The lyrics of the Crosby, Stills and Nash song Teach Your Children advise parents and children to share their differing dreams and forgive one another because we are unable to grasp what the other goes through. Each verse ends, “just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”
Those who study religion in America have coined the term “The Nones” for the rising percentage of younger adults, who, when surveyed about their religious preference, marked the box labelled “None.”
They don’t identify with the Christian or Buddhist, Native Spirituality or Jewish choices of their heritage. They simply check “None.”
That’s not a surprise, is it? Many communities of faith are increasingly looking like gathering places for faithful, grey-haired elders. And so we sigh when we traditional people of faith look to the future viability of our houses of worship.
Sometimes the chasm between generations looks too broad to cross, especially in this new millennium, where technology and shifting social norms exacerbate our differences. But we can all do more than just sigh about the youngsters in our families and our communities.
It’s up to you to share your values and spiritual practices with younger generations. Speak up about your ethical choices, the beliefs you hold dear and the meaning behind the practices of your faith.
Think of this not as a way to “push” your opinions on others, but as a way of sharing your personal life story.
Trust that your children and grandchildren want to know what experiences shaped you and how you make sense of this life.
Invite them to join you. They might not want to attend a formal worship service, but you might just make a simple suggestion. “A group from my temple is preparing food for the homeless. Would you like to go with me and see what that’s like?” “I pray before meals. Will you sit quietly while I offer thanks for our food?”
The invitation and a brief sentence or two about how the practice deepens your faith will help them see the full dimensions of your life.
Sometimes children or grandchildren have no religious experience until they attend a wedding or funeral. If that’s the case in your family, tip them off about what to expect. What rituals might be hard for them to understand? Give them some insider information.
“This is how we cross ourselves. This is why. I’ll show you how and when to do it.” “Each family will have a chance to come forward and offer prayers and incense. This is why we do it.”
Children love good stories, so share the tales of your traditions. Put them in easy-to-understand language and bring alive the heroes of your faith.
Best of all, listen to children as they tell you about their lives. Connecting with their struggles and choices will open the door for you to share any wisdom you have gained.
Let your faith journey shore up theirs with words of hope and perseverance… “and know they love you.”
WINDWARD UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
38 Kaneohe Bay Drive, Kailua HI 96734