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Three years ago Lutheran Hour Ministries began a partnership with Barna Group to better understand how faith is impacting people in America during the 21st century. In our first study, Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age, we learned about how individuals are interacting with faith through conversation. When LHM embarked on the second year of its three-year partnership, we delved into Households of Faith to learn how households practiced their faith together, and not just as individuals by themselves.

The research surveyed 2,347 practicing Christian adults and teens to "learn from households that appear to be exceptionally engaged in communal and consistent faith expression in the home." In its monograph, Households of Faith: The rituals and relationships that turn a home into a sacred space, Barna developed a custom metric that sorts households by reports of collective, frequent engagement in key behaviors:

  • Spiritual Practices-defined as praying every day or two and reading the Bible weekly all together;
  • Spiritual Conversations-defined as talking about God and faith at least weekly all together; and
  • Hospitality-defined as welcoming non-family guests regularly, or at least several times a month.
Households that frequently participated in all these activities are what Barna refers to as spiritually vibrant. Only a quarter of respondents in this study (25%) described a household environment that is spiritually vibrant. Others described homes that are devotional (only participate in spiritual practices and spiritual conversations), hospitable(only practice hospitality), or dormant (do not participate in any of these practices on a frequent basis).

While it may be tempting to dwell on the dormant households in America, for LHM President and CEO Kurt Buchholz the findings on spiritually vibrant households were much more encouraging. "Spiritually vibrant households share traits that can be nurtured within any household. It's this finding that has me particularly excited," he says. "The qualities of these vibrant households where faith is nurtured in a beautiful, lasting way, are obtainable for any household-no matter the size or make up-which is good news for the cause of the Gospel. Any spiritually vibrant household can become, over time and with intention, a spiritually vibrant household of faith."

While the research offered some timely, high-level insights, it also only scratched the surface about fostering a vibrant home. In his soon-to-be released book titled The Spiritually Vibrant Home, LHM Content Development Manager Don Everts shares that the research findings sparked a profound curiosity: What do spiritually vibrant households look like? And can households armed with that knowledge strive to become more spiritually vibrant? Check out Everts' personal story in the following excerpt from his book.

A Homelife Assessment that Applies to Everyone
This curiosity was so strong I decided to start a year-long class starting not with clarity but with curiosity. I gave the class a vague title, 'Households of Faith,' and watched as 40 people made their way into classroom 3205 on that first Sunday.

These 40 people included physically tired parents of young kids, emotionally tired parents of teenagers, battle-tested grandparents, and a few single people who were wondering if the class would be relevant to them at all.

The first week of class I stood up front and confessed that I wasn't starting with much clarity but with strong curiosity. I told them not to think of it as a class but rather as a learning lab, and I invited everyone there to join me in holding the Bible in one hand, the Barna research in the other, and exploring together what exactly a spiritually vibrant home looks like and how we could put that knowledge to use in our own homes.

That's exactly what we did. We met on 21 different Sundays over the next nine months. We studied 83 passages from the Bible and dozens of graphs and infographics from Barna. We asked lots of questions. Not just questions about the Bible and Barna, but honest questions about our own households-those we grew up in and those we were now a part of shaping.

That's when the tears started to come. And it wasn't just one person. Lilly felt a mixture of hope and disappointment as she honestly assessed the spiritual health of her own young household: "I Just don't feel like we're spiritually vibrant at all ... more like spiritually dormant." But she wasn't alone. Martha, a mother of two and grandmother of three, felt a mixture of regret and empowerment as she honestly assessed her own parenting back in the day and the opportunities she has now as a grandparent. Mark felt a mixture of sadness and hope as he considered how dads in general are doing in Christian homes across the country (not that great) and how he could do more as a spiritual coach in his own home.

We all found there's something inherently emotional about considering the home. While the research findings were seemingly benign and the Scripture passages were somewhat familiar to us, there's something unavoidably nontheoretical about considering the home.

Here, I'll show you what I mean. Spend a few moments looking at some of the at-a-glance findings from the research that we looked at during our first month together (check out the accompanying graphic).

Perhaps, like some of the men in our learning lab, you are a father and reading about the "small role" fathers tend to play in the home makes you angry. Or sad. Or disappointed. Whether or not you are a father, perhaps reading about fathers' small role stirs up regrets (or latent gratitude) about your own father's role in your household growing up. We felt those emotions too.

Or perhaps reading about "faith heritage" stirred up emotions about how the Christian faith was (or wasn't) handed on to you when you were growing up. We had lots of thoughts and feelings and reflections about our families of origin.

If you are a parent, reading about faith heritage might make you wonder how good a job you are doing at handing on the Christian faith to your own children. All of us parents in the room wondered those same things.

If you are single, reading a few findings about spouses and households may make you feel left out of the conversation once again, wondering why every Christian book or sermon or devotion seems to be centered on couples or families. The single folks in our learning lab wondered the same.

Or perhaps you are an empty nester and, like our faithful table of grandparents, you want to leave more of an imprint on your grandchildren but aren't sure if that is possible or how you would even begin to do that. Maybe reading about how isolated empty nesters can be makes you wonder if your chance at influence is over.

Perhaps these initial emotions make you wonder whether you should keep reading. That's basically what I was feeling after Lilly shared her heart with all of us and everyone turned back to look at me. Is the home just too personal to assess? Is it too convicting to study the shape of spiritually vibrant homes? Is there any hope we can help our own imperfect households become more spiritually vibrant over time?

Rather than shuttering the class that warm Sunday morning last fall and resigning ourselves to the status quo in our homes, we pressed on. We looked carefully at what the research reveals about the shape and habits of spiritually vibrant homes. We studied what the Bible reveals about God's design for our households and how helpful Jesus is in growing the spiritual vibrancy of households. And we held the Bible and Barna up like a mirror, getting honest about our own households.

