Parenting is a risky business. Like a high wire act without a net, we hang on to Truth, keep our balance, and trust for equilibrium, but, ultimately, our children are free to choose their own paths. We do not determine their spiritual direction or their response to God’s claim on their lives.
Nevertheless, wise parents will seek out best practices to create a home environment where their children will flourish and thrive spiritually. Don Everts has teamed up with the Barna Group to provide a resource for parents who are asking the question: “What does it take to have a spiritually vibrant household?” The process of studying homes that fit that description yielded three essential markers that characterize The Spiritually Vibrant Home :
1. Messy Prayers
A spiritually vibrant household relates to God. At our house, “messy” was definitely the best description of our prayer times, our family devotions, and our attempts at spiritual training.
Everts employs the metaphor of a fireplace to portray the “messy prayers” life. A neat furnace certainly provides much more reliable heat with less fuss, muss, and bother, but “fireplaces are magical and have a way of drawing everyone together in memorable ways. And such is the case with households that relate to God together.” (85)
2. Loud Tables
Spiritual conversations are an important component of the spiritually vibrant household, and it was good news to me that the Everts household also gathered around a loud table. When our kids were all here at home, we sang hymns at breakfast with a St. Bernard howling a descant, and there was at least one instance when our Advent candles ignited a paper napkin. Even so, we connected at a heart level.
Just as we begin our meals with light fare, provide a steady diet to our families, and offer a rich dessert at the end, our conversations can begin with light topics. We should meet together frequently, and a regular rhythm of connection keeps the conversational flow natural and comfortable. When it’s time for deeper, more vulnerable topics, the foundation of trust has been laid.
3. Open Doors
Thoughts on hospitality always make me smile, because our home has been blessed with a steady flow of wonderful people, some of whom have been adopted as adjunct family members. Everts makes the point that it’s certainly much easier and safer to keep our household submerged like a submarine, but God calls us to be rescue ships. Families daunted by the idea of an open door should proceed slowly, trusting God for what’s next as they invite others into their circle of love and learning.
Readers should be aware of the difference between causation and correlation in looking at a set of data. Do open doors, messy prayers, and loud tables create a spiritually vibrant home–or are they a by-product? For example, “households that engaged in spiritual conversations did more of everything together when compared with households that had no spiritual conversations. We can’t exactly determine causation, but… spending time together having fun, eating food, and doing chores primes the pump for deeper interactions.”
Young families will find the message of The Spiritually Vibrant Home both helpful and hopeful, for the data reveals that there’s nothing magical or mysterious emerging from Everts’s collaboration with Barna. From my vantage point on the edge of an empty-ing nest, I’m grateful to discover that the Lord was faithful in his leading as we made decisions throughout the years about the kind of home we wanted to have.
He will do the same for you.
Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
May your home thrive and flourish!
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