Cheering on our children from the sidelines or bleachers as they race up and down the soccer field or basketball court is a ritual repeated over and over. Yet, how often do we spend time cheering on a child’s faith development?
I’ve been pondering these thoughts recently, now that my youngest child is up to her ponytails in school activities: basketball, Girl Scouts and Destination Imagination.
There are milestones that we celebrate in a child’s faith development. These include the sacraments of initiation: baptism, first Communion and confirmation. Preparation and celebration of these important rites of faith, however, often don’t match the intensity of a child’s sports preparation. Nor does it lead to the hours of service offered by parents.
Perhaps it is time Catholic parents become cheerleaders for their children’s faith development. Just as we take an active role in teaching our children how to play sports, we need to get involved with their spiritual growth.
Let’s begin with the Sunday obligation: Think of it as Catholic game day. Attending Sunday Mass is the foundational task of every Catholic parent. Children need guidance and direction in their faith and it all begins with the celebration of weekly Mass.
Religious instruction is another core activity. Enrolling children in a parish religious education program helps parents teach the faith. Catechists are the Catholic version of coaches and these volunteers are trained to assist parents in religious instruction.
Catholic schools take religious education and turn it into an all-day affair. They also offer another advantage: the opportunity for children to attend school Masses and experience different ministries such as lectoring, offering prayer petitions and serving at the altar.
When children have the opportunity to participate in these ministries, it’s a chance for parents to cheer them on.
For example, my fifth-grade daughter served at the altar for the first time last Sunday. It was a big deal for her family and she knew it. Even her grandfather and oldest brother from Texas were on hand to witness the big event.
Showing children that faith is important to us begins with parents taking an active role. It’s no different than the role we play in getting our children involved in sports. Watch the parish bulletin for opportunities to get children involved and sign them up. But don’t let it end there. Support and encourage them.
Just as participation in sports can develop our physical health, involvement in faith enhances our spiritual health. One can lead to good health and a long life. The other may lead to eternal life.