Becoming Faith Builders

Becoming Faith Builders

I grew up in a loving “churchgoing” family. Our family’s Christian faith was primarily based on how regularly we attended church and how often we recited a memorized prayer before meals during my formative years. Looking back, I recognize that God was someone I learned about instead of someone that I could know and have a relationship with. God was pretty distant to me. Growing up, I viewed being a Christian as more something that I learned to do rather than who I am or someone I was becoming. What I notice now is that learning what it means to be a Christian was “outsourced” for the church to teach me. My parents primarily relied on the leaders at church to teach us about God in the worship services, Sunday School, and confirmation classes. I was taught Bible stories and memorized verses, making it more like religious education.

When I came to the point of personal crisis in my second year as a college student, this religious education or following religious duties didn’t help me very much. At least I had a knowledge of God even though he was seemingly distant and uninvolved. I was blessed, however, to have some friends who helped me see that Christianity was more about having a relationship with God.

Because of my crisis, I decided to attend a Bible college, where these friends were attending. The classes there and the community of believers all helped me learn about a very near God who desires us to have a close relationship with him. I was finally in a community of people who wanted to grow closer to Jesus. Faith in Jesus quickly became much more than rules and regulations or Bible stories to know and recall. I saw in Jesus the incredible love I desperately needed. I discovered the joy of prayer, realizing it was not a duty but a privilege to communicate with Jesus. I began recognizing that God’s rules came more easily when I saw that I was following the One who gave boundaries out of his great love for me.

At this Bible school, I also met the most amazing woman who loved and still loves following Jesus. We have been married for 43 years and have now raised three beautiful grown daughters who all have a relationship with Jesus. Now, they are raising our seven grandchildren to follow him. As we were parenting these three girls, we became increasingly aware that our primary task as parents was to introduce them to the reality of God’s love and teach them how to begin and maintain a relationship with him. We quickly realized that God had given us the task of being the primary builders of faith in Jesus.

The primary environment for faith development was our home. We saw how our family could be the community where our children would learn what it means to follow Jesus. For instance, we regularly talked about Jesus or read from an age-appropriate Bible before bed. We also loved talking about where they saw Jesus in their day. I would talk about my day and how I saw Jesus during my day. When we saw how much our children learned from us, it became increasingly clear that faith is both caught and taught through how we live our lives as parents. We became increasingly the people God called to show our children what a relationship with Jesus looks like. Putting Jesus and his Word first was our primary task.

We now find it part of our ministry to keep creating this same spiritual environment when our children, sons-in-laws, and grandchildren come to our home. We talk about Jesus with them; we pray heartfelt prayers with them. I go on hikes with my grandchildren and talk about God along the way. We intentionally look for ways to create spiritual environments wherever we are.

Now, the church has become a place where we gather with others in a larger community to live out this relationship with Jesus, worship him, and grow in becoming more like him. Parenting and grandparenting can be challenging at times. We have faced our fair share of challenges. We often felt inadequate, overwhelmed, and unsure if we were doing enough. We keep returning to following Jesus and his Word no matter how we feel or what we are going through. We attend church weekly not to be religious but to connect to the rest of Christ’s Body, wanting to follow Jesus together. My wife and I love connecting with this Body of Christ at Chapel Hill and living out our faith in him alongside others.

This past Sunday, Chapel Hill gave our 2nd graders Bibles with their names on the front. We had their parents and families stand behind them as they received them because that is primarily how God’s Word is taught…through the family. Each family will have many more opportunities to read it, live it out in everyday experiences, and learn from it than when we gather weekly here at church. Look for ways as parents and grandparents to keep Jesus and his Word central to your family intentionally. Be consistent in connecting with the larger Body here at Chapel Hill. It will be worth all your investment in these precious children God has put in your lives.

As parents and grandparents, how can we create spiritual environments in our homes for the next generation to live in and learn from? Through May, our Kid’s Worship time has been all about planning, practicing, and growing in following Jesus. Here are some intentional spiritual practices we have focused on. Feel free to use these fundamental practices in your homes:

  1. Practice hearing from God. God’s Word is a light—Psalm 119:105. Open the Bible together regularly and let its teachings guide your family’s spiritual journey.
  2. Practice praying to God. The Lord’s Prayer—Luke 11:1-4. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a template rather than just reciting it. It doesn’t hurt to just recite it together at times, though.
  3. Practice talking about God. Peter says that Jesus is the Messiah—Matthew 16:13-20. Look for ways as a family to talk to others about Jesus. Maybe it is a cousin, an uncle, a neighbor, or a friend at school.
  4. Practice Living for God. The widow’s offering—Mark 12:41-44. Look for ways to live your relationship with God everywhere you are. Your children will notice. I promise!

Parent Links

Paul Hargreaves
Senior Director of Family Ministries