How parents keep the faith: The rock of belief is at home
Soccer games may supplant Sunday school, but parents keep the faith by making home the rock of belief more than church-going.
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Aware of these growing voids, parents increasingly recognize the value of leading explicitly religious activities at home, says John Roberto, president of Lifelong Faith Associates, a Connecticut-based consultancy to Roman Catholic parishes. In the process, they're recovering some forgotten ways once known to their grandparents and great-grandparents.Skip to next paragraph
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"You now have a whole generation of families who don't know the days of dropping kids off for the church to share faith with them," says Mr. Roberto. "Now parents know that they need to share faith with [their children]. I think that's making a huge difference."
Over the past decade, staffers and lay leaders at more than 1,500 Catholic parishes have been trained to convene workshops where parents and children learn to do devotions and otherwise make home a center for Catholicism.
Other faith traditions are blazing similar trails. Parenting podcasts, launched earlier this year on the Union of Reform Judaism website – urj.org – coach parents to infuse Jewish meaning into kids' routines, from going to bed to washing hands to leaving the house for the day. These resources for Jewish home life are some of the site's most popular offerings, says Rabbi Elliott Kleinman, chief program officer for the URJ.
New Lutheran resources, aimed at guiding families in faith practices at home, seem to be striking a chord with a certain sector of Millennial generation parents, says Nathan Frambach, associate professor of youth, culture, and mission at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. "They buy it. They get it. They sort of give an 'amen'," he says. "But they wonder: 'How in the world does one do that? Where do you start?' "
Parents need to act on their own faith commitments in concrete ways, thus showing and telling kids how a faith tradition is a way of life, says Kenda Creasy Dean, a Princeton Theological Seminary professor and author of "Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church." Yet many parents are still finding their own way.
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Ms. Engle, whose son learned to pray at day care, has been reading "Religion for Dummies" in her search for a spiritual path that feels like a fit. She hasn't found one. Buddhism seemed interesting, but a temple visit left her less than satisfied. She and Mr. Engle attend a Unitarian church, and they may send Wilhelm to a Catholic school.
Those who promote home-based practices offer encouragement: Parents don't need all the answers. Seeking insight alongside their children is often all that's required.
"God's grace, mercy, and peace – that's what people long for," advises David Anderson, a coach at Vibrant Faith Ministries, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that helps churches and families bring faith home. "They want to experience it. They don't just want to hear about it from a pulpit."
• Correspondent Mary Beth McCauley in Philadelphia contributed research to this article.