This blog series, Family Ministry: Not Just for the Christian Right Anymore, explores how family-based faith formation ministry will help progressive Christian values take root first in homes and then throughout our communities and the world in order to spread justice and peace.
I want to start today’s blog with an apology. To all those families who pray together, read scripture and discuss it together, have special religiously based rituals around holidays and even talk about Sunday sermons in the car on the way home from church: I am sorry. This blog post may not apply to you. If you want to know more about how the other half lives, read on. Otherwise, you may just want to pass this one over.
If you are like the rest of us (based on current research and anecdotal evidence, I’d say that includes MOST OF US), you are all too aware that our skills at forming families in faith need to be honed just a little bit.
For many of us who were raised in the church, our religious upbringing may have gone something like this: Sunday morning (or Saturday evening for those Catholics out there) everyone gets dressed in their finest clothes and hastily (and often grudgingly) gets in the car. For the kids glue their eyes to the clock and begin to count down the minutes until they get to shake hands with the pastor and dash off to the back seat of the car. No discussion about the service ensues unless you count the reprimands handed out for bad behavior or the gossipy notes about Mrs. So-and-So who wasn’t in her usual seat that day. Meal prayers, if they were said at all, were rushed, barely-audible wrote recitations that sounds more like pig Latin to outsiders than the language in which they were spoken. Holiday rituals involved waiting impatiently through church services before tearing open Christmas presents or gathering Easter-eggs at lightening speed.
When I train and coach congregations to do family based ministry, the resistance always comes when I ask leaders to do the practices themselves. Progressive churches will often verbalize that doing these practices seems “conservative.” (See my first blog post in this series.)
I’m guessing, after having scores of these conversations, that the discomfort with doing at home faith practices really has nothing to do with the conservative, liberal or progressive label. After all, these practices are theologically neutral. You can explore your theology, whatever it is, through these practices. You can interpret the Bible in any way you want during these discussions.
That squirm-in-your-seat-discomfort really is just anxiety to the intimacy and vulnerability required by praying, discussing scripture and serving together with your family. Things we lift up to God often reflect our deepest fears and sense of failings. Who wants to admit that to yourself, much less your family? Discussing scripture might reveal that people, even within their own family, do not agree with each other. Shocking! Serving others demands that we set ourselves and our own egos aside long enough to see the humanity in one we are serving. Service invites us to sometimes be served ourselves. Talk about vulnerable, eh?
My advice: when praying or reading scripture or offering a blessing with your family, take a deep breath. Take several. It’ll calm that squirmy-ness right down and open doors in relationships that you didn’t even know existed. That’s just what happens when you open up to your breath … and to God … just a little bit.
This Rodney Atkins video shows the power and influence of parents on the faith of children: