Turning Families Inside Out

Photo by Daniel Funes Fuentes

Last week I read sociologist and family ministry guru Diana Garland’s new book, Inside Out Families: Living the Faith Together. Synthesizing interviews with over 100 Christian families known for serving together, along with survey data from thousands of others, Garland concludes that something unique and powerful takes place within families who invest time and resources beyond themselves.

And it’s not just about someone within the family serving.  It’s about the family serving others together, as a family.  Garland plays with what a “family faith” might look like—something that feels quite in opposition to our Western ideal of highly-individualized and privatized faith. The more she explored what was going on in families, the more evidence surfaced that the way we live out family faith is a powerful predictor of individual faith.  As she shares,

I came to understand faith as the melody of our lives.  The songs we sing are far more than the written words and notes on a page. …We do not communicate faith just by spouting what we believe to be the central truths.  We live it; it has to be illustrated.  Like a song has to be sung to be music, so faith has to take shape in action, in doing.  Family stories are like words sung to the melody of faith.  ((Diana Garland, Inside Out Families: Living the Faith Together (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 19.))

As it turns out, surveys from 7,300 church members showed that those who were already involved in service to those in need also prayed, read their Bibles, attended worship services, shared their faith with others (evangelism), promoted justice, and gave more financially than those not serving.  Serving, as it turns out, “is the most significant and powerful contributor to faith for teenage and adult Christians.” (p. 42). More tomorrow from this interesting book…