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In this article, we will explore the importance of spirituality for families and how it can be nurtured through storytelling and shared experiences. We will also discuss a grant project by Youthfront, a Christian organization dedicated to helping parents and caregivers actively participate in the Christian formation of their children. The project aims to empower and resource parents, caregivers, and congregations to accompany their children in faith within communities of mutual prayer, practice, and ministry.
The Power of Storytelling
Storytelling has always been a part of parenting and grandparenting for many families. Sharing childhood memories, parenting stories, and faith journeys can bring clarity to the spiritual formation of children. By recounting personal experiences, parents and grandparents can pass down values, traditions, and a sense of identity to the younger generation.
The Grant Project
Youthfront, known for its scholarship and practice in youth ministry, was selected to receive a four-year grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant focuses on Christian Parenting and Caregiving and aims to deepen the impact of Youthfront ministries on thousands of families. The project recognizes the importance of a presence-centered, playful, and passionate relationship with God for both children’s faith formation and adult spirituality and caregiving.
A Presence-Centered Way of Life
The project seeks to equip Christian adults to passionately engage in a presence-centered way of life that is fundamentally Christological. It emphasizes the importance of adults being well-equipped to nurture spiritual formation in children’s lives, as this requires a deep and personal faith experience. By engaging caregivers in the faith life of children, parents, grandparents, godparents, and other adults can also experience a deeper connection with their own faith.
Three Aspects of Practicing Faith
The project focuses on three aspects of practicing faith: communion, contemplation, and curation. In communion, relationships are cultivated, and community is practiced. This recognizes that our personhood is grounded in our connection to God, each other, and the world. In contemplation, spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer practices are used to foster a posture of receptivity and openness to encountering God. In curation, environments are created, and opportunities are nurtured to encounter God and participate in God’s ministry in the world.
As part of the project, the author and his wife embarked on a mini-pilgrimage with their grandchildren. They visited locations that were meaningful to their own childhoods and shared stories about their upbringing, meeting as teenagers, and their own parenting experiences. Throughout the day, they weaved in the story of their faith. The grandchildren were fascinated and asked many questions, and they continue to request certain stories even months after the pilgrimage.
Empowering Parents and Grandparents
Taking an active role in the spiritual formation of children and grandchildren is an important responsibility for parents and grandparents. By sharing their own stories, parents and grandparents can impart wisdom, values, and a sense of identity to the younger generation. It also allows children to see their own stories as part of a larger narrative of faith and spirituality.
Implementing the “Pilgrimage” Concept
While not everyone may be able to replicate the exact pilgrimage experience, the concept can be adapted to suit individual circumstances. Sharing childhood memories, parenting stories, and faith journeys with children can be done in various ways. It could involve visiting significant places from the past, recounting stories during family gatherings, or creating a family tradition of storytelling.
Tips for Grandparents
For grandparents who want to play an active role in the spiritual formation of their grandchildren, here are some tips:
Be intentional: Make a conscious effort to share your own faith journey and stories with your grandchildren. Look for opportunities to weave in the story of your faith in everyday conversations.
Create meaningful experiences: Plan activities or trips that can create shared experiences and memories. These experiences can serve as a foundation for discussing faith and spirituality.
Listen and engage: Encourage your grandchildren to ask questions and express their thoughts and feelings. Listen attentively and engage them in meaningful conversations about faith and spirituality.
Be consistent: Incorporate storytelling and discussions about faith into regular family gatherings or activities. Consistency helps reinforce the importance of spirituality in their lives.
Encourage exploration: Allow your grandchildren to explore their own faith and spirituality. Support their questions, doubts, and curiosity, and provide resources that can help them on their journey.
Spirituality plays a vital role in the formation of families. By sharing stories, experiences, and values, parents and grandparents can nurture their children’s faith and provide a strong foundation for their spiritual journey. The grant project by Youthfront aims to empower parents, caregivers, and congregations to actively participate in the Christian formation of children, recognizing the importance of a presence-centered, playful, and passionate relationship with God. As grandparents, we have the opportunity to leave a lasting impact on our grandchildren’s lives by sharing our own faith stories and walking alongside them on their spiritual journey.