Last week I wrote about how practice is necessary for learning. This week I want to talk about doing FAITH. I'm guessing that you who are reading this want children to have faith, and want children to mature into faithful adults. In the Lutheran tradition, at a child's baptism, we promise to take on the following responsibilities:
- to live with them among God's faithful people
- to bring them to the word of God and the holy supper
- to teach them the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
- and to nurture them in faith and prayer.
Regardless of your tradition or situation you need to demonstrate to your child what a faithful person looks like. Where better to demonstrate this than in the community of faith we call the church. The simplest element of faith “practice” is just showing up. Show up on Sunday morning and you will be among God’s faithful people. Even when you aren’t feeling faithful!
Help the children participate: fold hands, say amen, stand up, and sit down. Follow the words with your finger for beginning readers. Sit where they can see what’s going on. Point out acolytes helping lead the worship. Let them put the envelope in the plate.
The word of God and the Lord’s Supper will be present every week. Again, the first step is showing up. Before long your child will want to participate in the meal with you. One of my children indicated this by demanding “snack.” She felt left out in a place where she knew she belonged. She was already one of God’s faithful people.
Most churches provide religious education where your child will learn the great stories of the Bible and the Ten Commandments. They will also be nurtured in their faith by faithful teachers and practice faith together with friends who are learning beside them.
As I said at the start, doing faith requires practice. There are two things that can best be practiced by parents and children together. The first is faith itself. Daily trusting, and testifying to your trust in God, helps your child learn to trust as well. If you worry aloud, your child learns to worry. Practice trusting and your child will too.
The second is prayer. Pray with and for your child. Pray over important events or decisions in your family life. Pray your thanks for answered prayers, blessings, and life itself. Pray for the people you know, and in the face of public tragedy. Empower your children by giving them something to do when they encounter situations they are powerless to control or repair.
When your child leaves home she becomes responsible for managing her own faith life. Knowing how to participate in a faith community and its practices will serve her well when she faces the world without the protection of the home and family she’s always known. Going to church, if it has been a regular practice in her life, becomes a way of going home. It can be an extension of family, allowing her to find a family wherever she is. Trust and prayer go where she goes.
My daughter’s band director said (frequently!) that practice makes permanent. If that is true, then practicing faith with your children is one of the most important items on your to-do list today. Enjoy!