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We have long known that the family profoundly influences all its members. No other social institution comes close to having an impact on young people that way the family does. Many parents seek out a church based on the quality of its discipling program for children and youth. However, research among adult Christians in the United States demonstrates that people of faith, when asked who influenced them in the growth of their faith most often answered “my mother.” Other family members also rank very high in shaping the faith of young people. Research bears out that children are deeply affected by conversations about faith they have with family members. When children and parents go out into their community and into the world to serve together, the positive impact on the faith of a child is massive.
We should not be surprised about this. In the scriptures, God commands parents “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street….” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) Also the Apostle Paul wrote “Take your children by the hand and lead them in the way of the master.” (Ephesians 6:4) The spiritual nurture of children is clearly shown as the responsibility of parents. We may know this, but still wonder “But HOW do we do it?”
This past summer at Third Church in Richmond, VA our mission pastor, Laurie Jaworski, and I were privileged to conduct a series of intergenerational Sunday School sessions on the theme “Me and My House in Mission.” The purpose was to encourage households to claim the mission God has given them by introducing them to six modes of missional engagement for families. Each week we helped them to reflect on and begin practicing these modes of engagement in their home context.
The six modes of missional engagement for families are:
- Engaging God’s word in households
- Responding to God in prayer in households
- Practicing missional hospitality in households
- The home economics of generosity
- Spurring one another on to good works
- Go! You are the light of the world
Each session was designed to introduce the missional practices and to give people opportunities to learn about the practices through a powerpoint presentation, testimonies from fellow congregational members who model these practices in their households, singing, prayer, reading and reflecting on scripture, discussion, group sharing, interactive games, drawing pictures and making crafts. Participants were encouraged to implement the new practices at home and to report back the following week about what they were learning.
At the end of the sessions those who attended said that they enjoyed the fact that they could participate together with thier children, that they received new ideas to help them as a family to grow in various areas of discipleship and mission and that they were encouraged by working interactively with one another.
Based on the positive response to these sessions on missional living in families, I am working to put the lessons into the form of a curriculum which can be taught and used in a variety of contexts. If you or your congregation would like to field test this curriculum, please contact me at email@example.com. My aim is to have a version of the curriculum ready to be used for field testing by late spring of 2020.
In order to go deeper into the issues surrounding the mission of the family and the family in mission, a group of friends and I have founded a new organization called Me and My House in Mission. You can browse the website we are building at https://meandmyhouseinmission.com where I regularly put up postings on the blog page called “Families in the Way.” You can register to receive the postings and comment on them when they are posted to join in on the conversation.