Principles

Faith Formation in the Home

Hands down, the family circle is the best conductor for faith formation!

Viewing family life through the lenses of context, content and conviction, here’s why the home is the ultimate environment for nurturing belief and devotion:

Context

Christian family life revolves around eating, sleeping, conversing, working, resting, celebrating, recreation, decorating the home, spiritual observances (e.g. prayer, Bible reading), and participating in a local church. These habits are a safeguard against the chaos of life outside the home – what American theologian James Fowler calls a “coherent orientation.” This coherent orientation is the form and framework in which faith development takes place.

To Fowler’s concept of coherent orientation, we should add the Catholic author Leif Kehrwald’s view that family life revolves around “ritual, routine and rhythm.” Kehrwald’s view reminds us that a child’s faith development requires a structured environment.

Creating a structured environment in the home is essential. If there’s disorder in the home, children are focused on survival. If there’s order in the home, children are more likely to reflect on their feelings and identity – critical factors in faith development.

While ritual, routine and rhythm are friends of faith development, consumerism is the enemy. That’s because family routines and structures inhibit efficient consumption. This is an important caveat. To detain the decline in the faith development of successive generations, we must help families see how consumerism conflicts with faith.

Content

To the importance of context, we must add the importance of content. Family life requires more than daily routines and physical structures. It requires meaning. For example, in the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof, tradition equipped Tevye and his family to face persecution and other challenges.

How we deal with the things that happen in the family either promotes or negates faith development. When trials and tribulations arise, families should see them as opportunities for faith to flourish (cf. James 1:2-3).

Along with meaning, substance (i.e., presence) is also required for faith development. Jesus should be the most important or essential part of the family – the unseen master of the house. When Christ’s existence permeates the home, faith thrives. [This is the subject of other Children’s Ministry Basics articles like Orientating Our Parenting and Parenting With the End in Mind]

Information is another critical factor. We must evaluate the value of what our children are learning, both inside and outside the home. Pastor and author Voddie Baucham says, “If Psalm 1 is to be believed we must … place our children in situations that will aid them in meditating on the law of the Lord ‘day and night.’ Surely this involves how and where they are to be educated. We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.”

How children are educated will advance or retard their faith development. A common expression in the early church was “to learn Christ.” Maybe we should co-opt this phrase for family faith formation in recognition that the aim of education should be to teach children who Jesus is and how He wants us to live into His Story. Of course, “to learn Christ,” families must engage with God’s Word. Bible engagement, without exception, should be part and parcel of a family’s daily activities.

Conviction

To context and content, we must add conviction.

Faith in the home blossoms in the soil of firmly held beliefs. A parent’s faith is a key factor in whether a child will embrace faith. Data from the National Study of Youth and Religion indicates that parents who say their faith is “extremely important” are more likely to see their children have high levels of faith. Conversely, liberally-minded parents who aren’t convinced about the veracity of God’s Word or impressing it on their children are more likely to see their children reject faith and leave the church.

Every family must choose who they will place their faith in and who they will serve (cf. Joshua 24:15). Are the things the family lives for worthy of what Christ died for? If the answer is “yes,” then faith will be cultivated in the home. But, if the answer is “no,” then faith development will be hindered.

Related Articles

Family Faith Formation

Awakening Parents to Family Discipleship

Fostering Faith During COVID-19

© Scripture Union, 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5

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