Faith Formation at Home: The Family Altar Model

Aug 11, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Sparkhouse

During this time of pandemic, maybe your church has opted not to do Sunday school at all. There are a lot of reasons to make that choice, including not wanting to overwhelm parents or push more screen time for kids. But you also know that faith formation for kids remains important. One way churches can approach children’s faith formation that isn’t Sunday school is the family altar model, where families read the Bible and talk about faith around the dinner table.

This is actually a very old, but still very relevant, way for families to connect with Christ and one another. Family units have long been the primary vehicles for passing on faith to the next generation, and mealtimes were more communal in times with less technology and fewer activities. In many families, mealtimes during the days of sheltering in place became communal once again—less about individuals staring into screens or grabbing something on their way to yet another rehearsal or game, and more about families coming together to design something delicious. More cooking. More baking. Back-of-the-cupboard and bottom-of-the-freezer items were surfaced during times when shopping and eating out became difficult. This in itself became a parable of reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost!

Along the way many families unchained themselves from those ubiquitous devices to actually prepare and enjoy meals together! Once prepped, set, eaten, and cleared, many family tables have become a family altar where those stories, prayers, and caring conversations could be had. If you’re struggling to figure out how to pray together, check out Frolic Prayer Cards (for families with young children), Prayers for Faithful Families: Everyday Prayers for Everyday Life (for families with elementary-age children), or Ordinary Blessings (for families with youth).

Light a candle, talk about the day’s highs and lows, read from your Sparkhouse Bibles, engage with enlarged (placemat size!) Spark and Whirl children’s bulletins (the Whirl ones are found in the Director Guides), and stay in the rhythm of the church year and in touch with God even when you may not be going to church at the moment.


  • Pro: Helps families engage in faith formation together at home
  • Pro: Requires minimal prep (just email bulletins, coloring pages, etc.)
  • Pro: Encourages Bible reading at home
  • Con: No live interaction time with your church community
  • Con: Many parents don't feel comfortable or adequately equipped to lead faith formation in the home

Topics: family, family dinner, Family faith, COVID-19, Coronavirus


Written by Sparkhouse


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