We can guide others on how to lead faith formation in their families, even in the midst of doubts. We just need to be authentic.
During this pandemic—at least for the time being—we are safer at home than in physical gatherings. For faith formation leaders, this highlights the importance of faith formation at home. In the last three weeks, I have been looking at some of the mental obstacles that people face when they attempt to start new faith practices at home: inexperience, new habits and previous failures, and stress.
Leading Your Family with Doubts
While the past three—especially the past two—posts apply to both individuals and families, this post mainly applies to parents (or other caring adults) with children. Today, I tackle the problem of doubt. How do you lead, or participate in, faith formation practices when you have doubts about what you are doing?
The Problem of Doubt
I’m not talking about people doubting their ability to lead. That falls under the first post on inexperience. I’m also not talking about the discomfort of feeling unlearned, though that is related. I’m referring to doubts about the veracity of our church teachings. For example:
- Does prayer work?
- Is God (still) working in the world?
- Are miracles, angels, demons, etc. real?
- Is the Bible true?
Faith and Doubt
The truth is that everyone has some doubts, even if they cannot admit it to themselves, much less to others. I personally find this true and I would hazard the guess that this is true for you, too. I appreciate this quote:
“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.”Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
Being faithful is about wrestling with our doubts, sometimes wrestling with God. Some matches we win and move from doubt to greater confidence. Some we might wrestle with our whole lives. This is not only okay, but it’s also normal.
Authenticity might be a buzz word right now, but I think that’s for a good reason. When we are able to be authentic and vulnerable with others, we can make powerful connections with each other and with God. To be authentic, we need to own our doubts and the rest of the messiness of our lives. In a healthy church, we will be accepted and loved, no matter what.
As faith formation leaders who are trying to train others to be faith formation leaders in their families, we need to embrace this struggle. What does this mean?
- Say it out loud. You need to demonstrate authenticity and teach about it, and when you do so, you need to say, “You might have doubts, and that’s okay!”
- Accept the possibilities. If someone fully rejects a particular teaching, it is inadvisable that they teach it to others. But, if they are not sure, teach them to accept that. If they can say, “Maybe God is listening to our prayer. Maybe God answers them somehow,” suggest that they go with that and keep praying.
- Tell the stories: Whether someone believes that the Bible is “true” or not, the stories are there on the page. Learn and teach the stories. Be open to them. They might impact you no matter what you believe.
- Wrestle authentically—age appropriately. Especially with teenagers, I think it’s good to share your doubts. They will certainly have doubts, so model ways to faithfully wrestle with them. With younger children, this gets trickier. Parents know their children and their capabilities. They might be able to engage honestly about their doubts, or they might need to focus on points #2 and 3.
Faith Formation Resources
No matter the mental obstacles people face, it’s always helpful to have resources. For the rest of this summer, I am creating a free weekly devotional resource following the Revised Common Lectionary’s daily lectionary. Download this week’s resource through the purple button below!
For the program year, we have two new, at-home, family-centered curricula. Living the Word: God’s Word @ Home follows the Revised Common Lectionary and Living the Word: God’s Story @ Home follows the Narrative Lectionary (i.e. gives a Bible overview). Each lesson includes a little background information, an introductory activity, a main activity for the Bible passage, and two additional activities. We also have a devotional resource Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (Narrative Lectionary) that gives simple suggestions for daily devotions (family or individual).
In all things, God’s peace be with you,
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)