Every generation of believers has to work out how they can help the next generation to become disciples of Jesus for themselves.
While our church schools, collective worship and R.E. lessons can all be very good, how does what we speak of translate into their everyday, ordinary lives? And while parents – the undisputedly biggest influences in a child’s life – happily accept the promotion of Christian values and spirituality in our church school, we need to find ways of helping them to make these things a reality in everyday, family life.
Evidence shows that among Anglicans who say that religion is very important to them, only 36% listed ‘religious faith’ as an important quality that their children are encouraged to learn at home, compared to ‘good manners’ (94%) or ‘tolerance/respect’ (83%).
So consider this: a child attending a church group for 1 hour a week would need to keep going for 421 years to equal the same amount of time they would spend with a parent before the age of 10!
Together with the other well-known statistic – that 90% of Christians came to faith before the age of 18 – it is clear that parents need to be included in any effective strategy to bring children and young people to faith in Jesus Christ.
The Archbishops of York and Canterbury have highlighted the importance of this, along with other national organisations like Bible Reading Fellowship (www.parentingforfaith.org.uk), Care for the Family (www.kitchentable.org.uk) and GodVenture (www.godventure.co.uk), who are also recognising the vital role which parents play in their children’s formative, and ongoing, spiritual development.
However, only 36% of parents surveyed felt very confident in nurturing their child’s faith. Is this because they have never been encouraged to do so, by the churches in which they are members? Indeed, most churches seem to invest more structured energy and resources into nurturing faith in the children who attend their services, rather than in equipping parents to nurture faith in their own children, themselves!
As one response to this, the Joshua Centre, along with the Board of Education, would love to see new congregations emerging within schools (wherever the relevant PCC and Board of Governors have given their explicit blessing and approval). This would encourage parents in nurturing their children’s faith, as most would need to be led by parents, along with the help of any appropriate other adult volunteers.
If you would like to get involved in something like this, please get in touch with Dan Rogers (0151 702 7243; firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out what the next steps might look like for you.
By Archdeacon Pete Spiers