In this exclusive column for The Scoop, Scott Guyatt explores faith on the home front and how families can practice and express their faith outside a church setting.
So the evidence seems pretty strong, and multiple studies suggest the same thing: children and young people learn faith best at home. What happens in the family context is the biggest factor (not the only factor, but the biggest) in young people growing into their own faith and continuing their Christian journey.
That is absolutely not to say that what we do through intentional ministry with children and young people (think Sunday School, after-school programs, youth groups, small groups, camps etc.) is not important and does not make an important contribution to the faith life of a child or young person.
We know that these things do matter. It’s vital that we work hard, imaginatively, energetically and in a sustained manner to engage young people, to challenge and grow faith.
But the bigger factor remains how faith is expressed, explored and practiced by families at home.
All of this makes me wonder—what if every church worked hard to help families figure out great ways to practice, explore and express faith in their own family life, away from the church setting?
What if every weekly newsletter (or mobile app or Facebook feed for churches actively engaged in newer communications technology) included family resources, family faith challenges, or suggested dinner table conversation topics?
What if every family that had a child come to a church day camp or youth group received a “Faith at home” pack from the congregation with some hints and tips on how to support faith development in their family?
What if we were constantly wondering during our planning at our church councils, “How can this event or activity equip families to help their kids connect faith with the everyday challenges of being a 21st century young person?”
I’ve no doubt that you can think of other, better ideas that might be effective in your church setting.
“But wait,” some may say, “We don’t have any kids or families in our congregation, so how is this relevant to us?”
I have one word: grandparents.
In our modern world, where many families have a single parent or two parents both working, the involvement of grandparents in caring for and even raising grandchildren is rapidly increasing.
And that makes me extend the original question to wonder how we can help grandparents talk about and practice faith with their grandkids. How can we help them understand more clearly the day-to-day challenges that young people face today?
Faith formation through the grandparent-grandchild relationship might just be the single most effective means for some congregations to nurture faith in young people.
So how is your congregation going about this? What does family faith formation look like at your place?