Thinking About Family Matters—Part 1

Approaching the holiday season, I’m thinking about families and their faith formation post-pandemic. In part, I’m thinking about my own family. Before the pandemic, it was just my wife, Claire, and me. In the middle of the pandemic, our first little one, Adalynn, was born. According to a report in 2022, birth rates in the U.S. have declined since 2014 and the pandemic delayed pregnancy for many in what is considered a “Baby Bust.” However, last year, there was a slight 1% increase in births—of which, Adalynn was one.

I realized the other day that Adalynn is almost 21 months old, and we haven’t yet baptized her. In the Methodist tradition, infant baptism is celebrated, but this pastor’s kid hasn’t been baptized! It’s not that I don’t think baptism is important—I’m a pastor, after all. Rather, post-pandemic life has been crazy, chaotic, and challenging for Claire—who also serves on the staff at Resurrection—and for me.

I’m thinking about your family, too. What have you delayed? What part of your family’s faith formation has stalled, been delayed, or not caught up because we haven’t yet recovered from the pandemic?

I asked Jennifer Lennan, the Director of Children’s Ministry at Resurrection Overland Park, about the patterns she sees across Resurrection and through her church networks. She commented, “One of the topics coming up frequently for churches is that regular attendance in kids’ ministry is one Sunday a month. I am seeing more parents leaning into online worship for themselves but I’m not seeing that translate into parents making sure their kids are also worshiping online.”

There are positive effects for children who attend church from a young age, such as reduced levels of depression, substance abuse, and premature sexual activity. Also, reports suggests people who attended church as children tend to experience more happiness, offer forgiveness, and identify a sense of mission and purpose later in life.

How do you as a church or ministry leader help form families in faith? Once more, I asked Jennifer Lennan to share her thoughts on re-igniting ministry in this environment. She shared, “Think of the ways you can give families opportunities to live and learn as well as grow in faith together. We are hearing that families are looking for community and to connect with one another, so we are creating special events designed for the whole family and their friends. It’s about building relationships between families, leaders, and our church. We are equipping parents to lead kids at home and take ownership of their kids’ spiritual growth.”

Here's just one example. Every year, in November, Resurrection presents third-grade children a Bible of their own. Then, as a follow up, third graders and their parents are invited to an evening event where they explore their Bibles together, build community with other families, and learn.

I mention this, not just because I’m thinking about events for your congregation. I’m also thinking about how you and your family re-engage your faith. I encourage you to pause in the bustle of the end of the year; take time to reconnect, slow the pace, take a walk, read scripture together, turn the WIFI in your home off for a few hours, enjoy a meal uninterrupted by texts or calls. I’m also thinking a lot about family because I want Adalynn to be alive in Christ! Recently, I had the privilege to baptize another infant in our congregation. As her family gathered around her, with the love and support of the congregation, I was reminded of the significance of baptism. The gathering of people we call church helped me kindle my faith. The good news is that my little one, Adalynn, has an amazing church that loves her, and excitingly, she’ll be baptized on her second birthday. The date is on the calendar (I am the pastor, after all)!

Rev. Dr. Joshua Clough serves as Location Pastor for Resurrection Overland Park. Joshua also partners with our ShareChurch team as Director of the ShareChurch Academy to provide practical leadership resources to pastors and other leaders. Joshua completed his doctorate in Practical Theology and Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. He runs marathons, ultra-marathons, and because he grew up in Seattle, drinks a lot of coffee.