This June, I attended the UUA General Assembly in Spokane, WA, along with six other devoted UUSM members. By far, the most interesting workshop I attended was Faithing Families, delivered by the Rev. Tandi Rogers, UUA Regional Staff. The big question that Rev. Rogers posed to the group was, “How do we emphasize and create faith in family life?”
Rogers began with the premise that parents are the primary teachers of faith. She addressed busy parents and sometimes-overscheduled kids by highlighting the ways that our faith is already present in their lives. There are a million ways to “family” in a UU way. We can talk about our seven principles when watching TV or reading or listening to podcasts. How do the values expressed intersect with what UUs believe? Pop music offers rich material for conversation. Are we hearing values we share? Is it OK for a growing brain?
When communicating our values to children in this way, we’ll see discernment in our teens and young adults down the road. A survey of any group of UUs will show that many connect to our faith through their experiences as a child or as a parent.
But parents need help in leading their children in faith formation, and conversely, their church cannot do it for them. Rogers encourages churches to shift priorities away from Sunday services and RE education to provide more resources for use in the home.
Help and resources for parents
How can we make the family home the primary incubator of Unitarian Universalism? Rogers encourages congregations to fill in the blanks:
- In a UU home you might experience…
- I claim my UU heritage by…
- My family lives our UU values when we…
- An important religious practice in our house is…..
Telling stories about why we do what we do is a rich tradition at UUSM. Why do we make sandwiches after services? What is the history of our faith? Why do we keep learning? Why do we covenant with each other at church and at home? These are all great examples of how our values guide our actions. We tell these stories and build connection.
Most important, Rogers gave concrete examples of how congregations could use their resources to extend care to busy parents and families in our community:
- Offer time in videoconferencing to do small group ministry with young parents.
- Offer a social justice story hour.
- Offer a blessing at a child’s sporting event or celebration.
- Sponsor an ad in a local newspaper or kids school newspaper.
- Show up to kids’ events wearing your UUSM or Side with Love shirt.
- Provide pizza to kid and family events in your area.
- Offer sensory-friendly worship options.
- Volunteer to offer half-hour home visits; maybe just a chalice lighting with a family to offer connection and support.
- Provide volunteers to a family or kid event.
- Offer free childcare if there is a natural disaster.
At the end of this session, Rogers summed up: “As a community, we need to support all the families, just the same, even the ones that don’t go to Sunday services.”
– Beth Brownlie