I suspect that at some level, most parents who enroll their children in religious education have a tremendous desire that their child will know the benefits of faith. But as with most of our desires, we also experience accompanying resistance. Here are four suggestions to help you more effectively invite parents to embrace their responsibility in raising their children in the light of God’s love.
Watch your language. Every profession has its jargon, and religious education is filled with its own “insider language.” One of your most important tasks is to interpret the great theological insights you have been blessed to receive into language (including stories, imagery, rituals, and plain talk) that hits home for your listeners. This isn’t dumbing down the message; it’s teaching as Jesus taught in his parables, his interactions, and his presence.
Use the ordinary opportunities that already exist. Help parents make the most of mealtime, and help them see the holiness that surrounds them in their daily life together as a family. Teach them simple but profound methods of prayer and reflection they can use in the course of their day so they see that God is present in all things, in every moment.
Invite them not into shame but into depth. It’s so tempting to add an edge of guilt or shame to our interactions with parents, knowing that they may not be stepping up to their crucial role as first teachers and nurturers of the faith. Instead, put them in touch with the depth inside them, which will move them to want to share what’s becoming alive in them. Take great care with every touch point you have with the parents, offering them substance from their perspective, not yours.
Leverage their desire for “what’s best” for their child. Most parents are willing to go to great lengths to provide what they consider to be best for their child. But some don’t fully appreciate that nurturing their child’s faith formation is an essential component of providing what’s best for their child. Invite parents to reflect together on how their faith has helped them in their life so far. Then ask them to consider together how our children will fare growing up and facing the challenges ahead of them without being solidly grounded in a relationship with God.