From the Introduction (pre-publication version):
Of all the gifts parents can pass on to their children, faith is the most precious. While it is God alone who gifts us with the ability to believe, Christian parents can become Gods partners in this enterprise. The promise of God, which is ours in baptism, calls us into a lifetime of growing up into Christ. In those Christian traditions in which the practice is for parents to present their children for baptism, the vows we parents take remind us of our faith-building partnership: we promise to live the Christian faith and to teach the faith to our children. The heart of our role as Christian parents is sharing and living out that faith with the children God gives us.
This book offers suggestions on how to structure faith building into the often chaotic but exciting life of Christian families. In doing so, it describes ways of being a Christian family in action as well as in word. Such ways give a shape and structure to our lives and draw us into the mystery and splendor of Gods continuous self-giving. We deepen faith as we practice faith, and this book is about such practiceespecially in our worship and praise of God. Thus this book offers practical suggestions for family worship in the homeand ways to discover joy and wonder in such worshiping. Both parents and children can come as learners to the experiences offered here, and if they do, parents will soon discover what a gift it is to learn the faith anew with their childrena gift they bring to us, a gift we should treasure.
What I remember most about family devotions when I was a child is the tension that arose because my parents tried to make our devotions just like churchnamely, serious, somber, and correct. Fortunately, churches today are recovering a sense of worship as celebration and joy. If family worship borrows from church practices, we must include this sense of joy and celebration and not feel the need to do it perfectly.
A family setting invites creativity and spontaneityelements often (necessarily) lacking in the more formal setting of church. Therefore, the following pages do not offer detailed road maps but compass headings that plot directions for family worship. Feel free to pick and choose, borrow and adaptto develop faith rituals that have special meaning for your family.
My wife and I had the chance to rethink our parenting strategies in midstream, so to speak. Seven years after our daughter was born, we were surprised with another pregnancy. Our surprise grew to near shock when we discovered we would have twins. But we also discovered an unanticipated gift in this surprise: the opportunity to rethink ways we could live together as a Christian family. And this time around, we could involve our older children in the planning. This book shares some of our discoveries in family worship: rituals, symbols, and liturgies that have become important to us. These things have changed us by deepening our faith, knitting us more closely together, andequally importantteaching us how to have fun worshiping together.
Five principles guide our family worship times. You will see these principles applied again and again in the suggestions that follow.
Symbols are important; they evoke a sense of wonder, and they tap into the imagination.
Too many words can drown family worship. Rituals can speak in place of words, and often young children can understand them more easily than words.
Following the church calendarthe liturgical year of the churchhelps us remember who we are as a family of faith.
Bringing some language of church worship into our family worship helps link the two experiences closer together.
Worship should include joy, and fun is an important element of joy. In every meaningful ritual of our family worship times, there is an element of play.
The pages that follow offer ideas that weave our faith into the structure of our daily lives. As we pay attention to special times that touch our faith, we discover how to live our faith not only through our days but all through the yearand, ultimately, throughout our lives. Such a pattern of living and celebrating our faith can bring together the often discordant and disconnected fragments of our hectic lives. The thread tying our lives together as families will be this rhythm of worship and ritual, which gently shapes us with the joy of Gods loving faithfulness.
A word or two about patience is in order here. Faith rituals in the home are like delicate gardens: we plant them little by little, year by year, and we tend them carefully as they become part of our family life. We may be disappointed if we attempt too much too soon. Another mistake can be to smother something new we are trying by overexplaining it. Understanding grows with experience: we learn as we do. With patience and persistence, we will see the flowers of faith bloom in our familys life, in our celebration of special events throughout the year, and in our relationships with one another. The process requires effort, but it promises a rich reward. In the end, we are shaping the faith of the next generation. God will take our best efforts and fill them with grace.
So turn the pages and sample the suggestions. Try the ideas on for size. See how they fit your familys day, your familys year. Remember: these are only compass headings to help you chart a course. Use your imagination to shape and tailor what will work best in your family. Become a maker of faith rituals as you live and share your faith with your family.
David Batchelder is the pastor of Latrobe Presbyterian Church in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and the author of numerous articles on worship and liturgy. He is also a husband and the father of four children.
Barbara Knutson is a freelance artist living in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has illustrated The Manger in the Mountains and It Came upon the Midnight Clear for Augsburg Books.