THIS exciting book challenges the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Rachel Turner, the Bible Reading Fellowship’s Parenting for Faith Pioneer, suggests that parents have the most significant impact on the faith and discipleship of their children and young people, but that only one third of parents feel confident about passing on their faith within the family. The village or church should not try to replace the family, but provide encouragement.
Turner longs for churches to have the skills to mentor and empower parents to raise God-conscious children. She argues that they need to lay the foundations of a church culture in which communities journey alongside parents, carers, and grandparents, nurturing, equipping, and encouraging them to be confident about their faith.
Over the past decade, resources aimed at enabling churches and their leaders to help children become disciples have proliferated. But “experts” on evangelism, clergy, Readers, and children’s and youth workers have disempowered the family members who live with the children and the young people whom the Church wants to influence. The people who make the most difference in the lives of children and young people are the adults who can feel least equipped to do so.
Children and teenagers need to see what a real relationship with God looks like in the everyday highs and lows of life, and the church community needs to learn how to create a vision of what parenting that nurtures faith can be, raising expectations among parents while offering the affirmation that there is no “right way” to do it.
If churches can summon up enough humility to admit that parents, carers, and grandparents have more impact on the faith of the children than they have, then the multi-generational support that they offer will inspire parenting of that kind. But that is easier in a large church than a small one. In many contexts, a multi-generational church community is an aspiration rather than a reality.
This book and its accompanying website give a vision of what families helping their children to learn faith can look like, and how the church can help. It might not be possible to offer a full programme in every church context, but it is a vision towards which all should be striving. Every church has a member who knows how to hold a baby, walk with a toddler, or hold a song-book for a child; if this book does no more than encourage a generous welcome to a family in church, it has begun to fulfil its promise to enable a church to raise a parent.
Canon Dana Delap is Team Missioner and Vicar of Blockley, in the diocese of Gloucester.
It Takes a Church to Raise a Parent
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