In the years after WW II, church communities became increasingly entranced with the false belief that the work of the Holy Spirit was done through the pastor, the Sunday school teacher… and perhaps even through osmosis. Through those years we depended heavily on the institution of the Church to “inoculate” our children with faith. We exposed them to one hour a week of worship and one hour (or so) a week of Sunday school (usually it washeld on Sunday) through the winter months. We topped this off with a booster shot of confirmation class and then we sent our “graduates” out into the world hoping they have been equipped to live lives of faith or, at a minimum, that they will be “protected” from loss of faith.
Over the past two decades we have begun to rediscover that our young people need more than just an “inoculation”, a “booster shot” and a “graduation.” We have begun to see, in a fresh way, the wisdom of previous generations; faith is far better “caught” than “taught.” Faith is better witnessed in daily conversations, in family activities, in rituals and traditions, in celebration of milestones and in the wonderful rhythms of faith experienced as we live life in home and congregation.
From that background the “Family Ministry” initiative grew. People such as “The Search Institute” and others in the USA were passionate about passing on the faith to the next generation. Several organizations picked up the challenge by John Westerhoff III in his book “Will Our Children Have Faith?”. These groups include The Youth and Family Institute (www.youthandfamilyinstitute.org) and Faith Inkubators (www.faithink.com) among others.
In 1997 Pastor Gordon Hanson (ELCIC, AB) and a number of interested Lutheran Congregations hosted a workshop in Calgary to learn more about the “Child in Our Hands” and the home as the primary place where faith is nurtured. Then baton was picked up by the ELCIC on a national level. When our church structure was flattened the baton was passed back to the synods. Those of you familiar with the work of the Partners in Faith National Committee will recognize it at various places on this web-site.
The underlying conviction shared by all of these groups is that congregations and families are PARTNERS IN FAITH; each partner serves to support and equip the other in the task of nurturing a strong and fulfilling faith in younger generations.
A Longer View
IMAGINE THE CHURCH AS A STRING OF PEARLS… stretching across two thousand years of the church’s existence; linking the first generations, whose activities are recorded in Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament, to our present generations. Each pearl in this string is part of the continuum of the body of Christ although each also has an individual character unique to its time and place.
EACH PEARL IS PRECIOUS… too precious to lose and too precious to waste; with older and younger people who live in community together.
A VERY IMPORTANT TASK OF EACH PEARL is for the elders of the community to witness to the mystery and joy of faith to the younger people of the community… so the younger ones grow to be the elders of tomorrow.
THE STRING WILL CONTINUE INTO THE FUTURE… Our pearl today consists of older and younger people struggling to be in this world but not of this world; being filled with joy because we are God’s children but not always knowing what to do with that joy.