Building Faith at Home
My blogging has been sporadic at best the last year. The blog posts I have created were not even meant to be for a blog but rather a church bulletin. Each week our church puts out an 11×17 three panel brochure we call a church bulletin. Oddly with a space that size, there is still no room for the happenings of an exciting children’s ministry so part of my weekly ritual is to turn a different 11×17 page into three, front/back, inserts fully devoted to the children and families of the Mesquite Church of Christ. When I do not have enough activities to describe, the leftover room I have devoted to an article I have called, “Family of Faith.” The goal of the article when written is to encourage families to deepen their relationship with Christ.
So what is the reason for this post (which will NOT appear in the Mesquite Church of Christ bulletin)? Today I had a parents meeting after church in which I unleashed the summer calendar full of events and activities designed to help enrich their children’s summer with a deeper and growing relationship with Jesus. A common theme among many of the activities is that I am not planning them. I have delegated much of the responsibility of the summer’s agenda to the parents. This is all in an effort to jump on the bandwagon of a movement affectionately called, “Faith at Home.” I am not sure what is meant when it is referred to as a movement but the book I have been reading recently (Building Faith at Home: Why Faith at Home Must be Your Churches #1 Priority) has called it a movement. I prefer to think about it as God’s grand plan for raising children.
There is a huge temptation as a children’s minister to build the big bad children’s program that is hugely attractive with lots of prizes and incentive for children. Especially as the minister of a congregation which has never had a children’s minister before, I sometimes feel the need to make things great for kids at church. I want the children to enjoy being at church. Church should be fun. Children’s Ministry programs like this grow in number. I can see what will eventually happen though, we will have children who grow up thinking church is fun, as long as there is an incentive besides spiritual growth.
I am becoming more and more convicted that my most fruitful efforts at growing children and families spiritually do not lie in exciting children’s ministry programs with action songs, prizes, and creative object lessons but in changing the hearts of moms and dads.
This presents a huge problem on several levels. For one, “It is not the way Church is done.” Meaning, the general model for how children gain spiritual knowledge is in the Sunday Morning Bible Class (an maybe Sunday evening or Wednesday night). It seems there is a general attitude that this is where the meat of children’s spiritual meal is supposed to come from. The problem is that even churches with a long Bible class (1 hour or more – Mesquite’s Bible classes last 45 minutes) that is only 2 hours a week of spiritual instruction! And that is IF the children come both Sunday Morning and Wednesday. We wouldn’t tolerate this if the government said that they are only going to teach our children from 9:00-10:00am Monday morning and 1:00-2:00pm Thursday afternoon. A church based model for spiritual instruction is simply not enough.
The other problem with a “Faith at Home” model is that most of the parents do not seem to be wired for it. This is not to say that they are incapable of accomplishing the goals of a “Faith at Home” model, just that it is unfamiliar and there are likely some tools missing from the tool belt to make it happen. I could go up to any parent at church and ask them if they want their child to grow more spiritually and 100% of them would emphatically say, “YES!” I could ask those same parents if they felt like had all the resources they needed in order to make it happen and most of them would probably agree that they could manage popping out a devotional once a month or so. If I asked them how often they spend in spiritual activities as a family besides praying before meals each week, I fear the answers would not reflect their priorities.
I do not feel this is necessarily 100% the fault of the parents. I think both the problems mentioned above go hand in hand. The church has not stepped up to the plate to equip parents with what they need to make it happen and the parents have been comfortable in letting the church be the spiritual teachers of the children.
So where does this leave me?
I believe it leaves me with an incredible opportunity! We have some things in place for this summer (and hopefully the next school year) which will aim to equip parents to take charge of their children’s spiritual growth and development. I feel like hiring a children’s minister has lit a flame in the hearts of many of our church’s families. I get excited when I see heads nodding at the idea of a class designed for parents to interact with their children AT CHURCH!! I hope that as a minister to these children and families I am able to find a pace that does not outrun the church or my own stamina.
Let me know what you think. If you have any ideas how to bridge the gap in helping parents be the spiritual leaders and build faith at home, share them.