Whether you are brand new to the idea of doing faith at home or you’re looking for a way to reboot, new year is a good time to think about what we already are doing, what is going well, and what we might like to try in the coming months.
You’re already doing great things
Yep, you are! I often find that people who are looking to do more faith at home immediately think about family devotional times or reading the Bible together for hours on a Saturday morning. While these things are fab, not many families actually do this, as every family has its own unique way of doing faith at home. We should have no guilt about finding our own path, prioritising the things that matter to us and making these things work for our families. Reading the Bible is one of my favourite things, but there’s so much to growing in our faith, and most of us are already doing lots of faith-enhancing things without even knowing it.
If you saw my ‘Forming faith rituals’ on the Francis Bridger model of faith, you’ll know that it describes faith in four ways: faith as believing, faith as trusting, faith as imagining and faith as doing. Each of these develops more at different times in our lives, and many of the ordinary things we do as parents help contribute to their development. For example, do you give your children food to eat every day? Do you help keep them clean and clothed? Just by being a dependable provider in their lives you are helping them develop the ability to trust, which will help them to trust God.
Much of faith at home is about relationship
This means that eating pizza together, celebrating birthdays, going ice skating and listening to them chatting about their favourite TV programme are all ways to build connection and make a place where faith can grow. Care for the Family research from 2017 found that strong, loving family relationships were vital when sharing faith at home. It is possible to be so fierce about getting together to do a faith activity that we start to erode the relationships in our families! However, by admitting when we’re wrong, saying sorry when we hurt each other and creating time to connect and have fun together, we can build those relationships. You might feel this is a good place to start, especially if part of your family is not Christian, as they shouldn’t feel at all threatened by it.
What could you do to build stronger relationships in your family? Spend more time one to one? Have a Friday pizza and movie night? Only you know what will work best.
We’re not trying to create faith, but grow it. This is very different!
Fuel your own faith
It’s hard to pass on or grow faith with others if you’re not doing so yourself. It’s like being part of a book group without reading the book. It’s possible, but it makes for hard work and lacks integrity. And you’re likely to be found out! This might seem like an odd way to address the faith of your family, but I find the more connected I am with God the better I am at helping others to connect.
What could you do to help your faith grow? Is there something you used to do that you would like to start doing again? A new way of doing something, perhaps? Where do you feel weak? Do you have deficiencies in Bible knowledge, prayer, social action or compassion? How could you give yourself a boost in that area? What do you enjoy doing? I love drawing and painting, so I have a journal Bible I can paint in. Ask friends with similar interests what they do to connect with God using their hobbies. Who or what could you enlist to help you? Is there a group at church or an online community you could link up with for ideas or encouragement?
Let your family see your faith at home
In her book, Parenting Children for a Life of Faith, Rachel Turner calls this “building windows”. Sometimes we need to make our own faith activities visible to our families. I’ve often found that it’s when I’m enjoying a story in the Bible or working on a project to help other people that my children want to join in. This means that I need to read the Bible at least some of the time when they’re around. I sometimes use an audio Bible – there are some on the YouVersion Bible app – which means everyone gets to hear it! I sometimes do my painting when they’re around, which often means they want to do their own. I’ve even let them do drawings in my journal Bible. From a very young age my husband has involved our children in our online giving, praying out loud instead of silently and getting them to press the send button.
Which faith activities could you create windows into? What could you do a little differently so that your faith is more visible to your family? Remember to invite them to join you or to say yes when they ask to!
Trust God to be at work
This is so important. Growing our faith at home could become yet another task on the list, another thing to feel guilty about not doing enough, or even something to be proud about how well we are doing.
But here’s the thing: we’re not trying to create faith, but grow it. This is very different! Think about the way a plant grows. We plant the seed and water it, but it’s what is already in the seed that responds to the soil and the water and the warmth. God is already at work in the hearts of our families. Our children are spiritual beings with a capacity to connect with God.
Psalm 127:1 (The Message) says: “Unless God builds the house, the builders build in vain. Unless God guards the city, the watch men watch in vain.”
So let’s choose to trust God. Let’s chat with him about our families, and watch and listen to what he is doing. Sometimes this is the best thing we can do, and it’s more than enough.
Connect with others
It might be that you find it helpful to connect with other parents who also want to grow faith at home. You could chat to others at your church or join (or start) a Parenting Children for a Life of Faith course (available for free online from the Bible Reading Fellowship). If you’re on Facebook, you could like the following pages for ideas and encouragement: GodVenture, The Kitchen Table Project or Parenting for Faith - BRF. Rachel Turner runs an excellent monthly podcast called Parenting for Faith (go to parentingforfaith.org/podcast), which discusses lots of things about faith at home.
I pray that we’ll all be able to choose one of these ideas to apply to our own unique family; to find what is right for us and our families in this new season.