Wednesday, 30 May 2012

family as mini-church

I've worked for almost a month now for MennoMedia - a publishing network for the Mennonite church in North America. My job is "curriculum project developer" - I get to help to dream up what's next in terms of resources for faith formation for our children and youth. And I'm excited about it. I've been doing a lot of reading lately about faith formation, and a couple of things have struck me:

* families are the spaces/people where faith is most often formed and nurtured. Homes have altars where the family worships - sometimes the kitchen table, sometimes the TV. Parents are spiritual guides or pastors, presiding over the spiritual input our children receive. Praying for and with them, spiritually guiding and nurturing them. Pointing out God-moments in their lives. Providing spaces in our home for calm, quiet, reflection, prayer. Taking responsibility for this nurture, and not leaving it up to a program that meets for one hour on a Sunday.

*children's faith doesn't necessarily need to be formed as much as protected. They already have faith, or a relationship with God - possibly even more profound than my own that's been whittled away by years of cynicism, skepticism and materialism.

I may want my child to learn where middle C is on the piano, or learn to catch a baseball in a glove, or learn the various strings on her violin. But do I spend as much, or more, time teaching them ways of praying, or the stories that have shaped me in my faith?

Here's a little secret: NOPE. I haven't. Some days I even feel too tired to pray before bedtime, which I think that everyone except me does with their kids at night.

I want prayer to shape and change me, and I want it to shape my kids too. It seems there is so much noise in our world - so many messages coming at us each day - and I want my kids to have a quiet, still place that they can return to that gives them sustenance for the day. To me, prayer is about accepting my limits, and opening myself to a source and grace that is bigger than me. Here's a quote from Luther I read this week: "I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer."


I may disappoint myself if I strive for that goal at this point, but this is how I'll work at being a spiritual guide/priest to my family this week:

1. eat supper together. Talk. Pray.
2. pray with and for them at bedtime.
3. Show my love by listening to what they're saying to me. Turn off the list-maker/stress-maker in my head and listen.

In summary:

Eat. Pray. Love.

When your children ask their parents in time to come, "What do these stones mean?" then you shall let your children know, "Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground." - Joshua 4:21-22


  1. So much truth here. Thank you for sharing. Along with more faith children may also have more curiosity about spiritual things. Last night at dinner my wife and I were sharing with our 11 and 13 yr old that in Somalia Islamic extremists had done terrible things to recently converted Christians there. My 11yr old asked alot of questions about Islam and it started a good conversation. Thank you for sharing!

    Tom Walters

    1. Good to hear from you, Tom! I agree about kids having curiosity, and often more courage to voice the questions they have.

  2. I feel like I have to share a little more about that previous comment lol. My boys have been praying that all the children in Africa have enough food and water so we started talking about all of Africa and the problems that different parts of Africa were experiencing so they knew more fully how to pray.

    1. I think it's great that kids can lead the way in terms of families praying for various concerns around the world. I love how that opens the whole family up to learning about those places then too.

  3. Beautiful Rebecca. That one aspect of prayer can be pausing to take a conscious breath, to become present, to notice, to listen fully, and live in the moment. I have missed you on this site and I congratulate you for setting limits for yourself. Be well my friend.

    1. Hi Shauna! Yes - to what you said about prayer. Presence - so simple, but so hard to remember to do some days. You take care too! :)

  4. It's such a shift, isn't it, to realize that parents are the primary formers of faith; it can't be something we leave to the 'experts', or to an hour of Sunday School. As I mentioned to you, I recently realized that since we don't have SS on holidays, Spring Break, or summer vacation, we have SS about 29-30 times a year. Our students attend, on average, 50% of the times, so that adds up to a stunning 14-15 hours of Sunday School PER YEAR. Some people spend more time than that on sports each week. So I've started to think of Sunday School as the enrichment, and the home life as the real deal. And as per our conversation, the shifts that this might mean in terms of curriculum development could be profound.

    For me, as a Mom, I'm committed to prayers of gratitude at night and at meals, teaching my kids hymns and prayers (which comes naturally to me, as I'm always singing), and trying to be intentional about naming God as an active force in my life and in the world as I see it. And reading the Bible stories at the table, still a priority for me.

    Thanks for directing me to your blog!