How can this be? A government agency can actually increase your child’s faith? Heresy! What about the separation of Church and Government!
This sounds like a riddle, but it is not. I have used the following methods with my own children and nieces and nephews. It works, they love it, and you will get priceless satisfaction in that you are teaching them and entertaining them at the same time.
The first item I will say is that this is work on your part. There is a fair amount of writing and planning involved in each of these methods. But what you put in is what you will get out.
The following ideas came out of my desire to stay in touch with my nieces and nephew. I was not thinking about faith. I was thinking about how can I teach and entertain them at the same time while giving them something they will remember. I live in another state and I do not see them that often. To be honest, they know me but I am not even a thought in their everyday life.
Then I thought about my own children and faith. How could I keep them connected to God? To add one more factor to this complex equation, all are preteen through 20. Not an easy demographic to capture their focus and attention.
That is the definition of a stacked deck. Here are my methods.
Write a handwritten letter
Gee whiz, this is so obvious! But in this digital age of texting, iChat, Instagram, tweeting, SnapChat, Facebook and who knows what else, a written letter gets their attention no matter the age.
This applies to all. Who does not love to receive a letter in the mail? We all do. These days, it is like a personal gift sent via an almost free service. Total cost is your time writing the letter and a stamp. The post office does the rest.
What should this letter say? Think about this: the hardest part in getting anyone’s attention, much less a teenager, is working around their divided attention. Phone calls and text messages are easily and frustratingly ignored. I know, I have tried. I am sure you have.
But what should the letter say? My letter strategy has four parts. Overall, I seek to make my message simple.
The first part is writing about something they can relate to. In this regard I wrote about my work and some of my difficulties with my coworkers which was my subtle analogy to the groups they observe at school. Yes, I put in difficulties. Whether it be my children who I see every day or a nephew I see once a year, I want to humanize myself. In this way, I am relatable and now have credence.
My next words, depending on length of letter, are positive. I don’t outright preach the Gospel, but I certainly explain how I apply the tenets to the situation. I try and do this in a humorous manner so it becomes fun but the real point sticks with them.
The third part of my letter always goes into how they are doing. I always ask questions, sometimes around adversity. Then I answer those questions with how I would deal with these issues. Some I leave open ended hoping for a return.
The fourth item I put in my letter is a referenceable story about a person who is our connection. This is always positive, always a bit funny, and always makes a point of why they should respect this person.
For instance, writing my nephew: I spoke about my sister, gave a funny story he would hear nowhere else but it would (hopefully) open his eyes to what a wonderful woman she is and the effort she brings to parenting. Again, I look to use the tenets of the Gospel or Scripture, but he would never know it. For example, I would look at the psalms and see how to apply one in the real world.
Write a multipart handwritten letter
WARNING: This takes planning but the payoff is big. In essence you are writing one letter and breaking it into parts, then staggering the mailing.
What I do is buy 5 cards. I write the letter online. Then I rewrite the letter sequentially on each card, ensuring that I leave a cliffhanger at the end of the card. This way they are waiting for the next card!
I follow the pattern established above if I don’t have something more immediate to say. I also let them know in that cliffhanger that the next letter is coming.
That is 5 letters delivered for less than four dollars. Think of the stories you could relay to your children or those close to you in a fun teaching manner.
One caveat, ensure to stagger the letters to account for delivery times. How cumbersome if letter four arrives before letter three!
Write a letter to them from them
How cool is this?! They receive a letter from themselves addressed to themselves from the USPO. The post office will deliver this. I have done this.
This can be extremely effective in times of stress and distress in a teen’s life. As a parent there is no more hopeless feeling than when you cannot reach your child. You see them in pain. You have something to say to them. You certainly don’t want to preach to them, as they will just tune you out.
As a parent we have navigated these waters. We forget what it is like to be a teen. Put yourself back there and then envision them 10 years from this point, 20 years from this point. My point is, you pick the point. What I have found is that the longer out you go the funnier the letter can get; however, it can be ridiculously unrealistic.
Use your faith as the guideline. How sticking to your faith, employing the principles, will pull you through. I would recommend not quoting the Bible chapter and verse. It depends on where the child is and how receptive they are to the Word. Remember the Word comes in many forms. And a powerful form of the Word is if it comes from them (through you) in the future delivered by our government for less than one dollar.
As a closing I have a few points to keep in mind.
- You are writing this letter and it is delivered to your child FOR your child. Do not expect a payoff from this in terms of some grand change. It may not come, especially immediately.
- Do not expect a response. I have never received a response from my nieces or nephew. At first, I was a bit agitated. I put my cell phone number in there and thought I would get an immediate call or text of how great my letter and creativity. That call never came. I forgot my first point! Instead I received a call from my sister explaining how glowing her kids were when they received the letters.
- You will get something positive immediately from writing the letter. You will learn about yourself, the Gospel, and how to teach effectively. You may not realize this as you write the first time. Each time you do it your hand will be guided by our Father giving you strength and wisdom.
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Get writing and let’s be thankful to the post office and how it can help increase faith.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Sounds like angels.
Copyright 2016 Peter Serzo
About the Author
Peter Serzo, observer, listener, author, speaker, and blogger. He shares his experiences at different Catholic churches at Dotirome.com and on his popular Priest Podcast, with enlightening conversation with those that lead (not a theology conversation but a conversation on being a priest/leader/human). Peter travels, visiting different Catholic churches satiating his curiosity and desire to spread each parish's uniqueness though his blog and presentations.