How do I pass my faith on to my child, especially in an age when there are so many distractions? Most parents, guardians, baptismal sponsors, and other caregivers fervently wish to keep the promises made when their little ones are baptized. They want to teach them the joy and solemnity of worship, to pass on the ancient wisdom of the Word and the creeds. Families want to inspire faithful service, loving kindness toward all living beings, and help children to learn to trust in God.
These are weighty promises and keeping them can be a challenge even in the best of times. How do we find and keep a consistent time for devotion and service? What practices will best fit our family, with our unique gifts and quirks, likes and dislikes? Truly, a one-size-fits-all approach may not work, but I hope here to offer some suggestions regarding the spiritual practice of family devotions—that is, a family time of gathering around the Word, sharing, and prayer, wondering together.
First and foremost, and especially if this is something new you are taking on: choose a time that you’re already together, such as mealtime, bedtime, or time spent in your vehicle going here, there and everywhere. It is so much easier to begin a new practice when you pair it up with something you’re already all doing together. If you have a weekly family game night, start it off with a quick devotion. If you get to eat supper or another meal together fairly regularly (a luxury for some in this day and age, I know), work your devotion time into the mealtime conversation.
Next, choose a devotional and format that you all like. This can take a little experimenting. In a recent position, I was tasked with creating family devotionals. I found that those that were most successful with my family were the ones that were short and sweet. As an example, one devotional included a short Bible verse related to a weekly theme, a question of the day, and a prayer. So many different options exist out there; find one that fits your family’s interests and needs. You’re more likely to keep up the practice if you all find it enjoyable versus it feeling like one more task you need to check off on your daily to-do list. One excellent resource to consider is “Faith 5” by Faith Inkubators—something you can do just about anywhere, anytime.
Cultivate wonder and curiosity
Perhaps most importantly, choose a format that invites questions, rather than simply provides answers. If you can’t think of anything specific, one of the very best question starters when reading a bible story or verse is, “I wonder…”
For example, considering Psalm 150, which describes praising the Lord with lute, harp, loud clashing cymbals, and more:
“I wonder why that psalm-writer was so interested in musical instruments?
“I wonder what they all sounded like?”
Or, considering one of Jesus’ many predictions about his impending suffering and death (Mark 8:31-33):
“I wonder if Jesus’s disciples ever worried he wasn’t who they thought he was?”
“I wonder how Peter felt after getting rebuked by Jesus?”
Create a space for wonder and curiosity and you will undoubtedly be surprised at the ponderings and wonderings your children produce. Even if the wondering seems silly or a little off the wall, explore it together.
Name what the Bible is not
Part of the reason many parents and caregivers get nervous about trying to pass the faith along to those in their care is that we treat the Bible as a book of answers rather than a story to love and embrace. We see those billboards and social media posts about “Bible” standing for “Basic Information Before Leaving Earth” (not a good take on the Bible, by the way) and assume it’s all just a black and white book—there’s right, there’s wrong, and there’s no in between and most certainly no space for asking questions.
Yet questions are how we learn and grow in our faith. Wondering together with your children is one of the best ways for all involved to continue learning and finding blessing in the living word of God. Allowing children to see that even as a grown-up you still wonder about what you find in scripture will teach them that faith is a life-long journey. We may never truly arrive in faith until we “see face to face” as Paul promises in 1st Corinthians. Yet the journey, the adventure, is, as they say, its own reward.
Further reading related to family ministry
How to Best Use Children’s Books in Pandemic Ministry