When it comes to our own faith and the passing on of faith, we can often times look at our faith as an heirloom. Something that is meaningful to our family, sometimes we know why it is meaningful, other times we know it has significance, but we're not sure why. For instance, I have my grandfather's hammer. He used this hammer almost everyday as he built houses as a carpenter. It reminds me of the hard work he put into his profession and his ability to create. If I take away the story or the reason behind the hammer and hand it to my son, the heirloom loses it's meaning and he might go out and try to hammer a nail into a board with it. But if I sit down with my son and explain who his great-grandfather was and why this hammer is important to me, he will better understand the significance of the hammer.
Passing on our faith as an heirloom can be a very good thing! When we are able to sit and explain to our children why our faith is important to us, rather than for them to except the faith because we always have, we are given the opportunity to express how God has worked, is working, and will work in our lives. This doesn't have to be a daily or even weekly sit down and hammer it out type of meeting. It can be more effective if we bring faith up in causal conversations surrounding daily life happenings.
Be encouraged to talk about why you believe what you believe. If you don't know why you believe, take some time to think through your response first. It doesn't have to be polished, in fact if it is too polished your youth may think you are not be authentic and are trying too hard. Let it come natural and continue to open doors for conversations. (Knowing that we will probably fail 50% of the time, that's not a bad thing!)
A simple way to get your family talking faith is to lay a few family heirlooms and say something like "These are objects that remind us of important moments our family has had. These items remind us of special moments and great memories. They help create family stories which, in turn, help flesh out some of the identity of who we are as a group."
- How is our faith like these heirlooms?
- What heirlooms do we have that remind us of our faith? (Family Bible, crosses displayed in your home, baptism certificates, baptism candles, posted scriptures, etc.)
- Should we create some new heirlooms to remind us who we are as a Christian family? What should they be?
Sharing family stories of faith can be an important way to connect generational faith together. Encouraging conversations about faith with old family members can be very powerful. Share your memories of your children's grandparents or great-grandparents' faith. If you are a first generation believer, talk with your family about what legacy of faith you hope to leave for your children and future generations.
With Thanksgiving coming up and families meeting together, this may be a great time to ask some of your relatives to talk about why faith is important to them. On the flip side, especially for teenagers, you could ask a family member who does not believe to share why. This can open up some discussion that makes us uncomfortable or uneasy, but eventually your teenager will come into contact with people who do not believe the same as them, and to have a conversation like this in a safe place with people they love, can have a lasting impact on all involved.