05 Becoming Spiritually Vibrant Households

Becoming Spiritually Vibrant Households


There are some factors in the development of our faith that are beyond our control. Namely, as chapter two covered, families of origin and personal heritage have a significant degree of influence on how a Christian is introduced to, grows in and expresses faith throughout their life. To some extent, one’s location, education, resources, housemates and even community are also fixed.

This report has looked at some of these established characteristics that shape the spiritual dimensions of our lives and how they affect Christian households today—but the data frequently point to other aspects that are the product of choice.

Ultimately, rituals and relationships have a meaningful impact on faith formation and can be replicated regardless of a household’s category or context. Namely, how much a household talks about faith, commits to shared spiritual disciplines or opens both heart and home to others is up to its members and leaders. The households that do all of the above have a certain vitality about them. In fact, the respondents that occupy households where these rituals are prioritized—which we’ll examine in more detail below—are prone to call their home atmosphere “loving” (70%), “joyful” (60%), “playful” (50%) and “nurturing” (41%).

Barna set about grouping the households in this sample to better understand practicing Christians who are most engaged both with their faith and with others, and who seem to enjoy a warm, interactive household environment in the process. The goal was to focus on factors that are not exclusive to a particular age or stage and indicate a commitment “to teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NIV). In addition, Barna wanted to understand the groups that are participating in these rituals and relationships with the most frequency. After all, in a shifting religious climate, plenty of Christians have relegated spiritual expression to their private sphere, and even the majority of nominal Christians (93%) discusses faith with housemates on at least a monthly basis. So what about the households that do so most consistently, alongside others within and beyond their home?

As stated, this study alone can’t really reveal the depth of a household’s spiritual interactions—but it can speak to a household’s diligence in this area. So Barna created a variable that sorts respondents by frequent engagement in three markers of an actively nurtured faith:


  • Spiritual practices—defined here as praying every day or
    two and reading the Bible weekly all together
  • Spiritual conversations—defined here as talking about
    God and faith at least weekly all together
  • Hospitality—defined here as welcoming non-family guests regularly, or at least several times a month


Using this stringent standard, this study presents a few possible combinations of spiritual attentiveness and community among the households of practicing Christians. Those four groups are:


  • Vibrant households, which frequently participate in spiritual practices, spiritual conversations and hospitality.
  • Devotional households, which frequently participate in spiritual practices and spiritual conversations, but do not often welcome non-family guests (a third, however, reports that relatives visit).
  • Hospitable households, which frequently host non-family visitors. When it comes to spiritual practices or spiritual conversations, this group participates in just one or neither activity.
  • Dormant households, which participate in none of these activities on a frequent basis. Some of these households engage in spiritual practices or spiritual conversations, though only occasionally. A third (35%) receives visits from family members.


A quarter of respondents in this study (25%) describes a household environment that is Vibrant. One-third (33%) qualifies as Devotional, a promising sign that the bulk of practicing Christians are in households that are at least mindful of spiritual growth. The community-builders in Hospitable households make up the smallest group (14%). Just over a quarter (28%) is Dormant, and may need the biggest push from church leaders to plug into relationships and rituals—or could benefit from the examples or outreach of other Vibrant, Devotional and Hospitable households.


Profiles & Patterns Related to Vibrancy

Factors like ethnicity, location and faith history do not produce significant differences among spiritually Vibrant, Devotional, Hospitable and Dormant groups, suggesting that, for the most part, spiritual vibrancy is not determined by unchangeable characteristics, but by things any Christian can improve. This is good news for church leaders and for the households that make up their congregations.

There are, however, some logical trends related to age and household type. For instance, Hospitable environments tend to be roommate situations (18%), and are thus most represented by Millennial (35%) and Gen X respondents (30%). This is understandable, considering those in this age group and context tend to lean a lot on community, but don’t necessarily share the same faith background or even daily routines as their housemates. Nearly half of the respondents who live in a spiritually Dormant home are Boomers (34%) and Elders (12%), so this category sees more couples-only residences (19%), an atmosphere that, though peaceful, is much less interactive. Spiritually Vibrant homes are those typically described by Millennial (35%) and Gen X (30%) respondents, and accordingly show a significant proportion of nuclear families (33%). Single-parent, roommate households and multi-generational households (14% each) are also somewhat more common in the Vibrant segment. The most obvious common denominator here is children, which is fitting considering the data repeatedly show that the presence of minors may augment spiritual attention and community activity. Devotional environments are relatively evenly dispersed across generations and household types, perhaps capturing a middle ground for all practicing Christians.

As you can see, though this segmentation of spiritual engagement organizes households by their decisions and activities rather than their makeup, some living arrangements and stages of life perhaps more naturally come by these enriching habits. This could be due to having more members, input, community and opportunities for interaction— but that’s not to say more crowded, younger or, frankly, louder households are somehow better. These habits are not exclusive to larger households or those with children; they can be cultivated in all household situations. Consider that the models of Vibrant and Devotional homes, though defined by their spiritual behaviors as a household, are also highly involved in other spiritual practices unrelated to their household context, like reading the Bible on one’s own (76% and 67%, respectively) or attending small groups (51% and 48%, respectively) each week.

The Vibrant Way of Life

Let’s Get Together

Vibrant households stand out most in that they have meaningful, fun, quality time with both their housemates and extended household members.

These are practicing Christians who know the meaning of play—and indeed, half call their home life “playful.” Every day or so, members of Vibrant households come together for games (32%), singing (31%), reading books (26%) or sports (23%). They share meals (63% eat breakfast together and 75% eat dinner together) as well as their feelings (59%) on almost a daily basis. Vibrancy also correlates with group discipline, like working on the house or yard together (34% every day or two) or hosting household or family meetings (68%).

