Parents of little ones who are baptized make numerous promises during the baptismal service as they bring their children to the font:
“to live with them among God’s faithful people,
bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
place in their hands the holy scriptures,
and nurture them in faith and prayer.” (“Evangelical Lutheran Worship,” Holy Baptism liturgy, p. 228)
Most parents have great intentions to live out those baptismal promises, until everyday life intervenes and those faith promises fade into the background a little.
The reality of most churchgoing families today is that they spend no more than one or two hours in church weekly.
Even with mid-week education times or special youth groups, the most active kids don’t spend more than one hour in the building weekly.
From a statistical perspective, with one hour out of the hundred or so waking hours in a child’s week devoted to faith growth, the impact will be minimal.
We’ve moved well beyond what I call the “dry cleaning model” of children and youth education, where parents drop the child off for several hours of Christian education and at the end of those hours expect that their children will be “done.”
They don’t so much care about the methods by which we got there, as long as they received faith education.
A better model of faith growth is for parents to be primary faith educators of their children, supported by the congregation, as parents are trained further and children gain added faith knowledge with their peers.
Today’s parents have busy, hectic lives, with tons of pressure for their children to succeed in school and extracurricular activities, too. The homework load increases, the activity level increases, and parents ask, “How can I include faith education in my child’s life, too?”
Daniel Erlander’s book “Let the Children Come: A Baptism Manual for Parents and Sponsors” has a chapter titled “Walking Wet.”
Erlander suggests many ways that parents and sponsors can encourage faith growth in their children, such as: honoring baptismal birthdays, making note of the liturgical calendar, talking about and reading Bible stories, attending worship and Sunday school, and praying together.
Faith education in the home doesn’t require a lot of extra time. Family devotions are great, but they’re not the only way to educate your children in the faith.
Establishing prayer traditions (praying before meals and/or before bed), recalling biblical stories to teach real truths (the Old Testament story of Samuel was a favorite of our daughter’s because it reminded her that children can have messages from God as well as adults), and talking about God’s blessings and goodness are all natural ways to encourage your child’s growth in faith.
In the “Evangelical Lutheran Worship” baptism service, the parental promises are made so that:
your children may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace. (p. 228)
Many blessings in your endeavors to live out those baptismal promises.
Carla Thompson Powell is an ordained pastor of the ELCA. Carla and her husband, Darryl, who is also a pastor, live in Chicago with their three children.