Life is full. Full of scheduled activities and last minute additions. Full of practice schedules and eating on the run. Full of sports of all kinds and the many loads of laundry that it takes to get our kids dressed appropriately. Full of homework and the management of education expectations. Few parents who sit in the Faith and Family Sunday School class (10:00 a.m. each Sunday in room 104) or on the playground on Wednesdays greet one another with these words, "I have it all together this week!”
Deciding how to spend our time as a family is a weekly, daily, sometimes even hourly struggle—only to sit in worship on Sundays and wonder if we are doing everything we can (or should) be doing to share the faith with our kids. Do we even really know what we believe? If we just take our children to church...won't that be enough?
You can certainly Google your way through faith. The internet will offer you ways to build faith practices into your family life (some are great ideas...while others seem sketchy to me). There were almost 9 million hits in less than a minute to my "faith formation for busy families” query.
I have read great blogs this summer about how to pass along your faith. My favorite is Bread, Not Stones (http://www.breadnotstones.com) by a Presbyterian Pastor, Rebecca Kirkpatrick. She has wonderful blogs like, "Confirmation: 100 Things Your Child Needs to Know” (http://www.breadnotstones.com/2012/01/100-things-your-child-should-know.html), which is a great litmus test of what you know and "Ten Things I Want to Tell Parents” (http://www.breadnotstones.com/2012/01/100-things-your-child-should-know.html) which includes, "You are the primary religious educator of your child.”
I was also introduced to a series on the Patheos website (http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Passing-on-the-Faith.html) about passing on the faith including great words from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, "We build the brightest future, not by worrying about the future, but by living our faith in the present” and Phyllis Tickle's "My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith,” which speaks to wanting to form "an intimacy with God and the things of God” in our children.
These are great resources that I love! If you are overwhelmed with where to start—start simply. In The Sound of Music, Maria teaches singing by starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start). For me, the beginning of encouraging education is encouraging you to build into your full life two practices of faith: read God's Word (the Bible) and pray. I'll start with the Bible and talk more about prayer another time.
So...let's get started! Children's Bibles aren't just for children. If you are new to the stories of faith, one of the most accessible ways to learn the stories is to read them from a children's Bible. The Bibles that are written for the youngest children contain fewer stories. Transition to older children's Bibles when you have learned those first stories. As you begin to add more stories you will see more of the wonderful tapestry of the Biblical narrative.
You can use the table of contents in the children's Bibles to see what they already know about the story. Have them tell you the story in their own words. The stories of faith were first shared through storytelling. These stories are engaging, inspiring stories. Ask questions of your child. Don't be afraid to not have all the answers. Look and think about the answers together. Share you own family stories of faith. When did you pick up and leave everything just like Abraham? When did you test the fleece like Gideon? When did you worship Jesus like the shepherds?
Here are some of my favorite Bibles for children. If you have others, please share them with me!
Henley, Karen, The Beginners Bible: Timeless Children's Stories, Questar Publishers, 1989
Batchelor, Mary, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories, Lion Publishing 1985
Milton, Ralph, The Family Story Bible, Westminster John Knox Pres, 1996
This is not an updated version of the Bible above—with only 125 stories. The pictures are updated and the breadth of the overview of the Bible is wonderful. Before each story or group of stories, there is a short introduction that sets the stage. This is a wonderful Bible to be aloud with older children.
The Adventure Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishers, updated 2011
Deep Blue Kids Bible, Common English Bible, Abingdon Press, 2012
This is the children's Bible that we have given to our 4th graders for the past two years. This translation of scripture is hot off the presses with accessible language and a trio of characters to journey with your child through the scriptures. This Bible offers engaging in-text notes and other features to encourage them to interact with scripture. This Bible is a Christian Education tool all by itself.
These books provide a solid foundation for beginning to introduce the stories of faith through the words of the Bible with your children. Read the storybooks from beginning to end or jump around from story to story—just read them Draw nearer to God by reading these words, learning these stories, and talking about them with your family. Sharing the faith is best practiced at home!