Alison Faison

Who Is Responsible for Children’s Faith Formation?

“I need a weekend to recover from my weekend!” During the week, parents are busy fulfilling their own responsibilities, as well as shuttling their children and teens to enrichment activities and essential appointments. Many of these enrichments and social activities spill into the weekend. Sundays have been a prime day for birthday parties, sports games, rehearsals, and swim meets. A parent who plans to go to church with the family often times says no to opportunities for social time with school friends as well as a sports team or arts group. If families choose to attend worship on some Sundays, they open the door for their child to form friendships at church, which leads to stronger faith formation.

The Barna Group has been analyzing data research on responses from different generations of Christians over the years and has found this about parents and Gen Z children in the March 19, 2019 article Who Is Responsible for Children’s Faith Formation?. “The post-truth world they [Gen Z children] inhabit no longer shared the same moral principles or societal values, leading to a more relativistic worldview among teens and a growing religious apathy. Christianity today has less influence on Gen Z than on any previous generation. From Barna’s January 30, 2020 research article, we learn that 58% of Highly Engaged Parents Choose a Church with Their Kids in Mind. “Parents – especially engaged Christian parents – are eager for their children to develop a lasting faith, yet many lack clarity on how to disciple their children in a decidedly post-Christian context.” What defines an engaged Christian parent?

The Barna 2020 article addresses engagement through this question, “What is the link between fun and faith in our homes?” An authentic and memorable spiritual connection developed at home can strengthen the child and family’s relationship with church community as well as encourage them to “be the church” outside of the building. This points to the Barna research data indicating that “church leaders from all stripes universally agree it [spiritual formation] should start with parents (99% of Protestant pastors ranked parents #1). Children who are most active in church tend to engage with the Bible outside of church, to attend church activities other than Sunday worship (such as Bible studies, camps or children’s/youth events) and to play together with their family as well. They are also about twice as likely to engage in outreach activities and volunteerism, demonstrating that the level of dedication in this group to the overall mission of the church is not only internally focused, but expressed itself in outward action.”

Another part of the 2020 Barna study recognized that churches could provide more equipping trainings for parents. At Calvary, there are opportunities for faith educators and adult guides to connect briefly with parents about faith-formation. It can be difficult to carve out an in-person equipping training time where curriculum or resources can be shared with busy parents. I usually email curriculum or PowerPoint slides to parents, so that they can share the material at home with their children. When parents and children attend church in person, they can take home a sheet that includes that week’s lectionary, activity, and conversation questions. This Lenten season I am handing out a Lenten daily meditation book created by Traci Smith and Faithful Families geared for parents and young children (PreK to 2nd grade). If parents participate in a small group, they have additional materials found in A Sanctified Art’s Lenten study guide, Full to the Brim. Some of the art featured in the booklet could be shared with children and teens during a meal or downtime at home.


“Spiritual development is closely tied to moral development phases,” Evergreen Parenting Course developer Hettie Brittz says in an interview for the Guiding Children report. “How growing children process the ideas of right and wrong, safe and unsafe, good and bad. These are very abstract concepts for a while and only become concrete later in childhood. When we as parents demonstrate both God’s justice and his forgiveness in consistent ways it is the best spiritual gift we can give our children.”

Julia Scheeres expresses how she shares her moral code with her children in her January 25, 2019 New York Times article Raising Children Without the Concept of Sin. “I am raising my two daughters according to my moral code. To me, the greatest sin of all is failing to be an engaged citizen of the world, so the lessons are about being open to others rather than closed off.

We started taking our kids to marches when the younger one, Davia, was an infant perched on our shoulders and 3-year-old Tessa danced between the lines of protesters as if it were a block party. We’ve marched for racial justice and for women’s rights. Our church is the street, our congregation our fellow crusaders. We teach our children to respect the earth by reducing, reusing and recycling.

It’s sinking in. My daughters make me proud by taking their own actions to confront injustice where they see it — by insisting we keep a box of protein bars in the car to hand out to homeless people at stoplights, by participating in school walkouts against gun violence, by intervening when they see kids bullied on the playground, by always questioning the world around them.”

More to Explore

Calvary’s 169 Years of Change-Makers

Occasionally I hear comments to the effect of, “Calvary’s recent highlighting of political issues can deter people from attending worship services.” My response is something like, “Since July 23, 1854, for 169 years, Calvary has been addressing human rights issues directly related to Jesus’ radical welcome. In 2020, we, along with many congregations across the U.S., became a Matthew 25 church that outwardly proclaims our commitment to feeding the hungry, clothing the unclothed, housing the unhoused, and loving those who are pushed aside and threatened by the workings of established societal systems.” In July 2021, I wrote a short children’s book called “You are a Calvary History-Maker.” I noted stories researched by Joe Beyer and information written in Carol Green Wilson’s book “Many Years One Message: Calvary Presbyterian Church: 1854 – 1979.” The opening line of my story is, “You are a Calvary history change-maker whether you have been sitting on the velvet sanctuary pew for half of your life or have only watched a few online services while sitting in your jammies on the couch this year.” The Protestant idea that we are the “community/priesthood of believers” gives us all permission to participate in our own faith-formation, as well as points to the responsibility to actively respond to our call. We don’t attend worship so we can watch the pastors and staff do community outreach. We attend worship to be inspired to courageously carry out the call of Matthew 25 into our relationships, work life, spiritual growth, and public action.

Summer with Children and Youth

Summer is a busy time for families as they shift from the school-year schedules to summer camps, programs, and vacations. How does church fit into families’ summer schedules? Many years ago, Calvary held summer worship services in the chapel and did not offer childcare. It was a time when pastors would go on study leave and vacations and folks would be out of town. It was a good time for families to sit together during worship. For almost ten years, we have had childcare open every Sunday throughout the year. We support families whenever they come to Calvary. Families have the choice to sit together during worship or walk their children to childcare and Sunday Studio.

More About Juneteenth

Join the Calvary Racial Equity Initiative (REI) Team after worship this Sunday, June 18, to celebrate our newest Federal holiday and the oldest known holiday that observes the end of slavery in the U.S. Enjoy Coffee Hour with treats from a local Black-owned business and information about Black heroes. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger announced that the enslaved people in Texas were free by the order of the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1862. The Calvary church building will be closed on Monday, June 19 to commemorate Juneteenth. This blog will provide links to Juneteenth history resources and information about reparations. Amos 5:24 "But let justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry."