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Reimagining Faith Formation for the 21st Century: Engaging All Ages and Generations
Reimagining Faith Formation > Day 1: Questions to Ponder as you read

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Tanya (tmarie423) | 8 comments Mod
Good morning! I am so excited that you have joined us for this time of learning, study, and reflection. My prayer is that during these next 3.5 weeks we will take time to reflect on our ministry as we wonder, discern, and create together.

This week I invite you to consider the following:

1. Identify 5 essential elements/foci that you see as defining your ministry.

2. What challenges can you identify as you reflect on your current ministry?

3. Where do you see fear paralyzing your ministry:

4. Where might the spirit be leading you?

This week- You are invited to post in response to these questions or to offer your initial reflections as you work through the introduction and chapter 1. This will allow us to continue our conversation throughout the 3.5 week discussion.

As we journey together, may you be blessed as you reflect, discern, and listen to how God is leading you in your ministry.

Beth Fender | 3 comments I don't know that I would consider these the top elements defining my ministry (as a deacon appointed primarily to my conference's staff in discipleship and secondarily to a local congregation), but these are some that come to mind while reading chapter 1. I also see these as challenges, so maybe I'm answering questions 1 and 2 at the same time. :-) And I think I will stick with just three elements/challenges for now. I may come back and add more later.
1. Smaller congregations, with less paid (and theologically trained) staff. This means that more of the churches I serve are led primarily by lay volunteers, many of whom work full-time jobs. Even many of our pastors are part-time local pastors who work a day job and pastor one or more tiny churches on the side. Although I have a theological education, even I work full-time beyond the local church, and then essentially serve as an unpaid professional Christian educator, but with no time to develop programs/ministries in my local church to the degree I would like to do. I have tried for two years to write my own intergenerational curriculum, or at least compile it from a variety of resources, but find that I don't have the time or energy to do this well week after week. Some weeks are great. Some leave me just wanting to purchase printed curriculum - ANY printed curriculum.
2. Churches that are growing seem to be attracting families with no prior church affiliation (thanks be to God), so there are many children with no sense of the biblical story who are being raised by parents who were not taken to church as children. There seems to be little reinforcement of faith-based teaching at home in many cases. I used to send material home with my Sunday school families (actual books, website recommendations, coloring pages . . . ), but even the most "churched" families reported they weren't really using it much.
3. Because there is so much material available online (and thus people's access to theological material is not filtered through the church), church leaders and members seem to have trouble discerning what is useful to their faith and what is theologically or otherwise suspect. People can access Wesley's sermons, but they are just as likely (or more likely) to come across Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, or Joel Osteen. Church leaders are asking me how to select curriculum materials, and one of the big things I'm trying to do is teach them how to evaluate the theological perspective of whatever they have on hand. Just because something shows up in a social media meme doesn't make it theologically sound or even particularly helpful.

I would not say that fear is paralyzing my ministry. I would say that exhaustion paralyzes me much more. I often feel like there is so much that needs to be done and no one else to do it. And, I feel like the resources I need often don't exist, so I either have to develop them myself or settle for less than I aspire to do for my churches and my own congregation.

The Spirit has been saying to me lately that we are simply not doing a good enough job of passing on the faith to our own children (or the children of our communities). I feel like I need to find new ways of doing this, both for the churches I serve and for my own congregation. I am leaning in the direction of environments that look less like classrooms and more like families. I recently started a Facebook thread about behavior management in churches, and the responses I got seemed to be all about keeping children busy. I'm leaning away from "busy" and into spaces where people of all ages can reflect and process, where they can "be" and be known, where they can become disciples of Jesus and not just good church members.

In re-reading this post, it sounds very negative at times, and I really don't mean it to. Chapter 1 is all about challenges, and there are many. But I think it is also about possibilities. I'm excited that families and churches are becoming more diverse. I'm excited that we're realizing that parents are the largest influence on their children when it comes to passing on of faith. I wonder how we can move forward in new ways without completely stressing out (and losing) our volunteers, staff - even clergy.