Our consensus after nine months? There is real hope and healing power for all of us. We learned more about ourselves and our homelife than we thought we would. We were surprised and humbled and convicted and encouraged by what we saw in our homes and in God's Word. We created homework and tried new things in our homes. We shared the results with each other and laughed and cried. In the end, we saw God change our homes in ways small and big.

I'm glad we pressed on. And I encourage you to do the same. No matter what kind of home you grew up in, no matter what your home looks like right now, the truth is God made you to be a part of a spiritually vibrant household that grows more spiritually vibrant all the time.2

Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors
One of the fruits of this learning lab was the creation of The Spiritually Vibrant Home. In this book, Everts invites us to contemplate what the Bible says about households and consider what this research project has revealed by pulling back the curtains on everyday households of faith. The research shows that some of the healthiest, most vibrant homes extend beyond the nuclear family and include people that may not be biologically related but feel like family. These households have vital practices of spirituality, hospitality, and community that make them delightful places for living and thriving.

The journey begins by exploring the spiritual significance of everyday, mundane happenings at home and then addresses the somewhat surprising way the Bible talks about homes. The book then takes a deep dive into the three elements that spiritually vibrant homes have in common by offering a twist on the definitions and several examples of application:

Messy Prayers
Loud Tables
Open Doors

"This book provides Christians with a roadmap to developing intentional rhythms that nurture their spirit, honor their heavenly Father, and pass on their faith to the next generation," says Brooke Hempell, senior vice president of research for Barna Group.

"This whole process has given me hope for my own household and steps to take toward spiritual vibrancy," says Everts. "That gives me the courage to invite you along for this journey to see what God's Word proclaims and the latest research confirms about we humans and our homes.
"In the end you might just be surprised by how God wants to work in and through your household," he continues. "And you'll have practical steps for nurturing a vibrant household of faith, no matter what stage of life you are in."

Toolkit of Resources to Build a Spiritually Vibrant Home
Lutheran Hour Ministries developed an extensive library of resources for the home that are included in the Households of Faith Kit available now. The contents of the kit are valued at $65 but will be available for $37 at lhm.org/households. In addition to The Spiritually Vibrant Home book, several additional resources will be included in the kit. Check out the materials below (each item will also be sold separately):

Households of Faith Monograph
How Christians order their days and connect with relatives and housemates is a critical aspect of spiritual growth. Households of Faith presents a vivid portrait of the domestic lives of U.S. practicing Christians. In addition to all-new research and data visualizations, Households of Faith provides vital principles to strengthen followers of Christ, their homes and, ultimately, the family of God.

Households of Faith Small Group Study DVD
This four-session video study explores the research in the Households of Faith monograph and helps you apply it to your household. It details three habits that LHM's Barna-based research found were active in spiritually vibrant households. These households
1) apply spiritual disciplines;
2) extend hospitality; and
3) engage in spiritual conversations.

The Vibrant Conversations Deck
Not only can these cards be used to play your favorite card games, but The Vibrant Conversations Deck contains 52 great questions in four categories: applying spiritual disciplines, extending hospitality, engaging in spiritual conversations, and food and fun. You can use these cards to spark spiritual conversations around your own table, in the car, or wherever your household is gathered together.

The Household Magnet
This notepad magnet says, "As for me and my household we will ..." followed by plenty of space for your household members to identify and record areas of focus. (For example, "In February we will invite 10 people over for a meal.") This magnet can live on your refrigerator as a reminder of your household's vibrant next step as you work together to nurture faith within your home.

30 Days of Household Devotions Booklet
This booklet contains 30 different devotions written by Dr. Kari Vo, LHM's theological writer. They can be used consecutively as a month of devotions or occasionally per time and topic. An introduction gives tips on doing devotions in your home and additional information is provided on accessing devotions online.

Booklets for Parents: Helping Your Child Have a Relationship with God, Helping Your Child Grow Through Faith Conversations, and Helping Your Child Welcome Others
Parents have high hopes for their children's faith, but don't always know how to get them there. These booklets help parents
  • nurture their child's relationship with God by exploring how to partner with God using two practical rhythms that will help their child learn how to pray to God and understand His Word;
  • grow their child's faith through spiritual conversations by discovering how to use Jesus' methods and cover Jesus' topics in conversations in their everyday lives; and
  • develop strategies to encourage their children to be hospitable toward others. Supporting Bible passages and vast experience from the author working with children give parents numerous tools and resources to utilize.
Booklets for Children: Learning to Pray, Welcome, and The Bible Tells Me So
These booklets are geared towards pre-school to third-grade children. The booklets will encourage children to
  • spend time with God in prayer;
  • learn, through words and pictures, how important it is to be welcoming to others-just as God has invited and received us into His kingdom "home"; and
  • read several key Bible verses that speak to God's love, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His words of guidance as a reminder to look to the Bible for learning how to live their lives for God.
Get Started Today by Taking an LHM Learn Course!
LHM Learn
offers three FREE courses based on the Households of Faith research:

Me and My Household: Explore the concept of households in the Bible and in our culture today. This course will equip you to map your whole household and consider just how vibrant it is.

Building a Vibrant Household: Explore spiritually vibrant households and the three characteristics revealed by research that any household can nurture. It will equip you to evaluate your own household's vibrancy and to take the next steps in building a more vibrant household.

Open Doors: The Art of Hospitality: Take a deeper dive into the vibrancy characteristic of Christian hospitality. Learn what the Bible says about welcoming the stranger and join us in the Open Door Challenge.

Check out lhm.org/learn today to get started on one of these FREE courses. They each offer self-paced learning, time for self-reflection and journaling, easy access on any digital device, and so much more!

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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