In her (still) must-read book on youth and religion, Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean notes that most American teenagers lack the theological vocabulary and language with which to talk about faith. We might add as a corollary observation that most American adults also lack this theological language, which fits her thesis that what we see in our youth is a reflection of the wider church.
Dean argues that four elements are needed to nurture faithful young people:
- A creed—what she calls a “God-story”
- A community in which this God-story is enacted
- Call—a sense of vocation and purpose in the world
She further notes that the single most important influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is there parents. This means that these elements cannot be developed only during the few hours of each month that young people are in our churches. Faith formation and spiritual development must happen at home. It’s not even a matter of making sure that these things are reinforced at home—family homes (especially in our post-Christendom world) must become the primary locus of faith formation.
After years of working with confirmands to produce statements of faith, it has finally registered with me that we need to encourage this same practice among our families. Every family should develop its own Family Faith Statement, an articulation of how family members understand and share a meaningful God-story. This seems to be a foundational step toward a whole host of family faith practices.
The basic approach I suggest is for parents (individually at first and then as a couple if partnered) to write a short statement of faith and then bring children into the conversation in age appropriate ways. These do not need to be theologically sophisticated statements or creeds. All I’m talking about is a simple list or narrative of a family’s core beliefs.
Good suggestions for writing such statements can be found in Lib Caldwell’s Making a Home for Faith, Kathy Bostrom’s 99 Ways to Raise Spiritually Healthy Children, and Dietrich Kirk’s Raising Teens in an Almost Christian World.
Do you have any experience with something like this? Does it sound like a realistic practice for your family?