Imparting the Faith
Submitted by Jennifer Power
Whose job is it to teach the life of Christian faith to children?
At first glance, this may seem like a simple question with a simple answer. One might say it is the job of Christian educators (school teachers, Sunday school teachers, pastors, etc.) to teach faith to children. Another might say it is the job of the parents. Another might say “it takes a village” which might refer to extended family, parents, Christian educators, mentors, peers, and more. Certainly, there are a wide variety of influences any one child experiences, and (in many cases) the more the better. Nevertheless, my experience and research leads me to believe strongly that the parents (or primary caretakers) have the primary responsibility of imparting the faith to the children in their care.
It is well-researched that the greatest persons of influence in the life of children are their primary caretakers. It is therefore of utmost importance that parents do not neglect this responsibility or leave it to the “experts” of Christian life. I just started reading the book The Family Friendly Church which is mainly about how to help churches support families instead of focusing on families supporting churches. In this book, the authors state that “four practices are particularly important in helping young people grow in faith (both in childhood and adolescence):
- Talking about faith with your mother.
- Talking about faith with your father.
- Having family devotions or prayer.
- Doing family projects to help other people.”
These four practices are in many ways both simple and difficult. For single-family homes or non-traditional homes, the first two practices may present a challenge (though not an insurmountable one). Families which do not have both a strong mother and father figure can seek such support from either extended family or the church family.
These practices are simple in that they consist of activities which are not complicated. Talking, reading, discussing, and simple projects are all that is required; yet, these practices require a vulnerability and intentionality which many families may find challenging.
My own experience causes me to add one more practice to the above mentioned ones.
It is essential that the primary caretakers grow in their faith and seek after God with their whole hearts.
It is not enough to attend church faithfully, give some money, volunteer some time, join a small group, send your kids to Sunday school, talk with them, have family devotions or prayers, and do projects which help others. These activities are all good, but they are incomplete if the people completing them are not both simultaneously seeking God and seeking more of God. To settle into a “church” routine and model such behaviors to your children may be enough to have them imitate these habits in adulthood, but it will do little good if it is all void of a passionate seeking of more and more of the presence of God.
Frank Laubach in Letters by a Modern Mystic says, when talking about his attempts to minister to people of the Muslim faith:
“What right then have I or any other person to come here and change the name of these people from Muslim to Christian, unless I lead them to a life fuller of God than they have now? Clearly, clearly, my job here is not to go to the town plaza and make proselytes, it is to live wrapped in God, trembling to His thoughts, burning with His passion. And, my loved one, that is the best gift you can give to your own town.”
I would add, it is the best gift you can give to your children as well. My plea for you, therefore, is two-fold. Work toward doing the four practices mentioned above. Talk with your kids about your faith. Do family devotions and prayers together. Plan and implement projects together which benefit others.
But don’t leave it there.
While you are working at incorporating all these into your daily life as a family, do not neglect your own regular, ruthless, and passionate seeking of God, and never settle in to thinking you have obtained enough of God.
If you do this, you, your children, your family, and our world will never be the same.
God’s blessings to you on this beautiful journey of faith.