Family Faith Church is like a three-legged table. If one is broken the other two become very unstable.
Most parents can help their children maintain the family bond and keep their faith alive. Family Driven Faith is the strongest. However, church involvement might be a difficult task for some parents.
I will share my experience as a mom as to how I encouraged my children to be involved with the church.
My husband and I took our children for Sunday mass from their infant age. With their bottle and pillow we found it easy at that stage.
The challenging time was when they were toddlers – the time they loved to run around and play. We did not give up. We yet kept taking them for mass. At first they were a little naughty, but they soon learned that they had to maintain silence during mass.
We showed respect to the Eucharist and our children would try to imitate us, by genuflecting and joining their hands while in prayer. They imitated the congregation in singing, making the sign of the cross, kneeling and praying.
We were amazed as to how fast young children learn. Before they learned to read or write they learned the prayers and sang hymns.
I purposefully did not take toys, colouring books, crayons etc to church as I felt those items would distract the children from watching and learning what happens at mass. The best way to get children involved is, to let them watch.
Another thing I learned was that children had to be taken to church at a very young age, so they would familiarise themselves and grow to love the celebrations. If you leave it for when they are teenagers or letting them decide when they are adults, the chances are very bleak. A church would be the last place they would want to walk into when they don’t know the church family, or what happens within the church.
As they grew up to primary school years, we gave them children’s mass books. They found it interesting to follow the pictures, as to what happens next during mass and know how to respond.
In addition, they enjoyed attending Sunday school with other children. They would sing with the Children’s Choir. The church Christmas celebration is something our children would fondly remember as they acted in the children’s nativity play. These events kept them motivated to attend church.
The most cherished event was their First Holy Communion. When we parents actively get involved with our children’s sacramental program, you could see the increased enthusiasm in your children. This is where Family Faith Church becomes one. We had to prepare the children in groups and I was happy to assist by co-ordinating a group.
The next stage was the challenging teenage years. Children can easily get bored going to church at this age, if it was for mass only. They would go because they had to, not because they wanted to. I had to remember the reasons I loved going to church as a teenager.
We realised that it was a good stage for the children to join a youth group within the church. Our parish did not have one, and so it was time to move to a neighbouring parish. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions if we are to keep our children involved in the church. It is better to change parishes than letting our children stop going to church or leaving the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and the Eucharist celebration are universal and it does not matter which Catholic parish you belong to.Joining a parish based youth group was the best thing that happened to our teenage children. They just loved the spiritual and social activities. They loved taking part in Passion plays and Christmas carols. Young people need family faith friends in order to keep their family faith church bond together.
At the time I am writing this, our children are in their upper secondary school age. Now we don't have to ask them to attend church.
On their own, they are involved with the music ministry at church. Together with other youth, they lead the congregation to celebrate mass with beautiful music and singing. They are actively involved with the youth ministry and take part in prayer nights, youth camps, Eucharist adoration, World Youth Day activities and many workshops that help grow in their love for God.
They serve the church and parish community in many ways by organising talent shows and fund-raising events, helping with outreach projects and inviting more youth in the local schools to join them. Family Faith Church is a strong bond that helps children in their spiritual growth.
It is a strong commitment we parents need to make to support and guide our young children. But it is worthwhile. Once they feel that they belong to the church and that the church needs them, our children would never leave the church. At this stage the Holy Spirit is working through them and they see Family Faith Church as one unit keeping them close to God.
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