“This is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it” (2 John 6).
For four Saturdays this winter, I sat along a gymnasium wall watching 5- and 6-year-olds practice soccer skills. To begin, the teachers gathered the children in a circle to warm up. I watched the kids play freeze dance, run in place, stretch their arms and legs and do jumping jacks.
With his hands in his pockets, my son stood still, watching everyone else. By the time the other kids were warmed up, he may have managed one jumping jack whereas they had already worked up a sweat. When the time came to join the coaches with the soccer ball, then he took part. I thought maybe he’d participate in the warm-ups by the end of our four weeks—but every week he watched first before jumping into the activities.
Looking at my son, I thought about what it means to be ready on our own time and how sometimes the best faith-formation practices are those that move slowly.
I want to know that my children understand the Bible stories we read. I want to hear them recite the Lord’s Prayer or teach them why we give an offering each week. We rarely see the fruits of our work as parents, especially in relation to our children’s faith. Yet God calls us to the tasks of parenting, and we should trust that these small moments with our children make a difference. Words matter. Prayers matter. Showing up at church matters. The blessings we offer our kids and the ways we care for our neighbors matter.
These faith formation practices don’t bring results overnight. They take time and attention and small steps. Years may pass before we see any fruit. Yet nothing is wasted, and God’s grace meets us with every prayer offered, story read and song sung.
- If you’re wondering where to start with the children in your life, start small. Pick a children’s Bible and read one story. Find a short prayer to recite together before dinner. Mark the sign of the cross on your children’s heads before school. Trust that they are watching and that God’s love is seeping into their hearts and minds.
- Pick up Ellie Roscher and Heidi Barr’s book 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life (Broadleaf Books, 2021) and be guided in curating a spiritual practice that promotes a more reflective, rooted and intentional life.
Perform small acts of kindness (e.g., use chalk to write words of encouragement on sidewalks, leave a tip for a service worker, write a letter of thanks to teachers, or drop off doughnuts and coffee to first responders). Brainstorm together how you can share love with your neighbors, and sprinkle these moments of kindness throughout the month.
During a time your family is all together, do a one-word check-in. Take the time to listen to each other and give thanks for whatever you’re feeling. Say a prayer to God in gratitude for being with you.