Recent research reveals that 40 million Americans who used to go to church no longer do… These are the “nones”—people who are disaffiliating, deconstructing, reconstructing, and de-churching. People who once included churchgoing as a normal part of life, but no longer do.

For the first time, in the eight decades that Gallup has tracked American religious membership, more adults in the U.S. do not attend church than those who do. People are finding faith, God, and community elsewhere.

Jeremy Meyers of RedeemingGod.com says: “They’re leaving… The Church as we know it is dying.” Well, I don’t think it’s dying. I think it’s changing. We need to reimagine church, reimagine faith formation, and reimagine ministry today.

In his instruction to the Congregation for the Clergy (July 20, 2020), Pope Francis writes about the church’s evangelizing mission:

The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.’ This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few.

The church is not outdated. It is not a useless structure. We are capable of self-renewal!

But there’s criteria there, too:

  • Openness and missionary creativity of the pastor(s)
  • Openness and missionary creativity of the community
  • Living in the midst of the homes and lives of our people

Maybe the emphasis on getting people back in the pews after the pandemic is the wrong focus. What would happen if we first came alongside people in their lives and walked with them where they are? I think we’re being called to pay attention to people, NOT programs. If we focus on how the Church is alive in the homes of our people, transformation is possible. This is a unique opportunity to connect the domestic church (the home church) with the church of the community (the parish)—to encourage our congregants to experience faith formation as relevant because it has everything to do with their lives.

But what would that look like?

I rely here on Dr. Christian Smith’s research—that parents matter most and that two things, faith practice and God-talk (faith conversation), have the greatest impact in the transmission of faith to the next generation. If we lean into this, it means we focus on the daily interactions that parents have with their children. The home is where faith meets life, in all its messiness, in all its brokenness, in all the ways we celebrate, grieve, and love.

The Directory for Catechesis states: “The family is a proclamation of faith in that it is the natural place in which faith can be lived in a simple and spontaneous manner.” I love that line: “Simple and spontaneous.” We need to simply offer up a mirror with which they can see how God is already at work in their lives. We’re challenged to empower and equip parents to be the first witnesses of God’s love and to live into that role with great intention.

One way is to focus on their daily experiences—to shift to a posture of wonder, curiosity, and awe. Offer parents activities they can do with their children at home and in the community. Everything is content. Imagine a curriculum focused on life, home-centered and church-supported.

One example might focus on the theme of prayer. Ask parents how they pray for their children. Do they pray with their children? What activities spiritually renew them? What activities speak to their children of God? You might give them opportunities to experience different forms of prayer in community and then offer ideas on what that might look like at home. Remember to keep ideas simple and (potentially) spontaneous.

Here are just a few simple activities to offer parents. (You can come up with any number of your own that would serve the same purpose.)

  1. Parents, go for a walk with your child. Notice all the sights, sounds, and scents as you walk. Talk about God’s relationship with all of creation. Ask your children what they notice. Let your child’s questions drive your conversation. As best we can, encourage their questions and don’t put a damper on their curiosity.
  2. Parents, visit places that cause you to be still and to reflect on this world. Teach your child to practice stillness, even if it is just a few quiet moments (later, that can be extended with practice). Ask your child to quiet themselves, focus on the moment, and listen “inside.” Ask what they notice. This practice can help you and your child appreciate this world, your place in it, and the presence of God.
  3. Sabbath can help us reclaim the balance that God intends for us. Sabbath is about communally delighting in the gifts of our loving God. Consider what this looks like for your family. Ask yourself and your children: What gives you rest? What renews your spirit? What refreshes your soul?
  4. Have a conversation about what it means to rest in God. Sabbath can help us plan intentional time with God: in worship with our community, at home with our family, in nature with creation. The Sabbath helps us to feel restored to the person God created us to be. Help each member of your family discern how they rest in God.
  5. Sometimes our actions are prayer. Jesus calls us to serve one another. The best way to teach our children about works of mercy is to live them out, to name the works as we are doing them, and to ask our children questions as we do. For example, when we make a meal for a family who just had a baby or for a neighbor with a sick family member, or when we volunteer at a soup kitchen, we are feeding the hungry as Jesus modeled. When we gather clothes or coats for a clothing drive at church, we are clothing the naked as Jesus urged us to do. After doing these kinds of activities, sit down with your children and talk about why we do them. Make connections to what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel, as he reminds us to love one another.

Now imagine parents reflecting on these experiences, sharing these reflections with you. Imagine that when you do gather parents, they could share their experiences with one another. Or imagine the sharing takes place virtually, or even in social media groups, in texts, in the bulletin, in a newsletter, or from the pulpit. As you do this, you are forming these families as evangelizers of their own families and the community.

So, what if we really were in contact with the lives and homes of our people? What if we focused on the simple,spontaneous, and relational activities of faith formation? What if we connected these parents to one another, to their community?

Just imagine… But be aware, it will require some openness, some missionary creativity, some willingness to immerse yourself into the daily lives of the people in your community.   

If you’re craving help in your journey toward a home-centered, church-supported culture in your church, please reach out to connect with me, or with one of our other Vibrant Faith Ministry Leadership Coaches—just click HERE to get started.



Denise Utter, M.A., is a freelance consultant, writer, and a speaker—she’s been coaching with Vibrant Faith since 2018. She has worked in ministry and education for 30 years. Denise loves to inspire ministry leaders to reimagine faith formation, put families at the center of faith, and provide innovative approaches to faith formation.




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