Raising Faithful Kids--Vibrant Faith’s newest resource, actually developed through and tested by our Thriving Congregations grant. It’s 6 weeks of meetings (online or in person) to give parents the opportunity to try some spiritual practices and then turn around and try them with their children. You can learn more at our Vibrant Faith store.
Jesus-Centered Parent Trios– Creating groups of three parents who meet online or in person for 6 weeks to meet for hour-long sessions for prayer and conversation centered on Jesus.
Online Topical Gatherings for Parent– Churches are creating several evening zoom sessions with “experts” in topics that are painfully important to parents, like kids and screens, or the mental health of children.
Family Empowerment Through Mentor Parents– Churches are making connections between people who are parenting and people who are ahead of them in the process so that parent.
The Origin-Story Project for Parents– We know that people’s growing up stories matter–for their daily life and their ability to connect with God and their children. We want to help churches to begin to embed processes for story sharing into their life together and congregational culture.
Our 20 4th Soil churches are choosing one or more of these CONNECTING ideas to develop and begin DOING during the fall of 2023. We are very excited to see what they learn. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear!
Stay connected, friends!
Dr. Nancy Going is the Director of Research and Resources at Vibrant Faith. She and her husband Art, a retired Anglican Priest, reside in Nashville, TN and have launched two families from their own children.