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By Diana Dworin

Pass the faith

Parents may want to learn about their theology, practices

Christian youth clubs

hurch and home aren’t the only places that help frame a child’s faith formation. In many communities across the country, Christian student groups and after-school clubs also are factors that shape the growing faith of middle- and high-school students.

C Some parents applaud these groups—such as Young Life,

WyldLife, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and others—as welcomed additions to their children’s spiritual and social lives. These organizations can spark friendships, rekindle a youth’s fledging interest in faith and provide a wider, more ecumenical view of Christian life. But other moms or dads aren’t as convinced. “Parents some- times get concerned when their kids take an active interest in these groups because they don’t really know what they’re all about and what happens at their gatherings,” said Ed Kay, who leads youth and family initiatives as an assistant to the bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod, which includes about 180 congregations and worshiping communities. “They’re not so sure what their kids are going to learn and come home talking about.”

Parents gain a better understanding of their youth’s involve- ment in Christian clubs when they: • Learn more. Many groups’ websites include a “statement of faith” or mission statement, which can give parents a clearer understanding of their overarching theology. If you have ques- tions about the things you read, bring them up with your pastor or youth director. • Say hello. Meet the adult leaders in your child’s group and ask questions about the gatherings. Stick around to observe or help out. Most youth programs include social activities as well as elements of Bible study or prayer, but “these groups

really can vary a lot from place to place,” Kay said. Get to know other parents who have children in these groups and learn about their opinions of their children’s involvement. • Start talking. Trig Bundgaard, a lay leader for youth ministry at New Horizons Lutheran Church near Colo- rado Springs, Colo., said involvement in Christian groups can be a cue for parents that their child is more likely to engage in conversations about faith. This can be an opportunity to grow together as a family and share ideas and questions about what it means to be fol- lowers of Jesus. 

Now what?

Tuning out during worship

Q: How can I encourage my son, age 10, to tune in during wor- ship? He’s always trying to nap in the pew and never follows along with the community. It’s like pulling teeth to get him to participate in the smallest of ways, and I find myself getting angry with him. A: If you’re tapping your son’s shoulder to cue him to stand for hymns or nudging your daughter awake for the community’s prayers, you’re certainly not alone. Many parents feel their patience slip- ping as they teach their children to participate in worship. Set a healthy bedtime routine on Saturday

nights and offer a nutritious breakfast before Sun- day worship. Some parents find sitting up front rather than in the back pews helps their children remain engaged. Other moms or dads find that explaining the “whys” behind worship customs— from standing at the Gospel reading to sharing the peace—helps their children gain an understanding of what’s happening around them. When children learn about these traditions, they’re more likely to want to participate rather than sit out. Share your opinion or story at www.thelutheran.

org. Send ques- tions to diana@

Lutheran mom

Dworin, 40, is a mother of three and a former parenting magazine editor.

March 2011 41



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