It’s the time of year when we gather with family. I love my memories of past holidays with my parents, grandparents, and extended family. One year we videotaped an “interview” with my Grandfather as a way of preserving family memories. It is a marvelous keepsake to watch. One thing we did not ask Grandpa about was his faith story. My Mom filled in the basics for me later, but I would have loved to hear his own words.
I’d like to encourage you in this holiday season, to take some time to “interview” the special people in your life. Documenting a family history of faith stories and memories is a gift that can impact generations to come. It’s also a marvelous way to have a deeper connection and conversation with your family members. (It’s also a great way to get people off their phones and into a conversation!)
There are a few ways to do this, and you may even decide you want to write out your own faith story/family legacy!
Writing a family history/faith story leaves a personal record for generations. It passes down family history and stories of faith to see God’s direction and how He “connected all the dots” in your life. We are all such unique creations and God works through our lives in many creative ways!
My Dad came up with the idea to write out his faith story, or as he titled it, “God’s Plan for Me as I See It.” He tried writing it out, but his handwriting was terrible. He also couldn’t get all the pieces of his life’s puzzle to fit into a cohesive story.
That’s where I came in. I put everything in chronological order with ideas for him to elaborate on. We had a lot of great conversations about how God changed his life, and how grateful he was to God.
My Dad wasn’t raised in any faith and had a Grandfather who was a pastor who left his faith. It was my Mom who introduced him to God, and Dad took it from there.
While working through his new-found faith, the twists and turns of his life finally made sense. Dad could see how God had worked out the details in both my parent’s lives so that when they first met, they had a common connection.
He wanted his grandchildren and future generations to see how God worked it all out. Dad could look back and understand how God worked through the good and the bad for His purposes to unfold. After all, he wrote, “God has never let me down!” It is an absolute treasure to have and reread from time to time.
“Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you…”
Psalm 107:2a NLT
Our stories are all so unique! Perhaps we were raised in a church and decided to follow Jesus at camp or in Sunday school. Chaotic home life and/or absent parents can set the stage for knowing we needed something we were missing. Sometimes a crisis in our lives brings us to Jesus in a big way.
God pursues each one of us long before we respond to him. We come to him in different ways and at different tempos, but all for the same purpose of living with him forever. It’s important to preserve family memories and record these events to see the “God Stories” of our lives.
Documenting Family Stories
Helpful Hints as You Begin
It’s a good idea to discuss your intentions beforehand. No one likes to be caught off guard, and it is sometimes better if there is time to think ideas through before beginning.
Begin with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and discussion.
Pray for direction and what you should focus on.
Have a glass of water handy. A lot of talking makes us thirsty.
Plan for no more than an hour at the most. This may be something you revisit often!
Bring photos or mementos and your own memories to ask about.
My Grandpa “invented” his own gas-powered lawnmower (onto a push mower) to mow his large farmyard. It was fun to hear how he concocted the plan!
My Mom and the Lawnmower- 1946
Be a good listener. No interrupting! Also, if you sense they don’t want to talk about something, or are uncomfortable, gently move on to the next question.
Begin your questions with “tell me about”, or “describe” or “how” to get more complete answers rather than a “yes” or “no”.
It’s totally ok for your subject to get off-topic. Your questions may spark a memory they want to share. And it can lead to some pretty interesting stories!
You can either record video, or write out an account of the answers given. I’m including a printable with the questions, but you may need a notebook handy.
Family Memories/Faith Story Prompts
You don’t need to ask all these questions. And you may think of other questions to add to this list:
Have them state their name and where they were born; if you are recording. Years from now, it may be important to someone who wasn’t close with or remember the person.
Tell us about your parents and family. What jobs did your parents have? How many children were in your family? Where down the line did you come in?
Describe a little bit about your childhood.
Did you grow up in a religious home? What was your family’s religious affiliation?
What early memories do you have of going to church? Did you like it?
Where did you go to school? What was your favorite subject?
Did you play any sports or musical instruments?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Were you baptized or dedicated? Did you attend Sunday school?
Was there an inspirational person who helped you grow the most in your faith?
Growing in Your Faith:
Who or what event brought you to a personal relationship with Jesus?
What changes did you make in your life after you met Jesus?
Do you have a favorite hymn and why?
Do you have a favorite passage of Scripture and why?
Growing As a Family:
How did you meet your spouse? Describe your first date.
We found out that my Grandpa, spurned by his then fiance’, met our Grandmother. He told her he had a farm out of state, and he was leaving soon; did she want to come with him?! Real romantic Grandpa!!
The Newlyweds- Emma and Helgo
Tell us about starting your own family.
What activities did your family like to do?
Describe a particularly memorable family vacation.
Tell us about raising your family and passing on your faith to them.
Seeing God Work in Your Life:
Can you think of a time where God worked through a difficult time or a setback in your life?
My dad was adamant that he would be a farmer. When he lost his small herd of cattle to disease, they sold the family farm. He “couldn’t take the disappointment of losing everything through no fault of my own.” What he saw later, was that God had not planned on a farmer’s life for my Dad. There was a young lady waiting in a nearby town he needed to meet…
What lessons did God teach you in the good times? In the tough times?
How has your relationship with Jesus changed over the years?
Who and/or what are you most grateful for in your life?
What would you like your family to know about your faith?
What is the biggest change in the world you have seen in your lifetime?
Concluding Your Interview:
Ask if there is anything that you haven’t talked about. They may surprise you!
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Preserving Family Memories
Recording our family’s precious memories prevents losing them forever.
My mother-in-law started a tradition of writing out our Christmas thoughts in a notebook. We even helped the little ones by recording their answers. She would type them up and give each family a copy. It’s so precious to reread some of the comments!
One year we recorded a memory of our younger son who was sent to his room for a “time-out”. Little did we know, that when Dad went up to have a talk with him, a cousin, feeling sorry for our son, had gone upstairs to be with him. Unbeknownst to us, he hid under the bed when “Uncle Mark” appeared! We had forgotten all about this until rereading it a few years later!
There are numerous ways to save all these great stories and memories. If you save them into paper documents, you can put them in a scrapbook or journal form. Video recordings are easily saved and shared. You may also want to try a digital scrapbook! I haven’t done this myself, but here’s a link to some freebies for all you creative on-line types: Sandra’s Ark: Scrapbooking Freebies.
Preserving these stories is really preserving God’s story. He is active and involved in our entire life. The stories we document can influence, motivate, and illuminate God’s work for others to see. However you choose to save them, preserving family memories and faith stories is a beautiful gift!
4 thoughts on “Preserving Family Memories”
What a great idea to video tape members of the family and their faith stories. We just don’t really have any members who want Jesus right now. But we have been praying and drawing the blood line in the sand to stop generational curses from affecting our daughters and hope they will have their own faith stories to tell one day. Thank you for this beautiful post Annmarie! ❤
We have that issue in our family too. Prayer, prayer and more prayer… Thanks for reading and the comment!
This is great!!
Thanks so much, Ann!
Thanks Cindy! It’s been a blessing for our family- wish we would have done more of it!