Nurturing faith in the home

People listen to presenter Leif Kehrwald of Vibrant Faith @ Home during a seminar at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton Feb. 12.

By Celine Klosterman
NEWTON — Catechists must empower people to realize religious practice is a tool for navigating everyday life, Leif Kehrwald told about 45 parish and diocesan leaders gathered Feb. 12 at Sacred Heart Parish.
If someone looks at faith as just another set of “shoulds,” it will fall to the bottom of his or her priority list, Kehrwald said.  A team leader for Vibrant Faith @ Home, he led a workshop designed to give catechists strategies for helping families grow spiritually at home.
People of faith need to negotiate a working relationship with a fast-paced, instant-gratification, media-driven society, he said. Teens or married couples can go on a powerful weekend retreat, only to come home and feel its effects unravel. “People’s primary relationships have the power to undo change – good or bad.”
But one of the basic elements of ministry is helping people discover God’s presence in their everyday lives, Kehrwald said. Families function better when they emphasize five specific moments: exits and entries, bedtime, car time, mealtime and memory-making time (such as birthdays and personal achievements). “What if we had faith-forming activities for these moments?”
Home is church, too. Kehrwald cited research showing that young adults active in their faith reported having warm relationships with parents who modeled religious practice. “It’s not so much parents’ job to teach, but to live their faith,” he said.

Leif Kehrwald speaks at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton Feb. 12.

Families grow spiritually when they talk with each other about faith, pray together, ritualize their important moments, reach out in service and support of others, share Bible stories to connect with family stories, and learn about religion in fun, interesting ways. Creating an atmosphere where family members feel comfortable raising questions is more important than providing all the answers, he said.
Good faith formation includes not only “Sunday school,” but nurturing faith at home and involving the whole church community in intergenerational activities, Kehrwald said.
He encouraged catechists to get in on the “social media revolution,” perhaps by posting daily tweets during Advent or creating an online youth group where families and students can discuss faith and share ideas. One workshop attendee suggested inviting teens to use their phones to text prayer requests during a retreat and posting youths’ responses on a big screen.
The website offers numerous activities for families. Catechists choosing one or planning to create their own should remember the 10 characteristics of activities that families are willing to do at home:
• KISS (keep it simple and short)
• Give it legs. Design it to include a small bit of activity every day for a week, month or season.
• A creative component. If they build it, they’ll use it.
• Connected to a season or event. Harness the enthusiasm for a holiday or special gathering.
• Integrated with family moments such as mealtime, bedtime, etc.
• Life-stage connected. Activity responds to a developmental need.
• Invites families to learn something new.
• Modeled in a gathered setting, such as at a church faith-formation event.
• Invites users to deeper growth.
• Hits home. The activity is more than just relevant; it touches heart and soul.
Worksheets and the Bible aren’t deterrents, Kehrwald said. A catchy title matters.
After the workshop, Father Bill Reynolds, pastor of Sacred Heart, said it was interesting to learn that some people now consider email passé. “I wish that I were more skilled with the social media to complement the work done in the parish,” he added, noting that he’d like to learn to make PowerPoint presentations.
“It is important that we make use of all available opportunities to evangelize, and that includes social media,” said Deacon Joe Dvorak, parish life coordinator at Immaculate Conception Parish in Colfax. It can be difficult to find the time and talent to use it, but “I know it is a direction I would very much like to go.”
To view slides from Kehrwald’s presentation, visit

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on