Raising children with doctrinal diversity takes balance and creativity.

Raising Children in a Baptist and Catholic Household

by Patti Richards

Raising children in a Baptist and Catholic household can look more like a mini war zone than a place of spiritual instruction. Catholic and Baptist families have many similarities, but like a lot of denominations, they can tend to focus on what makes the religions different. Getting your preschooler to understand that both sides have something to offer in the way of faith training is the goal. Doing it without arguing with your spouse is the biggest hurdle.

1. Focus on the Similarities

The Baptist denomination, like all Christian faiths, has its roots in Roman Catholicism. Getting a Baptist to acknowledge that fact can be as tricky as using cloth diapers and safety pins. It’s important for parents to learn as much as they can about the faith of their partner in order to create an atmosphere of harmony. Both parents want rich religious instruction for their children, and showing respect for each other gives the kids permission to like both churches, learn as much as they can while there and eventually make their own choice.

2. Show a United Front

Toddlers and preschoolers are pretty perceptive when it comes to tension between Mommy and Daddy. Showing a united front about the importance of spiritual things in your home will help calm the denominational storm before it gets out of hand. Come up with a plan that is equitable to both churches and stick to it. Baptist churches usually have fully staffed nurseries and many Catholic churches do not, so attending where the nursery is best may be easier when your child is still a toddler. Once it’s time for formal instruction, like preparing for First Communion in the Catholic Church, a decision will have to be made about how to go forward. In the meantime stay united and take turns attending the different churches.

3. Holidays and Special Occasions

Luckily, both Catholic and Baptist churches share the same religious holidays and types of celebrations. This would be very different if a couple were Jewish and Christian or another combination of an interfaith household. When it comes to which church to attend for what holiday, consider an alternating plan. Just like you might alternate Christmas and Thanksgiving with your in-laws, choose which church to participate in at Christmas, Easter and at other times throughout the year. Try and incorporate the traditions of both into your home, like celebrating Advent during the weeks prior to Christmas and Lent the weeks prior to Easter; that way your child learns the significance of the traditions that both of his parents love.

4. Dealing With Grandparents

One of the hardest parts of a religiously divided house is dealing with Grandma and Grandpa. If you think you and your husband feel strongly about your churches, wait until you tell the grands that you won't be attending services with them regularly. The best way to avoid difficult confrontations is to head them off at the pass! Invite your in-laws, both sides, out to dinner. Talking calmly in a public place may cut down on any emotional outbursts. Tell the grandparents that you intend to raise the children in both places of worship for as long as is possible and that you are committed to a thriving faith environment in your home. If you present your case in a thoughtful and respectful manner you’ll have a better chance of making the grandparents understand and support your decision.

5. Handling Doctrinal Differences

Baptists and Catholics have many doctrinal differences, and working out ways to handle them can help children feel secure in both places of worship. Catholic churches practice infant baptism, while Baptist churches view baptism as an act of personal faith. One way to handle this difference is to have your baby baptized in the Catholic church and then let her reaffirm her baptism in the Baptist church when she is older if she is interested or feels compelled to do so. Tradition and ritual are extremely important in the Catholic experience, while Baptist churches spend less time on things like reciting the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostles’ Creed. To help your child feel she belongs in both places, make sure you are learning prayers and other things used in Catholic Mass at home. Saying the Lord’s Prayer together over a meal once or twice a week or learning other prayers and readings will affirm traditions and often make each experience more meaningful. At the end of the day, it's all about showing respect and making your home a place of spiritual peace and growth.

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