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The “Three-Legged Stool” of Faith Formation

By Chuck Gilliam • Former ELCA Head of School

Christmas break always makes me feel like a bad parent. Eight kids, 2500 square feet, mix in a few rain days, and all of our sin natures are on full display. By week two, I am begging for school to start back as Christmas cheer is wearing off and the whining, fighting and general annoyance is reaching a fever pitch. It is during these times that I recognize how valuable the assistant coaches are that God has placed in our lives. These times remind me that I cannot do this on my own and I need help!

Like you, I have goals for all eight of my crew and most of those goals center around their faith. My primary goal is to see that faith formed in them so that God can use it in incredible ways as they grow and mature in Christ. It scares me to think that they may reject the faith and become like so many statistics we hear each year of students raised in Christianity who have walked away. I think we would all agree that our desire is to see them embrace Christ.

Many have described this process as a “three-legged stool” of faith formation. Each leg represents a source of influence in their lives. The first leg and arguably the most important is the home. It is impossible to overstate the value of being raised in a Christian home. When our children see parents that are committed to their faith, it is transformative in their lives. They see that model of a purposeful, Christian life, and God uses that to save and sanctify them.

Beyond the family, God has also given us the local church as a “second leg” to assist us in forming their faith. The weekly blessing of fellowship and worship is instrumental in showing our children the joy of belonging to the bride of Christ. Long after our influence is gone, their commitment to the local church will assist them in weathering the many storms of life. It will instruct them, encourage them, and at times confront them in their adult lives. When Abby left for college, finding a local church to become actively involved with was one of our top priorities.

Finally, the Christian school serves students with an intentional plan of faith formation. From the day they walk into ELCA, my children and yours are surrounded by staff members who love Jesus Christ. These staff members have chosen to commit their lives to a ministry of intentionally integrating biblical worldview into their content area. They are trained to think biblically and approach every issue from that context. Daily interactions with the staff begin to form the faith of our children and plant the seeds that will lead to a lifetime of faithfulness.

As we often say, the question for parents is not “Where will my child be five years after high school?” The question for Christian parents will always be “Where will my child be 1000 years after high school?” That question reminds us how critical the faith formation process is in their lives. When all three legs of that “stool” are in harmony, it is amazing how God uses it to produce a harvest of righteousness.

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