Q&A with Traci Smith, author of SEAMLESS FAITH

Today I’m honoured to host a stop on Traci Smith’s Seamless Faith blog tour. I’ll be hosting a virtual interview with Traci about her new book, Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life. You should definitely pick up a copy—it’s chock full of great ideas and practices that will help parents, grandparents, and ministry leaders to nurture faith in children—and in the process you’ll find your own faith nurtured as well. I’ll be picking up a couple copies of the book for my siblings who have infants so that they can make the most of its contents from their children’s first years of life. On today’s tour stop, Traci hosts me in the virtual tour bus for some Q&A time.

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Dave: Let’s star at the beginning. How did this book come to be?

Traci: Like many things, I suppose, this book evolved over a long period of time. In my early years working with children and families in mainline churches I met a lot of families who wanted their family experience to be deeper and richer than it was. Racing from soccer games to football practice to homework to, yes, even church was a drag. They didn’t feel connected, they wanted more. Yet, when it came to faith, there was something daunting about it. Aside from prayers at the dinner table and bedtime, most families didn’t even know where to begin to try bring faith and spiritual practice into their homes. I imagined a book that could be practical and instructive and informative and jotted down some notes here and there. The impetus for actually writing down the ideas and getting them into book form was the birth of my two sons who were born very close together. As I rocked them and fed them in the middle of the night I sort of envisioned their future and realized that all of the ideas I had in my head weren’t just for other people’s children, they were for my own family as well.

Dave: The practices you share span the gamut of faith expressions and family life circumstances. How did you decide which ones to include?

Traci: I wanted there to be a variety of options so that there was something that would resonate with a lot of different family and personality types. I also knew that since the book would be organized into traditions, ceremonies, and spiritual practices, I would want there to be an even distribution between the three. I think of this book like a cookbook in many ways. Rarely does someone pick up a cookbook and try every single recipe, but really good cookbooks teach you some classics and then give you the tools you need to improvise.

Dave: What practices have been most helpful for your family?

Traci: Even though my children are still very small, we do a lot of the practices in the book: photo prayers, anointing, candle prayers for the sick and the evening blessing are some of our favorites. Some of the practices are more meaningful for my children whereas others take on greater meaning for me as a parent.

 Dave: One thing I love about this book is that you are clear that this book is for families. The practices in it not only benefit children, but all who participate in them—teens, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, and all the other folks who make up the messy and complex things that we call families. What sort of response have you received from this approach, as opposed to a focus particularly on forming faith in the children within families?

Traci: The response so far has been incredibly positive and people are curious and excited about it. Children have so much to offer to families and faith communities, not just as “students” or “learners” but as teachers and fellow travelers. Just as we teach our children about God, so too do they teach us about God. I’ve had many, many people tell me that they want to buy the book to use some of the practices with grandchildren. Many of the practices could certainly be adapted for extended families.

Dave: That’s great to hear, Traci. Even though I don’t have any children of my own, I imagine how I can use these practices with nieces and nephews and children in my faith community. There are just so many great practices in the book and you make it so easy to imagine how to weave them within the fabric of daily life. Have you cooked up any more good practices since you wrote the book? Or is there one that ended up on the cutting room floor?

Traci: I have a running list on my computer called “Seamless Faith Two” of all of the ideas that have come to mind since I wrote the book. Many of the ideas on that list come from things that people have told me since they’ve read the book or heard me talk about it. It gives me great joy to think about Seamless Faith being a book that will inspire others to use their own creativity and imagination and come up with their own practices. One of the chapters in the book is Ceremonies for Difficult Times and it deals with ceremonies families can have for death, anxiety, or other tough times. These are the times when we need to come together as a family and it’s helpful to have something to anchor us. As I continue to think about these ideas I am realizing that Ceremonies for Difficult Times could be expanded into its own work. There is so much more that could be said, but there is a nice representation in Seamless Faith I think.

Dave: I appreciate the fact that you don’t use these practices as means for teaching a particular lesson or “point,” but that you see them as ways for allowing all who participate in them to experience God firsthand and come to their own assumptions, beliefs, and interpretations. Can you share more about why you chose to take this route?

Traci: First of all, thank you for noticing, because that’s absolutely one of the defining features of the book, in my opinion. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I assume that any family that is connected to a church will have opportunities for their children to get the kind of religious education they are seeking. In that same vein there are a myriad of excellent children’s Bibles, children’s storybooks, and other helps to achieve this important goal. My focus, however, is on helping families practice their faith together in ways that help them grow closer to God while also growing closer together as a family. In my experience, families don’t want to know more about God, they want to experience the living God and to talk about the difference that God makes in their daily life.

Dave: Thanks for taking the time to grace my website with your virtual presence. I hope that Seamless Faith becomes a favourite among families near and far!

Traci: Thank you so much, Dave, for letting me stop by your corner of the internet. I hope your readers will want to sign up for my monthly newsletter, buy the book, and say hello at Faith Forward!

Traci Smith will be offering a PechaKucha presentation and leading an interactive breakout session at Faith Forward, May 19-22 in Nashville. Join us to learn more from her experiments in family faith practices.

Faith Forward and ChurchNext team up for free worldwide class april 7-14

I’m excited to be part of this fantastic (and FREE) class – but it’s only free April 7-14, so sign up at today at churchnext.tv

Will our children have faith? And how can parents, educators, and clergy help get them there? 4 dynamic children’s and youth ministry experts tackle these questions in this introspective course that will help you learn, and preview the 2014 Faith Forward gathering.

