It’s that time again: regardless of what your fall contains, your family dynamic changes. Tim and I have figured out over the years that a change of season is a good opportunity for our family to regroup and review our priorities. Sunday night we will sit down as a family, talk about, and write out goals together. This is getting much more interesting as the kids get older and can set their own goals without much guidance. It used to be when they were little that we could just tell them what their goals would be. We also like to pick a family verse for the year that we memorize together.
I have been doing a lot of reading this summer on the Shema. Jewish families pray the Shema twice a day to remind them of their faith. We teach these verses from Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 as a great reminder of biblical priorities and principles in the homes of Vista families; you will see it contained in all of our parent equipping materials.
Here is what Fr. Callistus Isara has to say about the importance of these verses in the Christian home:
“Undoubtedly, there is a great challenge today for parents and guardians to transmit the faith, Christian values and morals, to their children…Oftentimes, parents abdicate their responsibility to transmit the faith and Christian values to their children because they are busy pursuing wealth and other material things… One of the ways parents can transmit religious education and values to their children is to begin by taking an inventory of their own religious and moral values.”
Parents should ask themselves: What are my priorities? What do I value most in life? How is my faith integrated with my way of life? How seriously do I practice my faith?
The answers to the above questions will help parents to work on themselves to grow in the spiritual and moral life, and then transmit them to their children first, by their way of life and then, by instruction. For example, the best way to teach our children the importance of prayer is for them to see us pray regularly. Christ’s disciples watched him pray over a period of time before they asked him to teach them how to pray. Jesus replied to their request by teaching them the “Our Father…” (Luke 11:1-4). Furthermore, parents and guardians must make their home a conducive place for transmitting the faith to their children through a regular and sustained family prayer pattern, open discussion of moral issues, acquainting their children with the Bible so that they can have love for sacred scripture, teaching children the value of sacrifice and service of others, teaching them in kindness and generosity, teaching them in giving and not only in receiving, and reaching out to the poor and the less privileged in society, etc.
The Jewish people took very seriously the command to teach the shema prayer to their children. Hence they were largely successful in imparting the Jewish faith from generation to generation. In order to sustain the Christian faith in the family, we must courageously strive to practice the faith with utmost commitment and, in turn, hand it on to our children and our children’s children… If adults are not fervent in the practice of their faith, it becomes terribly difficult for them to pass the faith to their children since no one gives what one does not have. Just as the Jewish people took the shema injunction seriously, we must likewise take the practice of our faith seriously. May God give us the grace and the courage to truly practice our faith.”
We use the example of the Shema to refocus our family on goals involving every area of our lives. We talk about spiritual, mental, emotional, social and physical goals for each member and line up our priorities around those goals. This allows us to make sure our family schedule is not skewed to one part of our life but equal in all areas. Hopefully, if done well and if we persevere in our goals, this intentionality allows us all to grow in each area and provides unity within our home.
Practical Advice from Miriam Caldwell (Member of the LDS church: I agree with her approach but do not advocate for her theology)
The changes that we make do not always need to be big ones, but it is important to continue to make changes for the better. You can talk about some areas that you think the family members should each make individual goals in. Some possible areas include spiritual goals, physical goals, relationship goals, and education goals. If you have small children you may just want to choose two categories with one goal each. As your children grow older you may have them set more goals. You can then record each child’s goals and later print them up to hang in their room as a reminder. To encourage your children in achieving these goals you should discuss the steps that each one needs to take in order to achieve the goal. You may want to create a checklist for the child to mark off as he finishes each step towards his goal. You can post the charts in his bedroom or in the kitchen, so that you can encourage everyone as a family. You may want to set some family goals as well. These could include things such as family home evening or scripture study. You could also set goals to spend more time together exercising as a family or spending an extra night a week or a month together. You can set a goal to eat dinner together a few times a week. The goals can really be tailored to your family’s needs. Once you have determined your family goals (one or two is usually best) then you can create a chart for each step in the goal. You should celebrate as a family each time you reach a milestone.