Both individuals and families are often stressed beyond their capacity. Regular faith practices will help relieve stress in the long run, but families and individuals need your help to get started!
I’m too stressed, too!
This is my third post on mental obstacles people face when trying to adopt a new faith formation habit at home. While I’ve experienced the obstacles of inexperience and previous failures, today’s obstacle, stress, hits home the most. I feel like I’m constantly stressed. I’m sure you are, too. Even prior to this pandemic, most adults deal with some sort of unhealthy level of stress, and this has only gotten worse. The last thing we should do is to add “one more thing.” We don’t know how many straws it will take to break our backs.
Spiritual Stress Relief
We know a few things for certain.
- Our relationship with God is important (understatement). Christian faith formation is about understanding this relationship and living it out in the world.
- Our relationships with each other are important (they made it to the top two commandments). Christian faith formation is nourished by healthy relationships.
- The primary location for faith formation is the home (positive or negative, Christian or non-Christian)
- Strong, healthy relationships with God and others keep us healthy and reduce stress, in addition to everything else.
Creating faith practice habits, done well, should help relieve stress, not cause it.
While faith practices—done with family or alone—should relieve stress, starting a habit will cause it. Full stop. The question then becomes that of how we can minimize the stress and encourage the habits. Here are some ideas.
- Choices: Provide a few choices (probably up to three to avoid choice anxiety) for goals or provide a few entry points.
- Start small: For those who feel too stressed, give them that “couch to ________” program that starts them with a check-in question at a family meal or a few deep breaths at bedtime and moves at their own pace to daily devotions (personal, family) and weekly scheduled education time.
- Explain: As you are orienting them to the resources or process you are encouraging, make sure to emphasize the life-giving, stress-relieving, relationship-building results.
- Schedule: Give ideas and guidance on how to naturally fit this habit into their schedules.
Affirmation and Grace
One common cause of stress—especially as a barrier to starting something new—is having unrealistic expectations. This is the reason to start small. However, it’s also important to build on something that already exists. Help them inventory what they currently do. Do they check in with each to share their days? Do they discuss anything faith-related? Do they take deep breaths? Pray? Read the Bible? Watch/attend worship? Affirm that and help them build on it.
Then comes grace. Yes, I will bring it up every week of this series. It’s that important (but you already know that). People need to know the benefits of home faith formation practices, but they also need to rest in the knowledge that God unconditionally loves them. You as a leader and they themselves also need to figure a balance between having grace with yourselves and pushing yourself to go further.
Resources for the Home
With all of this, resources are key to lowering yours and your families’ (and individuals’) stress. When you have a ready-made resource, you don’t need to do everything yourself, and your families don’t need to go it alone. We have three main products that are specifically designed to be ready-to-send to families and individuals.
Two are 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).
Free, Free, Free!
For the rest of this summer, I am creating a free weekly devotional resource following the Revised Common Lectionary’s daily lectionary, based on the “take-home” sheet for our new God’s Word @ Home home-based curriculum. Check it out and share widely! To download, click (or tap) on the purple button below. This is a single sheet that includes a Bible reading plan, prayers, blessings, and conversation starters. I hope that this can be helpful to you!
Peace be with you,
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)