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Practicing faith in Everyday Life: some spiritual tools to help

Insights Into Religion offers the following resources and tools for congregations to help their members learn to think theologically, develop patterns of worship and practice spiritual disciplines.

Faith is a movement of the Spirit; its influence is felt from the inside out, expanding from personal disciplines and practices to family relationships, community service and concern for all people. Congregations can aid the development of faith and the strengthening of families by helping members learn to think theologically, develop patterns of worship and practice spiritual disciplines. Strong beliefs and practices also lead to practices of hope and reconciliation in the wider world.

Whenever worshippers question the tenets of their faith, reflect on the values by which they are encouraged to live or ponder the meaning of life, they engage in theological thought. Often, however, that thinking is spiritually undisciplined and haphazard. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship offers an archive of resources from past years' Calvin Symposia on Worship that explore the role worship plays in helping believers form patterns of faithful living.

Developing strong personal spiritual direction, thinking and practice pays off in a variety of ways for the families of believers. For example, studies indicate that the children of parents who display their commitment to their faith by regularly attending services are most likely to adopt the faith and practices of their parents. According to data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, as those children mature they generally have more positive mental health outcomes and greater compassion for others, and they demonstrate higher levels of social involvement, moral compassion and purposefulness than do children of less faith-committed or nonreligious adults. Yet, the National Study of Youth and Religion indicates that many parents abdicate the religious and spiritual guidance of their children, according "Parents Play a Major Role in Religious Lives of Young Adults," by David Briggs on The Association of Religion Data Archives, where the NSYR database is stored.

The study data indicates, in "Religious 12th Graders More Likely to Have Positive Self-Attitudes," that high school seniors who attend religious services are significantly more likely to have a positive self-attitude than those who don’t, even if they attend infrequently and regardless of their race, age, sex or level of parental education.

Faith communities also have a unique opportunity to help families suffering domestic violence, but too often cause hurt, notably when clergy encourage the abused to give the abuser another chance. Real help comes when clergy secure the safety of the abused, hold abusers accountable for their actions and help abusers work through remediation programs, according to a study discussed in "Faith leaders need to hold violent men accountable," an article by David Briggs on The Association of Religion Data Archives blog, “Ahead of the Trend.”

Also, research conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that young people who are involved in communities of faith respond more powerfully to, and more completely rebound from, instances of aggression and violence, whether delivered in person or through cyberbullying. Another extensive set of perspectives and resources is located on the ReligionLink site.

Finally, according to "Conservative Protestant Child Discipline: Authority and Affection in Evangelical Families," by John P. Bartowski, W. Bradford Wilcox and Christopher G. Ellison, on the Hartford Institute for Religion Research website, Christians who adhere to the evangelical Protestant worldview and lifestyle are more likely to discipline their children by spanking, more likely to affirm their children through hugs and words of praise, and less likely to yell at their children than are mainline Protestant and nonreligious parents. Similarly, this article says, evangelical fathers are considerably more involved with their children and wives than are their mainline and nonreligious counterparts, and evangelical Protestant parents are likely to balance their family commitments and work lives while non-evangelical and nonreligious men and women are likely to privilege work over family.

Reaching beyond family life, faith communities can also be places of hope for, and sources of reconciliation between, people of diverse backgrounds, races and ethnicities. Here are some examples of the role faith has played in fostering hope and healing:

•    Former high-powered marketing and advertising CEO Nancy Murray and her nonprofit group are rescuing houses scheduled for demolition in order to create energy-efficient green houses for low- and moderate-income residents. Many of the new homeowners are nurses, law enforcement officers or firefighters. Murray is driven by her Christian faith, and she hires and trains hard-to-place men with troubled backgrounds. See her inspiring story, Builders of Hope, on the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly website.

•    Lucy Kolin, pastor of the multiracial Resurrection Lutheran Church, offered an example of working through cultural differences to a mutually respectful practice of communion in an interview archived on the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website.

•    Anne Streaty Wimberly designed a three-week residential summer event that immerses African-American teenagers in a program designed to help them form Christian identities. Participants develop personal perspectives and tools that allow them to aid in the renewal of their communities and houses of worship, and the vast majority graduate high school and continue into higher education, including ministry, according to an interview with Wimberly archived on the Resources for American Christianity website.

•    The Religion and New Immigrants Initiative examines the role of religion in the experience of immigrants resettling in the United States and integrating into American society. To learn more about how religion helps bridge the gap from country of origin to new homeland, and for a link to the initiative’s dedicated website, scroll down to the “Religion and New Immigrants” heading on this Hartford Institute for Religion Research web page.

•    Montana Native Americans discovered deep commonalities with a group of Tibetan Buddhists who immigrated to their corner of the state. That common ground is oriented around similarities in their respective histories, and shared beliefs and perspectives on world events, according to a seven-minute news video archived by Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

•    Through a cooperative ministry of the United Methodist Church, Christian Native American congregations scattered across the border region of North and South Carolina have pulled together to encourage and lead members of the little-known and largely neglected Lumbee and Pee Dee Indian tribes toward self-empowerment and better lives, according to an article on the Faith & Leadership website of Duke Divinity School.

•    In a related Faith & Leadership article about the Lumbees, the Rev. Jeremy Troxler of Duke Divinity School explains that while the 85-member Sandy Plains United Methodist church does not use the language of leadership development, that’s exactly what its deeply rooted practices accomplish.

To learn more about spiritual practices, faith development and faith expression, explore our material located under the “Religious Education,” “Spiritual Practices,” “Worship” and “Civic Engagement” subcategories of the Congregations tab. Also, type the word “faith” into the site search window to see a helpful selection of relevant entries.



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