The Faith Life of Parents

How are you currently engaging the faith life of parents at your church?

That’s the next big question, isn’t it?  

As Vibrant Faith Executive Director Rick Lawrence and I have been interviewing churches for our Lilly Endowment-sponsored 4th Soil Parenting Project (see my last blog for the details), that’s been a core question. It’s a question so important that we can’t ignore it—if parents are the primary faith life influencers in the lives of their children, their own relationship with God is the lifeline for the next generation of the church. That’s why we’re making it the focus of our work with 20 churches from across the U.S. over the next four years…

As we plan this adventure with church leaders and parents, we focused on what our Vibrant Faith team believes about Christian parenting. This is the next installment of several posts that focus on our research work with the call to parenting. We’ve added questions below each of our guiding convictions for you to ponder and put into practice…  

We Believe…

That parenting is primarily a spiritual adventure—and has impact on both the parent’s relationships with God, and for their children’s relationships with God.

• We believe the church has an important role in this process—formation is a home-centered, church-supported process. God intends for parents (and those who influence like parents) to be the primary influencers of faith life in their children, but the church is a trusted partner in walking with, resourcing, and encouraging. The church will accompany and encourage families to practice faith at home as well as celebrate and collaborate with what they are already doing.
Questions: In what ways have you paid attention to what families are already doing in their everyday life, and found ways to plant seeds of faith influence in those environments?

• “Homes” are often not comprised of “traditional families”—new forms of kinship are creating shared communities that operate like extended families. Church can be family, too.
Questions: Is your church community more like a close-knit family, or more like a fragile group of strangers? Do you treat “family” as a verb—familying with each other? If the purpose of intergenerational relationships at church is to establish family-like relationships, how are you intentionally structuring your time and interactions? 
• We believe that faith formation happens through relational experiences with the Spirit of God, and God’s people. This happens primarily through engagement of Christian practices—we “practice our way” into faith, we don’t “believe our way” into faith. Relational practices involve the head, the heart, and the hands.
Question: We know you know this, but how much of your time together with parents and other adults do you spend teaching, and how much helping them practice what you’re teaching?  

• We believe that the formation of faith is God’s grace and action in our lives, and our willing, open, and active response to that grace. Our role is simply to be willing to engage God in a posture of abiding rather than striving. Parents have agency in this, because they co-create the environmental conditions for the Spirit of God’s movement in their lives and the lives of their children—at home, in the church, and in their community.
Question: It’s the grace of God and the work of the Spirit that seeds faith in us, but we’re active participants in the growing process as we abide and obey—in what ways are you helping parents and children abide together in the presence of Jesus?  

We hope you’ll continue to join us on this journey of developing the 4th Soil environment for growth—the place where seeds bear much fruit. Much more to come!

Dr. Nancy Going serves as the Director of Research & Resource Development for Vibrant Faith. Nancy lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Art, an Anglican priest, and they have launched two new families from their children.


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