Rev. Steve Andrews of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Lee’s Summit thinks we’re living in challenging times, as Christians often have. He says, “[You see] the work of the devil in our culture to keep us busy and put so many things before us to keep Christ from being the center of the family and the center of the home.” He also thinks that for the past few generations, programs like Sunday school and confirmation classes have provide many benefits, but also led to some parents taking a back seat when it comes to teaching faith at home.
Andrews emphasizes that scripture clearly points to parents as the ultimate teachers of the faith. Rev. Andrews thinks many parents feel intimidated in teaching the faith because they don’t have formal training in theology or Christian education. But Rev. Andrews wants to assure parents that it’s okay. “You won’t have all the answers, and that’s okay,” he says. “You might go to your pastor and he might not know the answer. It could even be the kind of thing that we never know the answer. That’s okay.”
Similarly, congregations sometimes don’t know where to start when it comes to equipping parents. Because churches have taken leadership in teaching kids, sometimes for several generations, they feel as confused about how to equip parents as the parents feel about teaching their children.
Once, when he was speaking with some parents about leading devotionals, and one of the fathers raised his hand and asked, “What’s a devotional?” Sometimes, he says, it’s about starting simple and letting parents know they can start simple as well. And this means your congregation doesn’t have to have a full-time person on staff who focuses on family ministry.
As a congregation, you can start with simple things, like:
- Creating an advent display kit to let kids make holiday decorations at home (include a display in the narthex of the church)
- Encouraging young families to sit in the front instead of the back (many families are hesitant to try this but are often surprised how much better it goes)
- Encouraging other people in the congregation to welcome families with small kids in church and sit with them
- Let parents know that teaching the faith doesn’t have to be hours of in-depth theological study. Equip them with quick ways they can address faith in small amounts of time, depending on their day.
For many congregations, the biggest challenge is shifting the mindset from the seeing the church and the pastor as the main teachers of children to seeing the parents in that role. It’s something that he thinks is going to take some time, but Rev. Andrews is optimistic that with some thought and creativity, every congregation can transform their approach.
You can sign up to receive his weekly publications of the Faith at Home Corner by emailing Rev. Andrews at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Missouri District has put a strong emphasis on strengthening families, something Rev Andrews has noticed. “I’ve only been in the district a short while and I’ve appreciated seeing this emphasis,” he says.