When my first child was born, I remember thinking, “How is this possible? How is it that our love created this perfect little being?” As my kids grew up I was filled with awe, and my capacity for love multiplied, not divided, with each child. I don’t think I ever truly knew what “unconditional love” was until I had children. A parent’s love is one of the most powerful, transformative things in the world—and that’s vital for us to remember in parent and family ministry.
My children taught me about myself and about God. I’ve become more of who I was created to be because of them. And my calling as a mom surfaced characteristics and values that drew me closer to the heart of God.
The family is where we learn to love others, and where we learn to love God. I often say that our children are our greatest spiritual directors. Mine taught me to pray (really, really, pray!) and to surrender to God. As parents we learn over and over that we are not in control. My children taught me to live in the moment, to be present, to find meaning in the little things. And they taught me to pay attention—something that helps me recognize God’s movement in my life every day.
We are created in the image of God, and our families are an extension of that love. So, what if we reimagined our ministries in a way that recognizes, affirms, and celebrates that truth?
Start with parent meetings or parent orientations.
Instead of speaking to parents about the expectations or rules of a program, ask them about their children and their family. Give parents an opportunity to dialogue with one another. I always start with easy questions:
Give them time to share answers with one another; then allow for some large-group sharing as well. The memories and stories they share, through laughter and tears, changes the energy in the room. And once they’ve opened up, ask them what their children have taught them about life/love/faith/prayer/God. Their answers are often profound! This is what “faith formation” really looks like.
Next, affirm families in their holiness.
Families are holy—set apart by God to model the Kingdom of God. Through their self-sacrificing love, they follow Jesus each day—they do the things that he modeled for us in Scripture, preferring the needs of others, forgiving each other, praying for each other, and healing each other. So help families reframe their commitment to parenting their kids as a calling, giving them examples that spotlight their everyday actions as Christlike. Ask them to share their own examples. As we affirm them and provide language around the day-in and day-out ways that they follow Jesus in their family, parents are encouraged and empowered.
“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. It has a unique privilege: transmitting the Gospel by rooting it in the context of profound human values.” (The Directory for Catechesis #227, 2020)
Let’s reimagine faith formation to celebrate families in the “simple and spontaneous” manner in which they proclaim the Gospel, by the love expressed in and for their family, one another, their community, and for God.
Take a deeper dive into how to help parents more intentionally “infect” their kids with a deeper
faith by registering for an upcoming free online event hosted by Vibrant Faith —"Religious Parenting: A Conversation with Dr. Christian Smith," on Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 10:30 am Eastern. Join host Rick Lawrence (Executive Director of Vibrant Faith) and very- special guest Dr. Christian Smith for an hour-long conversation on the insights and strategies gleaned from Dr. Smith’s groundbreaking research.
Originally published on March 1, 2021 for Vibrant Faith’s Online Community - https://vibrant-faith-catalyst.mn.co/
I share my own thoughts here. They do not represent the opinions of any organization I work with or for. They are my own, and I reserve the right to change them when I please. I am still growing, and learning, and evolving.