It’s probably not surprising that I used the phrase “faith formation” a lot. I’ve done previous blog posts, a frequently asked questions page, and this blog is even called Forming Faith. By reading my blog posts and FAQ, you can learn more in-depth about what I mean, but here are a couple of quick definitions I use.
- (Christian) Faith: A synonym of trust and belief. 1) A transformative relationship of trust (with the triune God). 2) An understanding of the world and one’s self that affects how a person lives.
- (Christian) Faith Formation: Every action, experience, or relationship that nurtures faith, that is a (transformative) relationship of trust (with the triune God) and shapes the way we see and interact with (God’s) world.
Generically, faith is about relationships of trust and how we understand the world. And so, generically speaking, faith formation is anything that forms, or produces change, in these relationships and understandings.
Faith Needs an Object
Faith really needs an object (grammatically speaking). It needs someone or something to trust, believe, or have faith in. Sometimes that’s implied. “Have faith,” someone might tell you. No grammatical object there. However, the sentence only makes sense if you already have an idea of the object of that faith. “Have faith in me.” “Have faith that things are going to get better.” “Have faith that God hears your prayers.”
In the second definition of faith above, the understanding or worldview, the word doesn’t need an object per se, but it does need content. It needs a creed (which is from the Latin word for belief).
Not Just Religious
If you are religious, then the words “faith”—and especially “faith formation”—are almost always used in connection with God. However, these concepts can be used even by those who do not believe in God or are associated with any religion. And, even for those of us who do have faith in Jesus and his work, our understanding of the world goes beyond what is covered in church. It even goes beyond what we consciously think about.
Home & Family
The primary place where faith formation occurs is your home. Usually “home” refers to the place or places where you live, you sleep. But it can also be anywhere you spend a lot of quality time, a “home away from home.” Home is where your family is. Again, your “family” can be biological, legal, or chosen. It is the group of people with whom you have your primary relationships. Note: this doesn’t change whether these relationships are healthy or unhealthy.
These spaces and relationships have a powerful impact on who we trust and what we believe about the world. We usually think of parents having a powerful impact on the children they raise, but it indeed works within each relationship. Children can have a powerful impact on their parents as well.
Negative Faith Content
So, faith is being formed in your family, at your home. Right now, and all the time. It’s not about whether it is happening, it’s about what’s the content of the faith being formed. What are the actions, experiences, and relationships in your home teaching?
- When we provide unsupportive or hostile home environments, LGBTQ+ youth (and others) learn that adults cannot be trusted or that there is something “wrong” with themselves.
- When we prioritize work, money, status, or things above relationships, our children can learn to do the same.
- When we avoid talking about our emotions or difficult topics, we perpetuate and minimize them.
We are also forming a harmful faith when we consciously or subconsciously pass down our own implicit racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and any other intolerant and biased views of other people.
Positive Faith Content
On the other hand, consciously and unconsciously, we can form into each other:
- The knowledge of God’s unconditional love for each individual person.
- The trust in this love and the work of Jesus that gives us the ability to return God’s love.
- The conviction that each person is made in the image of God and deserves dignity and respect.
- The supreme value of love for others lived out in acts of service, justice, and peacemaking.
- The acknowledgment of sin or brokenness in ourselves and our world, and the value of repentance and forgiveness.
So, what are you doing to promote positive faith formation in yourself and your family? What do you need to be aware of in terms of the negatives you might be subconsciously passing down?
Just with all other skills, abilities, and knowledge, we can make changes and grow based on what we do over and over again, what we practice. When our goal is to form faith in Jesus, our practices must be spiritual practices, such as prayer, worship, fellowship, and service to others.
A good place to start, if you haven’t already, is the practice of devotions. Devotions are simply taking time to be with God. This can incorporate prayer, praise, the reading of Scripture, conversations, and meditation. You can do devotions on your own or with others (like your family). Hopefully, you can do both. If you would like some help, download The Word @ Home resource via the purple button below for a sheet that includes a Bible reading plan, prayers, blessings, and conversation starters. It follows a calendar of Bible readings called the Revised Common Lectionary, which your church might use in worship.
I hope that this can be helpful to you!
Peace be with you,
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
If you are looking for more faith formation resources for families, check out our new Living the Word: God’s Word @ Home (Revised Common Lectionary) and Living the Word: God’s Story @ Home (Narrative Lectionary) products. Stay updated by liking our Facebook page, subscribe to our e-newsletter, or follow this blog!