Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents by Wendy Claire Barrie is fantastic. I’ll just make my assessment clear from the get-go. It would be a valuable addition to any home or church library. It’s better than its cover lets on and is a must-read for all of us interested in passing onto our children our Christian faith, a different understanding of the Christian faith than the one we grew up with, or our newly-found Christian faith.
Quick Facts about Faith at Home
Title: Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents
Author: Wendy Claire Barrie
Publisher and Date: Morehouse Publishing, 2016
Page Count: 160 pages
Price: $16 on Kindle, $12.23 on Paperback
About Wendy Claire Barrie
Barrie writes Faith at Home out of her experience as a parent and a Christian educator, directing programs for children, youth, and families since 1989 in seven Episcopal congregations, large and small on both coasts. She is presently serving Trinity Church Wall Street in lower Manhattan and has served as Vice-President and board member of Forma, a network of Christian formation professionals.
Field, Form, and Audience
Faith at Home resides within the fields of faith formation and family ministry. The book’s 160 pages are broken down into eight chapters. These include: Talking about God, Talking with God, Bible Stories, Why Church?, Seasons and Celebrations, Making Home Holy, Finding God in Difficult Times, and Meeting God in Others.
First, Barrie identifies the complexity and challenge of speaking about faith with our children in this ever-globalizing and pluralistic world when many of us disagree about who and what God is. She navigates this quite well, as it’s obvious she’s wrestled on her own and is writing authentically about how she has formulated her theology. Barrie writes from a uniquely Christian perspective and also possesses a clear openness to, and inclusion of, varying points of view and other faith traditions.
Furthermore, Barrie writes with candor, hope, and lightheartedness. An education in Christian family ministry is not necessary to enjoy and apply the suggestions in this handbook. Barrie includes practical ideas in an approachable manner. The title states that the book applies to parents only. Yet, it would be a fantastic resource for grandparents, caregivers, church ministry leaders, and teachers, too.
Resources, Tips, and Ideas
Barrie clearly wants her readers to go forth and do. Not only does she say that, but she makes it easy to do. Throughout the book, Barrie includes references for further reading in the book, even a sprinkling of children’s Bibles she recommends. And, in the back, she gives a list of readings for children and adults. She goes so far as to include a glossary of some of the terms that may be unfamiliar. Faith at Home breaks down each topic simply. Barrie goes about describing ways of welcoming spiritual disciplines into the home, e.g.: prayer, scripture reading, and rituals for each liturgical season as well as celebrations like meal times and birthdays.
She gives practical advice for speaking to children and others in times of difficulty and tragedy. She follows that with a chapter aimed at assisting our children in their relationship with God and their fellow humans by exposing them to varying traditions and perspectives. Her long list of refreshingly simple but nevertheless engaging suggestions makes this a great resource to pull from during all seasons.
Barrie ends with a couple of notes, one to caretakers and one to church leaders. To parents, she encourages risk and faith, both in God and in their own intuition as they go about nurturing their children’s faith. To church leaders, she encourages them in their role as resources for parents, who are the primary pastor of their own children. She challenges leaders to migrate toward a model of church that is based on an intergenerational approach, i.e.: keeping children and youth engaged in church rather than sent off to their own programs.
This book would be a great choice for…
- Parenting classes and workshops hosted in your church
- Gift for parents at baptism
- Gift for parents after the birth of a child
- An addition to the church library
- Gift for a Christian educator or family ministries director
Areas of Improvement
First, as I stated previously, the cover art could be more compelling. Second, it would be helpful to have questions for each chapter. They would be fabulous fodder for conversation among parents in a class, small group, or workshop. Reflecting and sharing could make for deeper meaning and even richer cultivation of families’ faith at home.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who has the desire to nurture the faith of children. It’s a quick read filled with practical ideas in a style that invites and encourages caretakers in their own journey. I tend to be disappointed often in the offerings out there for building faith at home. Seldom have I come across a family faith formation book that…
- is realistic about what parents can actually do given the demands on families
- acknowledges the hesitation that so many parents feel in passing on their faith tradition
- possesses a theologically progressive and unapologetically Christian perspective
- presents the content in such an encouraging, non-critical way
- offers such a wide range of ideas for the entire year that require intention but little to no prep
If you’re looking for ways to inspire your children in their discovery of God, buy the book. You’ll be happy you did.