Ministry leaders generally agree that parents matter most for the formation of faith in their children, but nevertheless have multiple long-standing objections to this notion. These objections most often show up in the way leaders resist shifting their faith-forming paradigm from the church to the home. And, unconsciously, these objections surface in the ways that we structure our church ministries.
Social science research into parent impact has been around for 35 years, but most churches have made little movement to embrace a “home-centered, church-supported” culture. At Vibrant Faith we’ve partnered with our team of ministry leadership coaches to name the obstacles and challenges the church has put in the way of a FAMILYING approach. We’ll continue to explore them over the coming weeks. If we can name them, then maybe we can overcome them.
Obstacle 1: “Parents just aren’t doing the job of sharing their faith in Jesus at home.”
First, a little background… I feel called to embody and plead for a FAMILYINGapproach to ministry as we pursue the next generation because my own story has planted a passion in me. I am lifelong youth minister. I fell into this calling in my early 20s, and have always passionately loved it. I’m still involved today with adolescents—leading interactive Lectio Divina experiences (not my idea, but a great one) during the sermon part of our church service. I still love seeing faith in Jesus become real in young people. And every time I’m with them, I can see how these students are growing in their own faith under the influence of their parents’ faith.
Even more than this strong tie to my calling, I’m a product of a very messy family. My parents divorced when I was in my mid-20s. I’ve come to realize that they never should have married, and that neither was actually capable of loving the other, much less their children. Hard truths. AND YET, I learned about Jesus from them. I also saw them attempting to love each other, and me, for years. I experienced prayer and devotion to God through them. And I felt the power of genuine love from my extended family.
Despite all that didn’t happen in my family, and all the grief and effort I’ve spent trying to re-claim the family experience I never had, they still passed on to me a life-grounding anchor of a faith in Jesus. It’s a miracle. And if THEY could do it…..
The reality is that most who are leading ministry programs at churches don’t have an accurate picture of what parents ARE doing to share their faith at home. We make lots of assumptions based on the momentum of our primary goal—successful programs at church. We also make assumptions based on the obviously messy lives of families in our churches, or the questions parents ask us, or what we believe they don’t know about the Bible. Yes, there is learned content to the Christian faith. And, yes, we pray that all believers deepen their learning about Jesus and the Kingdom He came to plant. But hearts and hands share faith in Christ, not just heads.
So how can we overcome this obstacle? Set up opportunities for listening to the people at your church who are parenting (and grandparenting)…
- What can you find out about the faith lives of your parents?
- What is already present and happening?
- Do parents have a prayer life that they are sharing with their children?
- Are there Christ-centered conversations happening?
- What other spiritual things are taking place in homes?
- Are people noticing God’s activity in their lives?
- How can you encourage and fuel spiritual conversations?
When we intentionally ask questions about family patterns and practices, we offer ourselves as willing students of our families. So set up opportunities for connecting with the people at your church who are parenting (and grandparenting). Your mission is to uncover the spiritual assets and the presence of God in the midst of their everyday life. Once you have named and clamed the spiritual assets of the families you are helping to form, then revise your ministry plans to focus on they ways you can very specifically support them in their God-given callings to be the primary faith-forming agents in the lives of their children.