We have been super intentional to equip and invite parents into the faith formation of their children. The scriptures outline this is God’s plan in Deuteronomy, Psalm 78, Isaiah 18, etc.
When young adults who never strayed from the faith are asked the how and why, they speak to learning to read/listen to the Bible as a regular habit. First and by far, foremost. Followed by the family minutes, moments, and milestones which impressed the priority of their faith in Jesus in community: home first, then church.
Let’s be real. There are 168 hours in a given week. Even if we throw everything we have into that one hour of developmentally appropriate faith formation in a typical Sunday school setting, it will never be enough for a robust faith in Jesus in any culture.
A multi-level plan (developmentally appropriate), over time (habits), in community (home, car, extracurricular, church) is the best strategy. That’s a big elephant to eat. We can eat that thing one bite at a time and over a period of time, but we need permission for accountability.
We can’t tap into the accountability of ‘if you’re not here for practice, you can’t play.’ We can’t lay out expectations to parents like a teacher can at a parent-teacher conference of ‘Sue is lost and I would suggest a faith tutor to meet with her every week, sometimes twice a week, to get her up to speed.’ We can’t send a note home with ‘Joe has already been absent 9 days. One more day absent and he’ll be held back to be sure he gets the material to be successful.’ None of these options are reasonable for the local church.
So what do we have?
Side note: Our parents have more than enough guilt. They lay awake at night questioning their parenting skills already. I’m not adding to that. Every parent I’ve ever met wants the best for their kids. The very best! They have dreams and hopes for their children and want desperately to make available every opportunity for success. Christian parents want their kids to have a robust faith in Jesus. An hour a week, even if they come every week, is not gonna cut it for a robust faith in Jesus.
So what can we do?
We can equip and train parents and grandparents (the greatest untapped faith formation resource in any family) and offer space to make all their minutes, moments, and milestones count for Jesus. Everything we do must point to Jesus. Everything!
We offer Parenting With a Purpose classes each fall and spring. Last week it looked like this with a PowerPoint and a Ziploc bag of 167 M&Ms + 1 jumbo gold gumball (representing the weekly Sunday school class): Parenting With A Purpose – A Blueprint.
6pm-6:30pm Kids had pizza dinner (+water, fruit) with 3 kid’s Bible study leaders wearing candy corn flashing headbands (a visual that this is a special night); greeted and checked in by an Ambassador (relationship with an older kid); eat and check in with friends (relationships; food; table life).
Parents set up in another room to get a chance to breathe, get water and cookies, take a bio break, chat with who they sit beside. Hospitality time for me to work the room saying, “Hey ___, do you know ___? She goes to the 11am service and has a 3rd grader” to intentionally introduce the commonalities of participants. Then give time for them to chat before the program starts at 6:15pm.
6:30pm-7:30pm Kids bring in buckets of building toys they chose from the Children’s Welcome Center and sit together at the feet of their parents to play. The visual for parents and children was intentional.
Program: Though six Biblical holy habits are important only one, the research tells us, bears the greatest weight, so we will focus on Bible Reading.
Read the Bible, not a devotional, not a study Bible. Read the Bible. Listen to it in the car on a Bible app. Use Breath prayers to remember phrases and words from the scriptures. Begin with a book with a narrative like the Gospel of Luke. Introduce the author as Dr. Luke and the gospel is his letter to his friend Theophilus. I wonder if Theo was short, tall, quiet, or his loud friend? Dr. Luke investigated and determined these events to be true, historical, and worthy of defense.
The Next Generation Ministries suggests the narratives of the New Testament first. Then the Old Testament. Then a Chronological Bible. Several of our kidmin leadership team took an online conference of Discipleship Begins at Home sponsored by Women In Apologetics last summer which taught and offered the Blueprint resource to all participants to share with our families in their local churches.
They reminded us that if a kid can read a chapter book, they can read the Bible as a family and in Christian community. “This is what Christians do and we are a Christian family.” At middle school, purchase a study Bible. Invite the grandparents to purchase it and make notes in the margins of their favorite passages. The kids can read. The parents can read aloud. A Bible app can read it aloud for you.
Each participant received a children’s book on a hard faith subject (the Trinity) and what I think is the best Bible Handbook in print (which is hard to find) published by Gospel Light (I miss them) which is child, youth, adult-friendly to give context to the family Bible reading.
Parents are front-line disciple-makers and the saints the local church is supposed to equip. This is one very intentional way we are living into Ephesians 4:12.
At the end of class, I gave them each a heads-up. By walking out with all those resources, they are inviting me and everyone else in the room to hold them accountable.
That accountability might sound like a hallway conversation, “How are you doing with your family Bible reading?”, or “Have you started with your family Bible reading yet?” That’s what partnership looks like. A life coach does that. A pitching coach does that. A personal trainer does that. A math tutor does that.
Let me ask you, “How did you do last week in your Bible reading?”
Nehemiah 6:3 “I’m carrying on a great project and cannot go down.”