I am not feeling particularly good at this “fostering faith” thing right now. I thought I was. But, in our house, we have run into a few recent and significant misunderstandings about Faith which required some good conversation to sort out—things I thought went without saying. Neither of which I am convinced would have come up without prompting. And I’m so grateful that they did!
One day at a time.
The Importance of Fostering Faith in Our Children
We are in the thick of forming our kids in the Faith—spoon feeding, even—and it is becoming more and more clear, even in these elementary school years, that our role is to educate, to promote, and to model that which we do and to explain why we do it. That is my part, large or small. For it to take root, it must be authentic, compelling, repeated, and explained. To be understood by those whom I teach, it must be one concept at a time.
Fostering faith in my kids is achingly important to me. It is an invaluable gift I hope to share. For all my preconceived ideas about its simplicity, it poses its own unique challenges. The inherent difficulty of passing on something as valuable as our Faith to those we love does not discriminate between young, old, married, single, convert, widowed, divorced, mother, godmother, aunt, sister, or child.
We All Have Influence on Someone
Whether you read this as a brand new God-mama to your infant nephew, as a mother of a lapsed Catholic, child caretaker of an agnostic parent, spouse of a non-believer, grandmother to a child(ren) growing up in a home that is no longer practicing their Faith, or the lone holdout of your “cradle Catholic” family…it is important.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought because there is so much to know about our Faith and Tradition. It is simultaneously simple and mind-bendingly complex.
Several times in my own Theological higher education I remember thinking: This is so rich! Why am I just hearing it now? Shouldn’t this have been a part of my religious education? Do I have to go to graduate school to really understand these tenets of our Faith? I wish someone would have explained this to me!
We All Benefit
Even now, in a parish that fosters grade school religious education, alongside adult religious education, I get the sense that there is a chasm between the beauty of the Church and what the faithful recognize as their own.
It is no wonder then, that for children learning about the Faith, there is a steep learning curve.
Realistically, our children are not the only benefactors of our intentional lives of Christian witness. There are countless opportunities each day to foster the faith of another. This is no less important. After all, we are each, children of God.
An important discovery I have made in giving this further attention and prayer is that, while I feel most responsible for the formation of the littles in my care, I am not limited to their hearts. I am invited to touch others with the Good News, too.
It begs the question: Who else might be evangelized by the witness I can provide?
In turn, if we each took up this call to a public life of faith, how many of those in our sphere of influence would cease to wonder at the motivations of our hospitality, charity, love? So often I assume people “get it,” when in reality I wonder if my sometimes-timid acts of faithfulness are chalked up to being a “good person” as opposed to a living an integrated life of faith because I have been quiet where it matters most.
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Practical and Purposeful Ways to Foster Faith in Our Kids
The challenges are obvious, so let’s look at a few simple and tactile ways to begin to foster faith in those we find in our lives (whether kids or not):
- Ask questions that start with: “Tell me what you know/think about, __________.” // Besides being good, open-ended dialogue, this is an ideal springboard for deeper conversation that gives a nod to what they already do know. It can also be a great way to invite questions. “Tell me something about the Holy Spirit/Baptism/______ that you wish you know more about.”
- Learn something new and pass it on // It is vital that children see adults as learners, too.
- Invite them into your own life of faith // Invite them to watch a movie about someone whose faith you admire, attend Mass, bring a meal or the Eucharist to someone who needs a visit, sign a petition, volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Describe how each of these actions are a part of our call as followers of Christ.
- Read together // Explore daily devotions, stories of Saints or missionaries, the Catholic paper (to pray through current events in the news).
- Practice meal prayers // At home and in public.
- Wear reminders of the Faith // Wear your crucifix, miraculous medal, scapular, Rosary bracelet, religious ring/earrings, etc. Let them see it and hold it. Tell them why you wear it.
- Nominate a child to lead prayer // This could be at dinner, before bed, at Thanksgiving/Christmas or Easter, etc. Invite them to lead both rote prayer and free-form prayer. Bonus points if they get to see you do the same!
- Listen to media that forms your faith // Listen to podcasts, talks, CDs, books on tape, etc. in the car that give everyone access to the same information, without only being the “teacher.”
You Can Start…Now
The good news is that we can begin any day, and it isn’t just the kids in our lives who will benefit.
As a child, and still today, those whose faith has inspired and taught me the most were impactful because they were authentic. Their love of Christ Jesus was seamlessly integrated into everyday life. And they could tell me why. Because it was a daily practice, it spilled into the lives around them.
In turn, there is an invitation to continue to form these faithful habits, or to amp up our commitment to do so (Lent is the perfect season for this).
In practical terms, how might we adopt a practice this season that spills into our everyday lives in such a way that not only speaks to the children (children of God) in our lives, but invites conversation as well?The Challenges and Opportunities of Fostering Faith in Our Children #BISblog // Click To Tweet