Loss of Faith Formation
In our secular society, we’re seeing less and less family devotion to faith formation. Family attendance at Mass or any church service is steadily dropping in most communities. Even among those families who send their children to religious education programs, most get their kids through the rites of initiation (Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation) and then let them stop.
We know how important faith is. Faith binds a family together, strengthens a person’s mental health, and enhances community involvement. Faith encourages compassion, service, and selflessness.
So how can we bring faith formation back into the family unit and regrow the faith our world needs?
Start with the Basics
Faith formation starts in simple ways. By following some of these small steps, you’re preparing your children for the most important aspect of learning: trusting their teacher. It doesn’t take long for a child to see through an act, so make sure what you do is genuine.
Show What You Know
If you want to teach anything, the best way to start is to show what you know.
If you believe in God, the Trinity, and Holy Eucharist, show it. Bless yourself when you pass a Catholic Church. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Genuflect when passing the altar. Get “caught” praying at home. These things show that you’re practicing your faith because you truly believe. You’re not just going through the motions.
When it’s part of your everyday living, they see it and may ask questions. Be sure to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. It opens conversation and sparks curiosity.
Don’t wait to start teaching your kids about Jesus. They don’t have to be in school – or even talking – to hear about God’s love or any of the Bible stories. It’s common to see blessing artwork or images of Noah’s ark in a baby’s room. Point to the animals and name them or show a cross and say, “Jesus loves you.”
They learn to recognize so much before their first birthday, so make their faith part of the journey. Then keep it up as they get older.
Make Good Habits
Routine is so healthy for a growing child, so put faith formation into the routine. They need to brush their teeth and use the bathroom before bed. Make a point to pray before their heads hit the pillow too. It’s calming and reassuring and puts good thoughts into their minds as they drift off to sleep. Pray about their worries and ask for any healing. Don’t forget to make a point to thank God in those prayers too.
Go to Mass! It’s never too early to start going to Mass with littles. There are tips on what to do. Starting early and being consistent makes it easier in the long run. If you need to step out for a moment, leave with no toys or entertainment, then come back once the little one is more calm.
Bringing Faith Formation Home
Don’t rely on the Church to do all the work. The Church is here to guide and support, but learning starts at home. Giving your children a firm foundation will ultimately help guide them in their faith formation more than any religious education program.
If you teach them colors and counting before they go to kindergarten, you can teach them about God’s Love, Jesus’s sacrifice, and loads of Bible stories before they start a formal faith formation.
It’s not as hard as you think. You can do this and the Church is here to support you.
In the next part of the series, you’ll see some great faith formation ideas for elementary kids to support the programs your parish has to offer.