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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Passing on the faith

    May 10, 2022 / By Rev. Carrie Wolfe, Deacon and Director of Children’s and Youth Ministries, Olean: Christ UMC

    Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the UNY 2022 Issue I of the Advocate, which focused onchildren and youth ministries. Click here to access this issue of the Advocate. 

     From 2 Timothy 1:5 (ICB), “I remember your true faith. That kind of faith first belonged to your grandmother Lois and to your mother Eunice. And I know that you now have that same faith.”

    Antoinette Abernethy Lamoreaux, one of the early contributors to the Sunday School movement, wrote in her seminal book The Unfolding Life, “May God have pity on the countless children who live in houses, but are homeless.”

    How can a child live in a house but be homeless?

    For Lamoreaux, the home is the greatest influence on a child’s decision to move toward or away from God – whose love is our true home. So, a child living in a house whose influence, either intentionally or unintentionally, moves them away from God could experience a sense of homelessness.

    Paul writing to Timothy in the passage above was blessed by Timothy’s faith and he reminded Timothy that that faith was not only personal, but it was corporate…that Timothy was cooperating with what had been intentionally passed on to him by his mother and his grandmother…from one home to another.

    Over 100 years after Lamoreaux and the early Sunday School movement began their campaign to help houses become spiritual homes; the National Study on Youth and Religion came to the same conclusion.

    Lead researcher and Notre Dame professor of Sociology, Dr. Christian Smith concluded that nothing else “comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth.”

    This means that whether or not a house is a spiritual home depends on the faith and practices of the parents or caregivers living in the house with the children. Other researchers found that if parents or guardians even attempt to make God a top priority; there is about an 85% chance that the child will maintain faith. And comparatively, they determined that the Church alone has about a 15% chance.

    Further, the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) identified three key priorities that are the hallmark of this influence parents and guardians have in their children moving towards faith.

    First, parents must have faith themselves.

    As we’ve said so often; you cannot give what you do not have. Whether we want to offer a spiritual home to our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, family members, neighbors, or any child of God of any age, we cannot do that if we personally have not decided to yield our lives and our wills to God, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    As Paul reminded Timothy, Lois passed on faith to Eunice and Eunice passed on faith to Timothy because Lois and Eunice HAD faith to pass on. They lived a transformed life in front of Timothy.

    Second, in order for parents or guardians to pass on faith they need to prioritize God in the decisions made and the conversations had in the home.

    What do we spend our time and money on…do we live under the reign of God’s love or the reign of someone or something else’s definition of success?

    Our answers to these questions surrounding daily life are a good barometer of who or what is our top priority and if it is not God, we are missing opportunities to influence children to move toward God.

    Matthew 6:33 clearly focuses on who and what needs to have top billing in our houses in order for them to be spiritual homes: “The thing you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need will be given to you.”

    Finally, the NSYR found that households that prioritize weekly church attendance maximize their influence on a child’s decision to have and maintain faith.

    I think we can agree that this priority has been tested during the COVID pandemic. We have experienced two years of unprecedented chaos that has legitimately required that we say no to so much – including saying no to in-person church attendance.

    My prayer is that we can begin the process of learning how to say YES again.

    I believe that even though it’s scary and we cannot see all that lies ahead, together, we must start thinking about saying yes to church, to showing up. Showing up because children and parents are waiting. Waiting for someone to open the door to a spiritual home…waiting with an outstretched hand for you…for me…to pass them the baton of faith just like someone passed it to us.

    TAGGED / Advocate

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."