By Amy Haynie
When I was the parent of younger children, I really wanted a quick answer about how to help my children’s spiritual development. We had a faith community where my boys had many grandparent figures who loved and were interested in them. I would often hear of other communities that had more impressive sounding formation offerings than ours did, but we stayed steady in that community.
Now that one child has graduated from high school and is well-settled in college, and the second is almost half-way through high school, we have discussed what a blessing those long-term relationships have been. If God indeed shows us the Kingdom when we view our community, which I believe, then my son’s faith formation has been impacted much more by the lifelong (for them) relationships they have formed at our church.
For our family, who has been privileged to be in one location for the last 20 years, the faith formation of our children has been impacted by being completely and fully involved in that one faith community, through thick and thin. As parents, we have fulfilled several roles which may or may not have had a direct impact on the Children’s Formation ministry. We have shown our sons what it looks like to be fully engaged in a community. It may not be the answer for every family, but from the other side of raising them from birth it has been the right answer for us. It has not always been easy and I am curious to see what choices they will now make a young adults.
I facilitated a book study on Sabbath in the Suburbs a few years ago. Most of the participants were parents of young children trying to figure out how to practice their faith at home with children. What we slowly figured out as we read through the book was that we, as parents, had to be practicing our own spirituality intentionally. We had to know hat we believe and why, and be willing to live that out at home, in front of the children. It is on the actual “practice,” fully visible as a valuable part of our adult lives, that the children see faith modeled and begin to form their own beliefs about God.
As with all things about raising children, there is no quick, easy answer. When Advent approaches, by all means, take advantage of lighting Advent Candles and discuss the meaning of the holidays as a family. Talk about your own unique traditions. Separate out the Feast day of St Nicholas from the celebration of the Christ’s Mass, and then the later coming of the wise men on Epiphany. All of this requires parents who not only know the stories, but have assimilated those into their own belief systems.
Practicing Faith in your Family is what will help your child’s and your own faith formation. No matter what you choose, whether you lean contemplative, or artistic, or musical, or some combination of all the practices you have picked up along the way, you are developing your child’s faith simply by being a practicing parent.
Amy is an Episcopal priest serving the Episcopal Church in Wichita Falls, TX. She and her husband, David, have two boys, Sam (19) and Ben (16).