Report #1. Practices for Forming Faith with Families & Parents

We seek to respond to several key questions that surface when considering faith transmission for children and youth. When it comes to passing faith to the next generation, in our minds, the key questions are:

  1. What do we mean by faith transmission? In short, the faith transmission process culminates when a young person or young adult makes a conscious choice to take their faith and religious practice and make it an integral part of their identity and life.
  2. What does the research show are the most important contributors to effective faith transmission? The answer—parents and family—has been known for decades, yet most congregations cling to programming models that harness the influence of neither parents nor family. It’s time to get serious about our partnership with the home and understand each other’s roles.
  3. What does the research show are the activities, tasks, and behaviors that bolster faith transmission? While certain activities such as family faith conversation, and behaviors such as “warm” interactions between parents and children, have real impact over time, what’s more important is creating a faith-building culture that renders faith growth normative. “It’s what we do, and it’s who we are.”
  4. What are the implications for faith formation leaders, and the church as a whole? Broadly speaking, the research has voiced the same conclusions for decades: parents and family matter most. Yet, for decades, faith formation programming has clung to variations of a gathered, graded-level, schooling model that perhaps was never as effective as we would like to believe, and has certainly become obsolete in the post-pandemic, digitally-enabled world of today.

Tapping into the research reports from more than a dozen recent studies, we offer a concise, cogent, and hopefully helpful response to each of these four questions. Our goal is to empower you to develop new and innovative approaches and strategies that engage, encourage, and equip parents for family faith transmission and formation. From that work, we are confident, will emerge best practices for the future of faith formation in churches.

There is no more urgent task for churches today than strengthening parental and family faith and practice. Use this information to assess your current practice, redesign ministry and programming, and create new initiatives that engage, encourage, and equip parents and the whole family at home, church, and school.

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