I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.
-2 Timothy 1:5
Most of Paul’s letters are written to whole congregations. Some, however, are written to individuals. First and Second Timothy are written to, you guessed it, Timothy. Paul wrote to encourage Timothy in his faith and leadership, beginning by pointing out the faith that was first shared with Timothy by his mother and grandmother. It was not Paul’s influence that nurtured Timothy’s “sincere faith,” but Lois and Eunice.
Family has quite a lot of influence on what a child decides is important. I don’t very often see a family full of Iowa State fans with an eight-year-old sporting a Hawkeye jersey. Parents who love to read usually raise kids who are bookworms. Kids who grow up listening to country music rarely grow up to be metalheads. As the popular adage puts it, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
This is equally true with discipleship. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members are immeasurably influential on growing living, sincere faith in children. Although Christian discipleship is often seen as something that children receive at church, from “professional” Christians like pastors and youth directors, research shows over and over that it’s family members who make the biggest impact on what a child values and believes.
This can feel really intimidating! Especially when it doesn’t feel like there’s a clear, easy path to share our faith. We’re not always sure what our own discipleship journey looks like, let alone how to pass a roadmap along to someone else. Here’s what I’ve discovered: it’s more effective to prune, fertilize, and water the tree than the apple.
For anyone who wants to nurture faith in others, whether it’s kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews, or members of your church family, here’s what I suggest:
First, make a list of what’s important to you about your faith. Does it affect your everyday life? How? What would you be missing if you didn’t have trust in Jesus Christ?
Second, make a list of what has nurtured your faith throughout your life. Is it prayer? Bible study? Worship? Service?
Third, do that thing with the people you want to nurture in faith. Read the Bible with your kids at bedtime (even if they’re teenagers!). Make a phone call to your niece and ask if you can pray for her during the phone call. Reach out to the family whose kids you’ve loved watching grow and ask if you can sit with them in worship on Sunday. Then both you and that person get the experience of whatever nurtures your faith.
Now, you might be thinking, “Gosh, usually Pastor Beth writes something more broadly applicable. I don’t have kids [or my kids are grown], so what am I supposed to do with this?”
Oh, I am so glad you asked. Even if you have no kids or grandkids around every day, I’m guessing you’ve noticed that kids these days are busier than ever. Of course, this means that their parents are also busier than ever. Even when parents value faith and want to share it with their kids, it can feel like yet another demand on the overful schedule.
So, if you believe it’s important to have a congregation that keeps the baptismal promise to pray for and support parents raising their children in Christian faith, you can do this: call (or text!) the people you know who are in the trenches of passing faith along to children, and ask two questions. First, ask how you can pray for them (and then do it). Second, ask what you can do to support them and make it easier for them to pass faith along to their child (and then do it).
Together, we can be a congregation of Eunices and Loises passing faith along to the Timothys among us. We can share a sincere, living faith that trusts Jesus Christ above all.
God, you have placed people in my life who nourished and nurtured my faith. Help me to share the faith that is in me, so that new generations may praise and trust you. Amen.