Take this course with a class of ChurchNext students from around the world. Registration includes:

  • Free 24/7 access for one week to all video lectures, downloads, and course content.
  • Video lectures with Dave Csinos, Ivy Beckwith, Melvin Bray, and Danielle Shroyer
  • Downloadable Discussion Questions for groups and The Takeaway, for personal study.
  • Interaction with other students through discussion questions and sharing notes.
  • You can register for this class beginning March 17. You may take the class anytime between April 7-14 for free

In this class, 4 keynote speakers who will be appearing at the 2014 Faith Forward gathering, entitled ‘Reimagining Children’s and Youth Ministry through Theology, Story, and Rhythm,’ share their insights into what this reimagining should look like. Lessons include:

  • Where Are We? with Dave Csinos
  • Reimagining: Theology with Ivy Beckwith
  • Reimagining: Story with Marvin Bray
  • Reimagining: Rhythm with Danielle Shroyer

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10 reasons to come to Faith Forward 2014

10. Collaboration and connection with co-conspirators who are forging new ways of doing ministry with young people.
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9. Music and artistry from Aaron Niequist, Sharon Irving, Southern Word teens, and others.
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8. Valuable resources from like-minded sponsors and exhibitors.
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7. FUN! Southern-fried goodness, line dancin’ and honky-tonkin’ at Wildhorse Saloon, a Nashville landmark.
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6. Interactive workshops that inspire and equip – led by practitioners who are creatively re-imagining children’s and youth ministry.
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5. A totally unique and diverse line-up of speakers, thought-leaders, and artists.
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4. Progressive theological and methodological content that resonates with you and your ministry.
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3. It’s affordable! Only $299 for four days of events.

 

2. Creative and interactive worship space curated by Lilly Lewin and pastoral care opportunities with Amy Butler.
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1. A truly ecumenical gathering – a wide breadth of denominational traditions and theological inflections will be represented, making Faith Forward one of the most diverse and inclusive gatherings for children’s and youth ministry workers.
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Faith Forward 2014

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In 2012, hundreds of leaders, ministers, volunteers, parents, and students gathered in Washington, DC, for “Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity” (CYNKC) a groundbreaking gathering about spiritual formation, young people, and the future of the church. After the success of this event, CYNKC founder Dave Csinos launched Faith Forward as a not-for-profit organization aimed and continuing the movement that began at that historic event in Washington. Faith Forward is an ecumenical Christian organization that brings together forward-thinking leaders in children’s and youth ministry for collaboration, resourcing, and inspiration toward innovative theology and practice.
It’s with this vision in mind that Faith Forward will host its 2014 gathering in Nashville on May 19-22 (www.faith-foward.net). By bringing together pastors, Christian educators, youth leaders, denominational representatives, parents, and allies, Faith Forward will push the boundaries of what it means to form faith with youth and children. The 2014 gathering will be unlike any other. Events include:
  • Presentations from an all-star lineup of speakers, including yours truly, Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, Andrew Root, Sandy Sasso, Anne Wimberly, Melvin Bray, Mark Yaconelli, and many others
  • Unique workshops offered by cutting-edge practitioners and leaders
  • Music led by Aaron Niequist and Sharon Irving
  • Worship space curated by Lilly Lewin and pastoral care opportunities from Amy Butler
  • A spoken word performance by teens from Southern Word
  • Resources and exhibits from all sorts of organizations
  • Opportunities to forge relationships across denominations, traditions, and perspectives
Join me and many others in Nashville as we re-imagine children’s and youth ministry, May 19-22. Visit www.faith-forward.net for more information and to register.
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Children and the adult weird-ification of communion

Came across this great piece about children and communion through Nadia Bolz-Weber, who said, “Children should not be allowed to receive the Eucharist because they don’t understand what it means, my ass. Anyone who runs to it or yells ‘thanks!’ gets it more than I.” Is it the kids who do the “weird” things, or do we adults weird-ify communion? Weird is in the eye of the beholder.

Here is some cool stuff kids teach me about communion based on things that have happened to me:

  1. Run down the isle. It is okay to run down the isle for communion. In fact shouldn’t we all be running to feast with Christ? Next time, don’t walk to communion – run.
  2. Take communion with a stuffed animal. This should be acceptable, as long as the stuff animal is served communion as well. Kids understand that everyone is welcomed to the table. Human and teddy bear alike.
  3. Drink every drop. It is critical that every drop of grape juice and morsel of bread is consumed at communion. Who cares is people are waiting behind you to move back to their pews, you do not leave that table until you have been able to take ever last moment you can with Christ..
  4. Ask for a “big piece”. Why settle for just a little bit of Christ? Don’t we all want a “big piece” of Christ?
  5. Dunk the whole piece into the cup. If you get to dip the bread into the juice, soak that bread and be sure to no worry about drips or stains (see points 3 and 4 for justification).
  6. Seek out the leftovers. The bread of Life is too good to discard in the trash or fed to the birds. That is why we eat all the bread after worship.
  7. Being shy is okay. Kids understand that it is an honor to be at the table of God and they do not demand a place but know that it is a treat to be there. Being shy to kids is like being humble to adults. Humility at the table of God? Great idea.
  8. Laugh. Partaking in the banquet of God is a joyful event! Smile, laugh and if you need to, put a rubber crocodile on your head and make the pastor laugh with you.
  9. Express thanks. One thumbs up at the meal is something, but two thumbs up is great.
  10. Save some for later. Putting bread into your pocket seems like a reasonable way to take Christ into the world.
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