Home is the best place to grow Christians. Church, is a wider family, that is greater than the sum of its parts, but can be wobbly and ineffectual if those parts are not solidly built. It can be too easy to hide what our faith is or is not in a once-a-week church service, but there is no escape from observation by others in a home.
We live out our beliefs in front of each other, and demonstrate our values and our gradually transforming characters by what we do and do not do, by what we say and refuse to say, and even, in the intimacy of a home, by what we think and by what doesn’t occur to us.
I don’t think evangelism with families is any harder than encouraging all individuals in every family to grow closer to Christ. We have found in Messy Church gatherings, that perhaps the most effective evangelism for families is simply encouraging family members to live out their faith, and articulate it in front of each other.
A church strategy for evangelism among families might be as simple as making space for families to experience God together.
It helps to get into holy habits with children from the moment they are conceived. By praying with them, for them and reading the Bible with them, saying grace and celebrating Christian festivals in the home, family rituals are formed. Over time, they will all become part of life that they may pass onto their own children. But those are the bones of ritual and habit that need fleshing out with the wobbly, messy bits of lived-out-faith.
For example: a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer together is good, but if ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’ at prayertime is counterbalanced by a grudging acceptance of a child’s apology in the car on the way to swimming lessons, it is hard to see how faith will be seen as anything but a hollow shell of hypocrisy.
Holy habits are good. Churches can encourage and equip parents to find ways of doing this if they haven’t been raised in that way themselves. They can inspire parents to keep going when they feel like giving up. www.faithinhomes.org.uk is a great place to start. But can’t replace simply living out faith, and talking it through. This is the most powerful way of sharing faith.
- Encourage parents and carers to live out their faith in front of children and to talk about it together. And do it yourself.
- Equip families in your church to develop fun and memorable family rituals and do it yourself.
- Celebrate and consolidate the extended family of the church by making space for singles, children and teens in every gesture of hospitality, gathering or meeting. (And…)
- Expect to learn and receive from children and young people
- Make space in gathered church for families to worship and encounter God together.
Messy Church Team Leader