How do we pass on our faith to children? This is a question most religious traditions care about deeply. We are concerned, perhaps, for our children's spiritual well-being, their moral grounding and behavior, and perhaps for the ultimate state of their souls. Without the commitment, creativity, and zeal of the next generation, our own values and beliefs may die with us. But what is the best way to communicate faith? If faith is "caught, not taught," then what can we do to make our spirituality contagious?
We invited scholars, practitioners, teachers, and parents from diverse traditions and perspectives to share their wisdom, insights, and best practices on this important topic.
What we want to implant is an easy and natural affection for the holy, an inherent connectedness to an on-going story, and a sense of membership within a sustaining community that is always there to hold all of us as well as demand some things of us.
To hell with the save me/love me/do for me religion I once embraced. I want better for my children.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield
We build the brightest future, not by worrying about the future, but by living our faith in the present.
Being active in the temple community, along with what we have done outside the house of worship, has provided my children the essence of what it means to be Hindu.
Brian and I reflect on the challenges of passing on a progressive Christian faith to our children. I also ask Brian what his dream curriculum for children would look like if he got to create one.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Spirituality is a way of being in the world, and it is marked by activities and experiences. Passing this on to our kids is all about things we can do.
For Bahá'ís, sharing our faith without proselytizing is an important, but tricky, balancing act. Here are some lessons I've learned over the years.
In my town, children and youth are looking for people with mischief in their eyes, people willing to say “yes” to the active pursuit of love.
Perhaps we should be thinking about how to do Children's Ministry in the way of Jesus, by taking our children's theological questions and observations seriously.
To the extent that we offer our children ways of imagining God always present among us in our families, we help them to understand that everyday life is shot through with grace.
The catechisms formed a foundation for my beliefs, but the reading of literature reinforced what I knew by awakening my imagination.
Monica A. Coleman
My curriculum for infant faith formation is a lot like day camp. We sing songs and go on field trips.
I've learned that children LOVE ritual. Pagan traditions are really effective for positive experiences for children-- from Sabbats to chants to the particular structure of circle ritual.
Pulled off my review shelf, here's my list of favorite resources for college-material Catholics who need a 101 on the faith.
Adolescents are inherently question-askers. We inhibit their faith development when we conclusively answer their questions, rather than walking with them into deeper questions.
David F. White
Beneath layers of language, concept, and custom, there lies a radical human openness to aesthetic encounter, to beauty.
I'd certainly want to teach my children to love the Earth and to respect the change of the seasons, but I'm not sure I'd instruct them to pray to the Horned God before going to bed every night, that decision would be their own.
What are we doing to mentor the next generation of clergy from our own congregation? What can we do on the supply side of the pipeline?
I wonder whether churches should prod Christians more directly to consider Christian education, even when public schools are not openly hostile to the faith.
We hear a great deal about the need to pass spiritual values on to our young people but over the past few years, we've seen the young people of the world taking the lead in teaching Christ-like values of love, compassion, justice and mercy.
I do think all religions are paths up the same mountain, but I personally think that Hinduism is a particularly direct and easy to understand path. The goal is much clearer than many other religions.
When any of us, like Jesus, welcome children into our presence, we discover among other things an opportunity to grow and learn from some of the best among us.
Joyce Ann Mercer
The best curriculum for forming children, youth, and anyone else in Christian faith is guided participation in a community of practice.
There we were, together, a white twelve-year-old boy with an utter incapacity to sing the tenor line and an old black man with a voice that could inspire the angels. Together we were a community.
Though I am sure that there are a great number of things that I do know something about, the Universe has far more things that I am completely ignorant about. It is in this lack of knowing that my conversation on faith begins.
The stumbling block, the obstacle to faith in Jesus, is to become infected with shame about being a follower.
Deborah W. Dykes
It is essential that we offer our children curricula, worship, and liturgy that is inclusive and that proclaims a God that is invested in every little girl and every little boy.
What if, instead of passing on the faith, we encouraged our children to play with the faith that God has given to them in order to love it into greater vitality?
Disequilibrium and restlessness—often seen as negative characteristics in children—can be viewed differently as natural signals that children are ready for a growth spurt in faith and responsibility.
What did Jesus do when children came near? He welcomed them. He blessed them. These things embody the fact that the gospel is actually for them.
If a Pagan or polytheist religious tradition is good enough for ourselves, why do we hesitate to pass it on to our children?
If you don't want the larger culture or the mixed up kid from down the block raising your kids, then you're going to have to step in and be there so you can do it yourself.
Lolly Odea Polvinale
I imagine, dream, believe that our hope and optimism lies within the possibilities for curriculum modifications. Courses that would provide meditation, tai-chi, visualization, positive affirmations, cooperative team-building exercises in every subject from pre-school through college.
Jeanne Choy Tate
Awareness of how we first formed our faith as infants re-connects us as adults with faith at its source.
The limitations of overall numbers and the absence of children indicate the stark reality that passing the faith by teaching is failing.
How do we pass faith on to our children today? No curriculum can provide it all. We must be intentional, inclusive and inter-generational.
The church needs to adapt to changing needs and modes of communication, without simply trying to adopt a facade of relevance or pandering to demands and desires in a way that ceases to challenge those who are or would become a part of it.