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In the never-ending pile of laundry, discarded vegetables and emotional melodrama that is Parenting, the idea of how we parent our kids on their faith journey can often get overlooked.
Occasionally, I stick my head out of that pile and remember that our greatest ambition for our children is for them to love God and pursue Christ for themselves. But how do we do this when, quite frankly, our most pressing issue for today is whether our child will be making it to school with a full complement of acceptable uniform, clean teeth and up-to-date reading record?
Parenting for Faith
Cue the Parenting for Faith course.
I have no stats to back this up, but I reckon a load of you will stop reading at this point. There must be some kind of research to show that it takes around three paragraphs for people to decide whether or not an article is worth reading. (And don’t even get me started on whether one sentence can be called a paragraph.)
But even if I’m being overly cynical on that count, I reckon that the word ‘course’ will have put people off.
Because ‘course’ is not a happy word for exhausted parents, is it? Those six innocent letters imply being lectured (as if our frazzled brains could cope) by an expert (because we all love being told how to parent), with inevitable ‘homework’ tasks to complete (when my idea of a productive evening is discovering the whereabouts of the remote control in time to actually watch something).
My wonderfully long-suffering parents’ housegroup agreed to do this 8-week course in January. We’ve just finished, and I’m here to tell you that it blew our expectations out of the water.
Firstly, it’s video-based and it’s online. There are visuals which are helpful to look at, but if needs be you can whack it on when you’re doing jobs. Each video is around half an hour and looks at different topics – for example, the importance of allowing our children to see our faith journey, training them to pray and hear from God, helping them to understand their place in a church family, and so on.
Secondly, Rachel Turner who presents the course (author of the brilliant Parenting Children for a Life of Faith) doesn’t lecture. She’s a highly experienced children’s leader, and a parent herself, so she combines tried-and-tested strategies from her professional experience with the realism that comes from actually having to sort this stuff out within busy family life. It’s a potent cocktail.
Also, she’s funny. And down-to-earth. And reassuring. And all those kinds of things. She’s easy to watch and listen to.
Thirdly, there is no set ‘homework’, but the strategies Rachel recommends are so flippin’ easy to fit into home life. Without exception, all members of our group found ourselves trying them out, with amazing results to share the following week.
For example, my older two who Never Want To Pray Aloud…well, what do you know? Turns out that they do have stuff they want to tell God about. I just didn’t know how to encourage them to do it in a way which wasn’t cringey to them.
Probably the best story from our group was when a couple of us were praying for my friend. As we prayed, God gave her a picture which helped to give her peace about a situation involving her family. A few days later, she was chatting to her 4 year old daughter about the situation. Would you believe – God had given her daughter the exact same image that day! It was a powerful reminder that God is holding their family at this time, and connecting with her daughter.
Mum, the High Priest
One of the biggest challenges of the course for me was the idea of not putting ourselves in the High Priest role. Often, out of a need to control our children’s lives, or fear that God won’t show up for them, we act as an intermediary, diluting prayers so that our kids won’t notice if they’re not answered, or sharing our own messages and pictures from God, in case our kids can’t hear His voice and get disappointed.
The course encouraged me to speak less and pray more. I started to see my role in my children’s faith as more of an ‘introducer’ and fellow journeyer. I long to be the parent who gives frequent opportunities and reminders for my kids to connect with God – but then is able to leave them to it, praying for good connection as they deepen their relationship.
Great for groups or individuals
I really enjoyed doing this course with my housegroup. We watched the videos on our own during the week, then used our group time for discussion and prayer.
But the course is helpfully designed so that you can do it without a group as well. You can do it on your own, with your spouse, with a friend, as part of the Facebook watch party.
And although the title mentions ‘parenting’, it would also be helpful for Christian grandparents/godparents with regular contact. In fact, several of the videos mention grandparents. The positive impact that Christians can have on grandchildren – even when their own children don’t believe – has obviously been observed.
Several of the lessons would be helpful for children’s leaders too. One group member suggested that our church’s kids’ team do this course, to gain consistency between what our kids are doing in church and at home. In fact, this helpful video outlines just how well this approach has worked for Lauren’s church.
A good look at ourselves
An important approach throughout the course is that Rachel encourages us to look first at our own discipleship. After all, if we’re not clear on how we connect with God, how can we help our children to do so? One member of my group, a fairly new Christian, said:
I thoroughly enjoyed it and I learnt so much (to help myself as well as to help my son). I love that it didn’t create a lot of extra hard work for me like courses have done in the past, but we can just fit it all in with our own lives, our personal journey with our own children. Thank you for this amazing opportunity that I learnt so much from.
By this stage, of course, you’ll be thinking “This course sounds so incredibly useful, it must cost a gazillion pounds. Where can I get that kind of money?”
Friends, this course is FREE.
I’d have paid good money for the tools it has given me, as well as the experience of thinking through these issues with a group of friends. But BRF, in their generosity, have decided to offer free access, with not so much as a hint of asking for donations.
Of course if you like where this came from, you could always buy Rachel’s book: Parenting Children for a Life of Faith, if you wanted to give something towards this ministry. (It’s also an excellent book. No need to pity-buy.)
Free, free, free, free, free. Free. Simply because BRF knows that this stuff is important.
Not ‘Shall I…?’ but ‘When can I…?’
If you’re a Christian parent, may I suggest something to you? Instead of getting to the end of this and asking yourself, “Shall I do the Parenting for Faith course?”, why not ask yourself, “When can I start?”.
You don’t need any money, and you don’t even need anyone to do it with. You just need an Internet connection and half an hour. Trust me, it beats scrolling Instagram, or discovering which celebrities look like their pets.
If you’re in a parents’ housegroup or Bible study like I am, then I can enthusiastically recommend this for your next study. But if you’re not, then consider when you next have a bit of free time. This evening? Tomorrow naptime? Next week?