Dr. John Oberdeck has an article in The Lutheran Witness entitled “Designing the Ultimate Stroller“. In it he talks about many of the issues we discuss here regarding the responsibility of parents to educate their children. He identifies four types of families:
There are families that care a great deal about their children’s spiritual growth, have the ability to guide that growth, and take the time to do it. I call such households “Foundational Families” because their feet are on solid bedrock. Pastors and other professional church workers come to rely on these households and pray that their own families might be so blessed.
Other families also care a great deal but do not have the resources to guide the growth nor the time to give. “Frustrated Families” describes this category. The educational and family ministries of congregations are especially important for these families because of limited resources.
Families that care and have the ability but no time are “Busy, Busy Families.” They may need to reconsider their priorities and look for alternatives that enable their behaviors to match their values.
Less often there are families that care and have the time but lack the knowledge necessary to guide their children’s spiritual growth. I like to call these “Sponge Families” because they will participate in whatever is offered, ready to soak up whatever they can from the congregation.
Dr. Oberdeck’s point in identifying these types is to highlight how complicated the spiritual lives of families can be. I find these distinctions helpful for examining the state of a family, but there is little in the way of addressing how the family or congregation can work through the issues faced by each category. Also, I don’t think my family is unique in that, while aspiring to be a “foundational family”, we are certainly a mix of the other three. At times lacking the resources, at times lacking the time, at times lacking both, and at times being sponges.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the article and the attention it draws to the spiritual lives of families, but now we need to go deeper, find ways to address those things that keep families from being “foundational”, and also to address the problem of parents that don’t even know it’s their duty.