If your faith is important to you, it’s probably something you want to have a central role in your home and family. Faith is something that, by nature, wants to be SHARED. God can fill our hearts. He can make us happy. He can point us in the right direction. He loves us ALL the time. He has all the answers to our deepest wonderings. He’s simply too good to keep for ourselves.
I believe that all of us are, and always will be, a work in progress. God works differently in each individual and family, so there is no perfect recipe to a faith filled family. That being said, there are things we can do to help our family grow in faith and place God where he belongs: in the center.
And by putting God in the center, I don’t mean filling up 99% of our lives with faith-related activities or resources. I mean acting 99% of the time with the awareness that we are sons and daughters of God and, as such, have a special dignity as well as a special calling. Faith is much more than religion; it’s part of everything we do. It’s part of how we see ourselves and how we see others. It’s part of WHO WE ARE.
If we want our children to also discover the joys and challenges of faith, it’s important for our faith to play a central role in our home. Here are a few ways to make this happen:
1. Prayer. Take time to pray as a family. But also make sure your kids see you praying individually and with your spouse. This not only teaches your children to pray, but also shows them that prayer strengthens us individually and in relationships with each other.
2. Worship. Whenever possible, go to Mass (or whatever other faith service you attend) together as a family. It’s very important for your kids to see that BOTH the mother and the father participate in the family’s life of faith.
3. Family traditions. The different traditions each family establishes largely defines the families culture and reflects their values. Traditions are usually hands on and engaging; they contribute to the atmosphere. Kids look forward to them, and remember them. Make sure your traditions are not only compatible with your faith, but also actively involve and reflect your faith.
4. Celebration. One of the things I love about my own faith is that it gives us so many things to celebrate. Between the major celebrations and the minor ones, there is something to celebrate every single day. This is a wonderful way of remembering the joy in living our faith and in finding ways to teach our kids about the faith. You can have a special meal, craft or activity, or if you don’t have time, have a small conversation or say a special prayer together. Just something to bring you together as a family and help you think about your faith.
5. Study your faith. This is VERY important, especially as children grow. When kids are younger, studying the faith involves hearing stories and learning what they believe it. Easy. But as they get older and start the mentally challenge their faith, it has to involve learning the why and how of their faith. No one should believe “just because”. We all believe in something because we think it’s TRUE. Give your kids hard core resources explaining the reasoning behind your faith so they can discover it for themselves. Encourage them to ask questions and find answers so they internalize their faith.
6. Talk about your faith. Let your children hear what you believe in, in your own words. In particular, talk to your kids about when and how your faith influences your decisions. This exposes them to the connection between faith and life, which they need to make if faith is to become part of who they are.
7. Help others together. Faith isn’t just believing in a list of truths; it’s LIVING the Gospel. It’s great to set an example for your kids, but it’s also important to involve them so they personally experience what it means to live their faith out in life. It could be helping a family friend, neighbor or relative, volunteering together at a charity or giving alms of some sort.
8. Display images related to your faith. You don’t have to turn your house into a shrine, but choosing some religious pictures or other symbols that remind you of your faith and using them to decorate your home helps remind you and your family of your faith. It also bears witness to your faith to people that visit your home.
In the end, just be yourself. If you are a person of faith and want God to be the center of your home and family, he will show you what to do! Are there other ways that have helped you strengthen your faith as a family? We would love to hear from you!