The most effective things that share positive values and faith are simple, small, and regular parts of our lives. It’s not a dynamic pastor or youth worker, it’s not a Christian school, it’s not what you say, it’s the small things in our lives. We believe that each parent, grandparent, godparent, and adult is a part of the ‘village’ it takes to raise a child. The “Four Keys” are the work of Pastors David W. Anderson and Dick Hardel of the Youth and Family Institute: www.youthandfamilyinstitute.org.
Keys To Growing Faith #1 Caring Conversations
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, so that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29
I used to teach “protective behaviours” through the Townsville Domestic Violence Resource Service. We asked children to count off on their fingers five people they could talk to if they were upset. The most troubling thing was that some could not name one…
According to American Search Institute research, young people that came from families in which parents often expressed their faith are almost twice as likely to actively participate in congregational life as youth from families where faith was rarely or never discussed. The same research found that, of young people involved in a church, only 12% had a regular dialog with their mother on faith/life issues, and only 5% with their father.
One of the primary challenges facing the church today in passing on the Christian faith is simply helping family members communicate with each other in ways which reflect and embody the loving, merciful and saving activity of God in their lives. The first of the Four Keys – “Caring Conversation” – refers to the multiple and varied ways in which the living and active Word of God breaks through into our day-to-day communications with others.
Caring conversation” takes place in everyday life when we:
– We give the gift of focussed undivided attention.
– We accept and accommodate the ‘level’ of the person we are listening to.
– We talk about God’s presence and our relationship with God in our everyday lives.
– We appropriately and honestly share our emotions.
– We “say sorry” (repent) for wrongdoing and “forgive” each other in the name of Christ.
– We relate our lives to the “great stories of faith” in the Bible.
– We affirm and encourage (both verbally and non-verbally).
Keys To Growing Faith #2 Rituals and Traditions
Family mealtimes, holiday get-togethers and nightly bedtime routine are examples of rituals and traditions that make deep and lasting impressions on children. Such rituals and traditions serve a number of important purposes:
a) They give rhythm, shape and order to our lives.
b) They connect us with others, giving us a sense of who we are and where we belong.
c) They reflect and enact values, reminding us of what is important.
From a faith perspective, rituals and traditions are no less important. In fact, they sit at the very heart of the Christian faith. Sunday worship services, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are each God-given rituals and traditions that bond us into God’s family and remind us of whose we are and what is truly important.
Within the home, rituals and traditions play a vital role in the practice and sharing of faith with one another. Through faith-grounded family rituals and traditions, God breaks into our daily lives, reminding us of his love and grace, and calling us to realign our lives to his will and purposes. They are a means of weaving faith into our everyday interactions with one another, and giving focus to Christ in the mayhem and frantic busyness that characterizes much of family life today.
• Eat meals together… and without the TV or radio on.
• Develop a Saturday night ritual to prepare for Sunday worship.
• Birthdays, baptismal anniversaries, wedding anniversaries… include a prayer of thanks or similar.
• Observe special church seasons at home e.g. Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Pentecost.
• Celebrate community events from a faith perspective e.g. Australia Day, ANZAC Day.
Keys To Growing Faith #3 Devotional Practices
“Let the word of Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God” – Colossians 3:16
To practice “devotion” toward God is to show ardent love or affection toward him as our Divine Lover. When two people are in love, they express this in all sorts of ways: both through regular, routine actions and through spontaneous deeds. The same will be true for Christian families as they grow in hearing of and experiencing God’s love for them, and responding with expressions of loving devotion toward God.
The first step in developing a rich family devotional life is to cultivate ways of listening to God. God’s primary way of speaking to us is through his Word. As we dust off our bibles and putting them to use in our daily lives, we hear him speaking to us and experience him working within and amongst us. Here are some suggestions to consider:
• Select your own or a whole family bible verse for each week (e.g. a single verse out of the Sunday readings). Print it off to carry each day. Read it (together). Try to memorise it during the week.
• Families set devotional times: 15 minutes twice a week or more to come together to read the bible and pray.
• For families with younger children, a bible story at bedtime is often keenly anticipated.
• As a reminder of God’s presence with you in your home, develop a “sacred space”: a small table or shelf on which you can place a cross, bible and other spiritual symbols. Redecorate it for each season.
• Play Christ-centred music in your car and at home. Many are based upon specific bible passages.
• Decorate the walls of your home with Christ-centred artwork – or do it yourself – whatever art form!
• Have an open bible on display somewhere in your home: a powerful reminder that God is with us.
• Upon returning from church each Sunday, discuss how God spoke to you through the service.
• Say “grace” at mealtimes (but don’t do it just as a routine – always with meaning and love!)
• Set up a “prayer board” at home with photos of people to pray for.
• In our home we “act out” Bible stories in all sorts of silly and fun ways!
Keys To Growing Faith #4 Service
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35)
Many Christian adults can recall quite clearly childhood experiences of service which functioned as “real life sermons” on the nature of God’s love and Christian living. Indeed, Search Institute research has found that adults who are higher in faith maturity are more likely to have been involved in faith-related service as children and teenagers, and that such involvement is a better predictor of adult faith maturity than child/youth participation in Sunday school, bible study or even worship services. What we hear is often lost to memory, but what we do in serving others is often life-shaping and faith-shaping.
While young people can participate in and experience service in a whole range of contexts – e.g. as individuals, at school, or Sunday school, in the congregation – family service has particular power and significance.
• “Adopt” an elderly member of the congregation to visit and to have to your home.
• Together as a family, buy groceries for a food pantry supporting the needy.
• Plan “hospitality nights” when you can have people around for dinner.
• Go on a walk to collect stray rubbish in your neighbourhood.
• Sponsor a child through World Vision or a similar organization.
• Make get-well cards to send to sick people in the congregation or community.
• Volunteer to help take care of an elderly person’s garden.
• Make a food, clothing, or toy hamper for a family in need.
• Volunteer at or contribute prepared meals to a food bank.
• Visit a seniors home and sing songs to the residents.
• Make welcome cards to be presented to each person baptized in their congregation.
• Adopt and clean up a park or a busy roadside.
Keys To Growing Faith #5 Prayer
Simply Pray For Those You Want To Share Faith With. It’s no secret that our children are beset with temptations around every corner. I have often heard parents say, “The only thing I can do is pray.” Maybe it would be better phrased, “The I best thing I can do is pray.” God in His grace chooses to unleash His almighty power and protection in response to our prayers.
Here are a few things to pray about for them….
• Pray for their protection from Satan and all the evil influences that surround them at school.
• Pray for them to choose to surround themselves with Christian friends.
• Pray for God’s power to help them take a stand for their faith instead of going along with the crowd.
• Pray for them to develop the special gifts God has given them
• Pray for them to always love God and His Son.
• Pray for them to be able to discern between good and evil.
(From “Ways To Love Children” LCMS Pastor David A. Dauk)
‘What we have heard and known, what our parents have told us:
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power and the wonders he has done.’
– Psalm 78:3-4