Thursday, March 25, 2010

Parents and Grandparents Sharing Faith

Starting a blog is a new experience for me. Maybe it’s much like the weekly columns I used to write for a small town newspaper. I called them DeeLiberations. I went by my nickname “Dee” at the time.
I hope this blog will be particularly helpful for some of the Christian educators that I’ve known across the years, although it’s certainly not restricted to Christian education. I’m happy to discuss any subjects that you would like.
Let’s start off with thoughts about the importance of parents and grandparents in sharing the faith with their children and youth. I feel that these important people in the lives of young Christians need two tools in particular. First they need to understand just how we grow and mature in our faith, and then they need some suggestions to start them on finding spontaneous ways to share their own faith. I can’t tell them the exact words, because those must come from their own experiences.
For this discussion let’s define faith as our relationship with God and beliefs as simply the things that we believe. We hope that our relationship with God will begin early and continue to grow throughout our lives. Our beliefs may change from time to time, but even those changes can deepen our relationship with God.

How we grow in faith
I usually use the styles of faith that John Westerhoff developed in Will Our Children Have Faith? because they are easier for parents and grandparents to grasp.
~ Experienced Faith – We observe and copy, acting and reacting to our surroundings and people. Parents and grandparents lay the foundation by simply holding and loving the infant. Parents and grandparents need to give unconditional love, and as the child grows older they become advocates of the faith. This is a time of exploring and testing. Faith grows through experiences, including worship.
~ Affiliated Faith – Here we relate to other people. Feeling a part of the church family is important for children and youth. We express our feelings through this style of faith, and we learn about and appreciate those who set the foundation of our faith. We embrace OUR inherited faith story.
~ Searching Faith – This usually begins in the late teens and early 20’s, although I’m seeing it start earlier now. This is when we begin to say, “Is this really what I believe, or is it something that someone else has told me and I am simply parroting it?” We need clarifiers of the faith during this time, sharing beliefs and pointing out how others believe but insisting that we each must explore our own beliefs. Only through questioning can we really claim our beliefs. This is the time we begin to commit to causes with our actions.
~ Owned Faith – This can only happens after we have worked in the previous styles of faith. This is when it doesn’t bother us if someone says, “But I don’t believe that! How can you?” We can recognize that each person is individual in his or her own faith journey. Here we live our faith in every part of our lives.
These styles of faith do not disappear when we move from one to another, just like a tree must continue to depend on its inner circles of growth. Each style of faith is a part of our spirituality throughout life. We continue to experience, to relate to others, and to question our beliefs.

Spontaneous ways to share faith
For this second tool, parents and grandparents need to feel comfortable in sharing their faith. This can be as simple as saying, “Look at the beautiful sunset God made!” By inserting the word “God” we have made it a faith statement. Young children may hear, “This shirt doesn’t fit you any more! You are growing just the way God planned for you to grow.” The words, “God planned” can plant seeds of understanding.

Share your ideas!
Now, what are some ideas you have for helping parents and grandparents share their faith? Give us some specifics, and see if we can all benefit from this discussion.