From an article by David McClintock
If you could enhance the passing on of your faith to your children, would you?
Following are 10 areas that could enhance the transmission of faith from one generation to another. (These are based on a qualitative Adventist study conducted in Australia which explored the experience of faith transmission.)
Strong family faith traditions and good relationships within the family
Provoking positive memories, these are great vehicles for ensuring maximum faith transmission. The importance of developing positive family relationships with listening and understanding rather than an autocratic parenting model is also helpful.
Warm, supportive families, schools & churches
These prove invaluable when it comes to nurturing our children. Positive and supportive relationships with pastoral staff, church leaders, school teachers and church family tend to be what makes the largest and longest lasting impact - winning out over worship style, programs and content.
Acknowledging God has children everywhere
Too often Adventism is associated with an air of exclusivity. We need to acknowledge that there are genuine Christians who are NOT Adventist. One young person who was working with a Baptist tradesman (and sincere Christian) stated, "if Dad was wrong about only Adventists being Christians, then I figured he was wrong about Adventism and so I threw that out as well."
Correctly identify the difference between faith and God
It can be confusing for children to identify the difference between the concept of corporate and personal faith. Introducing our children to God, His character and personal salvation is step one; teaching them about faith and service as our love response to God is step two. "We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19
Devoted lives to learn from
Meaningful devotional life should be modelled at home, encouraged by teachers, and be an aspect in our church life. It would be valuable for our pastors to take seminars and present ideas on different strategies that can be used for developing and enhancing personal devotions. The most powerful reflections of some respondents was coming out from their bedrooms in the morning and seeing their parents - either mother or father - doing their own Bible reading in the kitchen or lounge room.
Significant faith mentors
People who take a genuine interest in our children and young people play an integral role in their lasting faith development. This could involve: inviting uni students home for Sabbath lunch; taking young people under their wing and living their Christianity; involving young people in Sunday recreation; encouraging young people to use their talents in Church or social activities. This helps our children and young people to understand that they are members of the church family and make valuable contributions.
Memory events such as StormCo, Soup Kitches, Fly-n-Builds and other ideas fill a really important faith building role. In fact, families whose home focuses on service have been found to successfully pass on their faith, with their children remaining in the church as active Christians in their community.
Open and supportive communication (home, school & church)
Nurturing effective decision making skills appropriate to their personal development, parents and teachers who take the time to listen and dialogue have a great advantage in passing on faith. Allowing appropriate individual choice within a 'safe' family environment appears to minimise the risk of children exercising a new found freedom of choice once removed from the home environment.
Social and intellectual nurture
Some people are more intellectually wired and need to be given the freedom to question and have legitimate discussion on their concerns and issues. If ignored or simply told, "that is the answer, accept it" they ultimately move away from corporate faith, and even sometimes, personal faith. Others may be more stimulated by social interaction and they need home, church and school to be supportive and nurturing. If these social needs are not met and they in turn are un-involved, rejected or left out - they too move away from corporate faith and possibly personal faith. We all need to be aware of the individual needs of our young people and try match those needs as best we can.
Value the individual
We need to be much more sensitive to personality style and personal development in order to respond appropriately. More education in personality styles and the different ways to communicate with, understand and love them is important. Often we confuse treating our children exactly the same with the ideal of being consistent - where real consistency would be attained when we, like Christ, love individually and unconditionally but treat each person as an individual rather than as part of an assembly line.
In short, our families, schools and churches need to demonstrate God's love, acceptance and willingness to listen. We need to be inclusive and value individuality rather than feel threatened by it. We need to use tap into the various ways that people learn, and be honest and encourage people to communicate openly.
Ultimately faith could be likened to a toothbrush, everyone needs one, but it works best if you have your own.
Our goal is to permeate our children and youth with the God-factor, and as the Shema (Deut 6:4-9) notes, it becomes a completely natural way of life.