Are you feeling stuck or unsure of where to go next when it comes to talking about God and faith with members of your extended family?
Are you tired of conversations devolving into the same old tension points or disagreements, so much so, that you've almost given up on talking about faith altogether?
Many of us will be gathering with extended family over the next few weeks. Here are a few easy things you can do to help open up conversations about God rather than shut them down.
1. See Sharing Faith as a Process
You don’t have to get all your good points out in one conversation or try to answer every objection in one go. You love these people. Chances are high that you will see them again. You have time to pace with them. Be bold and share one thought or question and then trust the Spirit to work. Even Jesus (John 4.34-38) and Paul (1 Corinthians 3.5-9) saw evangelism as a process.
2. Say Sorry
Many family members are put off from faith because of “bad things Christians have done or the Church has done.” We know Christians have been an incredible force for good across the planet and throughout history. But we also know a huge amount of evil has been done in the name of God. Acknowledge it. And apologise. Say, “I know that has happened and I want to say I’m sorry. That’s not a true picture of God’s heart or what Jesus came to Earth to accomplish.”
3. Stir Spiritual Curiosity
If you are looking and listening, you will sense deep soul-centered longings under the surface of your loved ones’ lives, even when they adamantly claim they are not interested in God. These longings include a desire for the world to be right, for their lives to mean something, to connect with someone or something who can help, or to somehow hold on to that fleeting sense of peace and satisfaction that so often eludes us.
Here’s some specifics you are listening for or questions you can ask that could raise these longings to the surface:
- Longing for love and beauty: When in this past year when did they feel a sense of awe, wonder and beauty? Did it satisfy them? Did the satisfaction last? What is that feeling? Where does it come from?
- Longing for the world to be just: What injustice is concerning them? This can be work or family related as well as national and global concerns.
- Longing for meaning: Do they articulate any larger sense of purpose and meaning in the way they describe their day to day lives? Do you hear an unfulfilled longing for meaning as they recount disillusionment or frustration?
- Longing to connect with Someone greater than ourselves: What kind of connection experiences did they have this year? Concerts? Sporting Events? Ask if those moments ever feel like spiritual experiences.
Call attention to these longings. Say, “Even though you say you don’t believe, I can see something at work inside of you. I believe you are a spiritual being with a soul who actually wants to connect with God. You’re just not sure how.”
If you would like to learn more about your family members’ spiritual longings, how to stir them up and where to go next, we invite you to read our “Beginner’s Guide to Stirring.” And we pray your time with family this Christmas will leave you feeling stirred rather than stuck.
Darin (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) lives with his family in Oxfordshire, England. With over twenty years experience in leading youth ministry and training youth workers, as well as developing and delivering degree-level modules in Theology, Mission and Youth Ministry, he now oversees Start to Stir.