By understanding the challenges and knowing how to really support family faith, you can make family faith formation work in your parish!
Engaging today’s families is often named as a challenge by parishes. Here are some of the hurdles we can overcome with creative thinking in family faith formation.
Challenge: “Faith Formation Isn’t a Priority”
Why isn’t faith formation a priority for so many families? The simple answer is that many did not experience the daily religious practices at home or the witness of parents when they were young. They might not have seen, heard, and did religious practices at home. For these parents, it’s not an aspect of family life or a priority for them now. That’s not pointing fingers, but realistically looking at the current situation and the implications when thinking of a family program. Today, how can we expect parents share what they don’t know with their own children?
Challenge: “It’s the Parish’s Responsibility”
The perception by many parents is that parish programs are primarily responsible for the faith formation of their children, and not their responsibility as the domestic Church.
How do we shift the thinking? I say slowly and deliberately, by building the capacity of parents to be the primary educators in the faith of their children. We need to rethink what we do to bring parents into the faith formation program with their children, so they can learn, along with their children, what they don’t know themselves.
Catechetical leaders need to rethink how they do what they do for faith formation models and engage both students and families in faith formation, like:
Catechetical leaders must think differently about what it means to engage parents and families and build a partnership in the faith formation journey. It takes time, it takes creativity, it takes a willingness to “do things differently” for an improved outcome.
We have certainly tried our best, despite the challenges we face, to educate our children in the faith through our religious education programs and classes. But we haven’t done the same in educating our parents in the faith. We need to bring them into the picture—with their children—learning the same things as their children. It makes common sense: parents need faith formation too!
Engaging families means sharing and shifting responsibility for the faith formation of their children. It doesn’t mean just passing it off. We can gradually release responsibility to parents by doing it together so that, in the end, they can do it themselves. We need to transition parents to be the primary educators of their children in the faith.
In a speech prepared by Pope Francis but not delivered, he wrote, “Let us not forget the beauty of walking with the people . . . I encourage you to go out to meet others, to open doors and reach out to families. . . . In particular, it will be beautiful to accompany families in the challenge to generate and educate their children.” (Pastoral Visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Pompeii and Napoli, March 3, 2015)
This is what we need to do: accompany families, walk with them where they are right now. They may not be where we would like them to be when it comes to sharing faith with their children, but if we form them while we provide family faith formation programs, we can help build their capacity to be faith educators of their children.
Prepare for the Family Faith Formation: Engaging and Building Capacity webinar by downloading a free Family Faith Formation Force Field Activity.
No, it’s not difficult or technical. It’s a reflection activity. Think about your program or classroom. Force Field #1 asks you to think about what you do, and what efforts, initiatives, practices, and behaviors support engaging parents and families in your program or classroom. Force Field #2 asks you to again think about what you do, and what efforts, initiatives, practices, and behaviors may be obstacles to engaging parents and families in your program or classroom. Complete the exercise before watching the On Demand webinar!