On many of these points, Devotional households are not far behind, re-emphasizing the strong connection between housemates who are intentional about faith activities and housemates who are intentional about any activity. And though Devotional groups stop short of inviting others into their households, they are like the Vibrant in choosing to go out to gather regularly with their church community (84% and 83%, respectively, attend church weekly).

Hospitable households align closely with other spiritually Vibrant traits. Given that welcoming others is part of the definition for each of these groups, it’s not surprising that friendships play a great role in Vibrant and Hospitable households, with close friends (56% and 58%, respectively), as well as neighbors (28% and 26%, respectively) coming over several times a month. These groups lead the way in claiming friends who are so close as to feel like family (91% and 86%, respectively). Vibrant and Hospitable households are also more likely to depend on family members (especially moms or grandmothers) for help with finances, childcare or other household needs. Additionally, these households are quicker to name either family or non-family members they go to for advice or encouragement. Because of the way these more social households are determined, there is a natural skew toward having help—but there’s also the implication that outside influences and visitors add value to a household. The Devotional and Dormant households, meanwhile, appear to be more self-sufficient, rarely if ever looking to family members outside the home for assistance.

There are important lessons for the Church in examining the ways that spiritually Vibrant households do or do not overlap with others. Namely, good things happen when those who share a home also share everyday liturgies with one another. Good things happen when those who share a home habitually share their lives with others. And all of these good things—a support system, shared regimens, recreational and creative time, spiritual discipline—are amplified when both Christian devotion and hospitality become part of the ethos of a household.

Spiritual Coaching Correlates with Vibrancy

Regardless of their level of spiritual vibrancy, households are not significantly different when it comes to their beliefs in the accuracy of the Bible, a responsibility to share their faith, a traditional view of God or a personal commitment to Jesus. This suggests that a common doctrine or theology, on its own, doesn’t wholly shape and improve a Christian’s lifestyle or household. In other words, someone can have “right thinking” on their own and still withhold hospitality, neglect disciplines of the faith or fail to include those who are close to them in their spiritual lives.

Instead, members of Vibrant households learn positive spiritual lessons and behaviors together through intentional, reverent moments between household members. Spiritual coaches are remarkably consistent in Vibrant homes. Among this group’s distinguishing traits is the presence of someone who shares about God’s forgiveness (76% vs. 59% Devotional, 49% Hospitable and 32% Dormant), the Bible (73% vs. 53% Devotional, 38% Hospitable and 27% Dormant) or traditions (69% vs. 43% Devotional, 48% Hospitable and 29% Dormant). More than six in 10 have a household member who sets a spiritual example (73% vs. 58% Devotional, 57% Hospitable and 48% Dormant) or encourages church attendance (71% vs. 60% Devotional, 56% Hospitable and 45% Dormant).

Though marriages and mothers remain central relationships when it comes to discipleship interactions, close friendships are also crucial in Vibrant households. These bonds rank closely in setting strong examples; engaging in discussions about God’s forgiveness, the Bible or traditions; or commending church attendance. This syncs with other signs that friendship plays a big part in Vibrant households, and it is yet another clue as to the ways community completes a household of faith.

Within that community, and always at the periphery of this study, is the local church. We know that the practicing Christians in this sample are regularly in worship services, often with other household members. We’ll conclude this report by discussing: How do pastors and leaders best promote spiritual vibrancy? How can the Church as a whole better disciple individuals toward a faithful lifestyle of togetherness, intentionality and hospitality

Tips for Setting Up Your Home for Vibrancy

Before Barna conducted its quantitative survey of practicing Christians, we interviewed members of several highly active Christian households. Nuclear, multi-generational, single-parent and roommate contexts were represented. These in-depth, personal conversations not only helped inform the quantitative questionnaire, but provided practical tips and insights for building relationships and growing in faith as a household. Below are some recommendations and principles inspired by these individuals’ routines.

  • Pick a night for a weekly themed gathering, perhaps rotating hosting duties with other households. The people Barna spoke to mentioned supper clubs, game nights, “Crockpot Nights” and more.
  • In roommate households, or in homes where a boarder, nanny, au pair or other live-in caretaker
    or guest is present, housemates might need to make an effort up front to get to know one another’s backgrounds. FaceTiming with relatives, being a “plus one” for work parties or events or taking interest in others’ hobbies or side hustles are some ways to share more than just the utilities bill.
  • Get a kid-friendly Bible or devotional for a child, with the intent of having them read it with an adult, not just by themselves. One interviewee described being able to have meaningful, cross-generational conversations about the text, as well as learning from familiar stories through a new lens.
  • Sit down with your housemates to discuss if you’d like to make yourselves available not only to those who naturally come into your inner circle through work, school or family but to other individuals who could use your company or even a roof over their heads. Consider whether your home might make a warm temporary residence for visiting missionaries, a host home for refugees or a safe space for foster children.
  • Use a “speaking baton” (or other object) to direct family or household conversation at the dinner table. Whoever is presently holding the baton gets to share uninterrupted about their day, feelings, praise reports, interests or concerns. One parent told Barna this has been especially helpful with younger or quieter members of the household, ensuring everyone has a chance to be heard and respected.
  • One way to communicate the value of certain routines and disciplines is to not throw them out when guests come over. By inviting members of an extended household to also participate in activities like cleaning the kitchen, finishing homework or saying evening prayers, you communicate that these are not rigid chores done in private but valued rituals meant to be celebrated and shared.


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