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Passing on the Faith

by Sharon Ely Pearson

Founded in 2008, Patheos.com is a great online library to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs.  According to its mission, “Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, and the broader public into a single environment, and is the place where many people turn on a regular basis for insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion.”

Recently, Patheos has started a new series entitled: “Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation.” They say faith is “caught not taught.” What are scholars, teachers, and parents from diverse traditions and perspectives doing to pass on faith to the next generation? Phyllis Tickle, Brad Hirschfield, Monica Coleman, Mark Yaconelli, and more offer their best practices and insights.

Over a dozen essays and articles are offered in one location on the Patheos site. Each offers a unique perspective on how we can pass along the faith to future generations. Each would make a great topic for reading and discussing in a parenting class or adult forum.

Some excerpts:

  • Phyllis Tickle from My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith: These are important for passing along the faith that adults need to share with younger generations: forming and sharing an intimacy with God, mentoring a habit of prayer, observing Sabbath, storytelling, music, and food.
  • Mark Yaconelli from Less Talk, More Action: They don’t want to talk about God, they want to live God. They don’t want to hear about great deeds, they want to be asked to do great deeds. For religious communities to aid the spiritual growth of young people in the future, they need to find ways to encourage, bless, train, and support young people in the active pursuit of real life. It is in that pursuit that God is discovered.
  • Susan Strouse offers in Faith Formation in the Small Congregation: Finally, I am convinced that the most important component of the spiritual development of children is their interaction with adults who are willing to share their stories, questions, and journeys of faith. Of course, this means that there must be an ongoing program of adult development, too. Congregational service projects are also good, not simply as activities, but as opportunities to connect their faith with life in the world with adults who in reality are their spiritual mentors.
  • Ivy Beckwith’s Just Imagine: While the church’s concern for its children is commendable, perhaps we have botched our sincere attempts at the spiritual formation of our children. Perhaps, instead, we should be thinking about how to do Children’s Ministry in the way of Jesus, taking our children’s theological questions and observations seriously and offering them the imaginative blueprint of the very real option of living hopefully in God’s kingdom.

How might you share these insights and best practices with teachers and parents?

Might each of these essays form a foundation for a parenting series?

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