The last few blogs have looked the “3 R’s” of faith conversations with kids and the power of story in how we communicate. As we get deeper into creating that place of faith formation at home, we are going to steal an idea from the business world; the idea of creating a “corporate identity.”
For family, this means you create an identity that becomes central to your character and meaning as a unit. It communicates to the world “This is WHO we are, WHAT we stand for, and HOW we do life.” It becomes your family’s DNA and what your kids look to and say, “This is part of what it is to be an (insert last name here).”
For the purpose of faith formation, we’re going to use this to create an identity for our family using the strategies of rituals, routines and roles.
Rituals – In her book, Family Ministry, Diana Garland defines rituals as “routines with meaning.” For instance, many families will say a specific grace before dinner or open one present on Christmas Eve and the rest the next morning. The reason behind the action is more meaningful than just regular routine. Perhaps the prayer is one the parents prayed when they were kids or the gift-opening started because Mom wanted the kids to all have matching PJs on Christmas morning.
These rituals becomes things that you talk about when describing your family, especially when the kids share, saying things like, “Oh, my family always…” or “Whenever that happens, our family…”
Ritual is important to God; just look at the description of worship he lays out for the people of Israel in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The repetition of a unique practice can set our family apart and provide context for our child’s faith. If we are intentional in our rituals, we can use them as foundations from with to tell our various stories. For instance, if your family has a ritual of going around the table and sharing something nice about the birthday child, you can share about how Jesus spoke right to people like Nicodemus and Peter because he cares deeply for the individual. Can you think of some “faith” rituals we do at church that we could incorporate into our home?
Routines – Now routines differ from rituals as they are not “special occasion. Our routines are just “what we do” in the everyday. But sometimes it can be important to create spiritual routines that, as Reggie Joiner (2009) says in his book Think Orange, fit with the rhythm of our life. For instance, it can become routine for us to start or end our day with prayer. Maybe our routine is cleaning up dishes together as a family or reading a piece of Scripture at each meal.
These routines should be “expected” at some part of just normal daily life but guess what, to get there, you have to start here, with intentionality and a bit of planning.
Roles – We’re gonna jump back to Deuteronomy 6 for this one. In this passage, who is doing what? Parents are teaching. Kids are listening. They are both walking, laying, sitting. Where is the Sunday school teacher mentioned? How about the church?
In this portion of Scripture, God indicates that the parents have the primary role of spiritual caregiver to the child.
This is not to say the faith community is not important. They very much are. In fact, if you read all of Deuteronomy and look at faith practices in Jewish celebrations, you’ll find the children very much involved. But primarily, the parents are the purveyor of faith information to their children. A concern of many ministers today is that because of age-segregated classes at church, parents have abdicated that role and their children look to the church solely for spiritual guidance. The effect of this is a compartmentalized faith where God is at church but not in the home. As we look at forming our family’s personality, we must be clear to our children about our role in their lives to pass on the faith and that means we must be growing in that faith ourselves. Communicating roles is important to shaping our corporate identity and telling our stories.
Perhaps as you were reading this, some ideas popped into your head about the rituals, routines, and roles in your home that help form your family’s identity. If so, take some time to write them down and then, through prayer and counsel, consider how you can intentionally “invite Christ” into the middle of them.
- Can you add prayer or blessing to your routine?
- Can you point to Christ’s love in the center of one of your family’s rituals?
- Is there a place for you to take on a bigger role as spiritual caregiver in your child’s life?
Asking these questions of ourselves in the home, ensure that we are creating an environment that is focused on faith formation, spiritual discipleship, and intentional love. The best kind of family identity I can think of.
This blog is Part 3 in a five part series on “Growing Deep Roots: Communication for Faith Formation at Home.” For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more family-focused ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.