Maureen Koziol | 2 comments I have to agree with Beth, I am excited that we are realizing that parents are the largest influence on their children when it comes to passing on faith to their children. It makes sense then for the church to provide resources to parents to help them accomplish this. What is that old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink? We've added a parenting page to our newsletter, use the "faith at home" part of our children's curriculum, created a monthly "Family Sunday" when we all worship together, and offer inter-generational opportunities for fun and service. It goes home but not used, the children/youth play games on their parent's phone during worship, and great attendance is once or twice a month. BUT I must remember that even if it is only one or two families, someone is benefiting from our efforts.

Appendix 1 (pg 26)is about the diversity of religiosity and practices of youth and young adults. This is the area where our church is struggling the most. The kids drift away - and I thought the problem was the transition from youth group to college. But the "Hemorrhaging Faith" study found that churches are losing more young people between childhood and adolescence than between adolescence and young adult years. That is scary! The drift is occurring earlier than we all thought.

message 4: by Joan (new)

Joan Walker | 1 comments I agree with all of the above. We have very few (like 5-7) children in grades K-6 SS. We still split among age groups because I have a dedicated teacher in each grade level, who don't mind a one on one, or two in the class. However, we will have 15-20 kids in worship, (which I am not complaining about). The challenge is the children don't interact with each other and the parents don't get to know each other. With so many working full time jobs it is a challenge to get them together at other times. I am doing a lot of experimenting right now. The largest challenge I have is getting my children's team, etc. to understand the shift of doing things differently. We are still very much in the same old box thinking frame of mind. It takes a long time to turn an ocean liner around, and I feel like that is what I am trying to do. I do, as Beth says, feel the Holy Spirit telling me to find what works with the current children, so they too can find their place in God's world.

Beth Fender | 3 comments Maureen, it IS scary that we are losing children even earlier these days. One of my current concerns is that we have a large (for us) number of children whose parents do not participate in the church - we pick them up for worship and Sunday school in the church bus. If we lose children whose parents are involved in church, at least there is a CHANCE they are getting something at home. I'm afraid I will lose these children before faith has a chance to take root. Even "churched" families don't necessarily stay in one church during the entire time they are raising their children anymore. I believe that children will remember how we made them feel much more than what we taught them - so then the question becomes, how do we create welcoming environments where we can plant the seeds of faith in what might be the very short time we have to influence these children? I have to say, it's been amazing to watch the unplanned intergenerational interaction with these children. Some of our older members, instead of being annoyed by noisy children in worship, have started inviting them to sit in their row and helping them know what to do in worship. These people know the children's names, and the kids run up and give them hugs on Sunday mornings. (Yes, I'm already thinking about background checks, but this was NOT a planned "program" of our church. It happened organically.)

Tanya (tmarie423) | 8 comments Mod
Beth, Maureen, and Joan- Thank-you for posting your comments, insights, and wisdom last week. I really appreciate your willingness to share and participate in this online forum. I am starting to see some common threads weaving in and out of your discourse. Each of your feedback points to the shifting that is taking place in our congregations, the challenges that arise as we begin to understand a new way is needed, and the hope that comes when we start asking: "Holy Spirit, where are you guiding us now?"

Beth- thank-you for helping us see exhaustion as a paralyzing factor in ministry- a reminder to us all of the need to practice and model self care. Also- I appreciate your wisdom that calls us to remember that children will remember how they felt at church much more than they will remember what information we give them.

Maureen- Thank-you for lifting up the home as an essential piece of faith formation and for lifting up the challenge we all face as leaders as we try to model and encourage healthy faith habits only to hear that persons are not "practicing" the faith at home. I am also excited to hear more about your resources that you are offering your families.

Joan- thank-you for the reminder that we are indeed working to turn a large ship and that takes vision, courage, patience, time, and perseverance. I appreciate your reminder of our call to help children find their place in God's world :)

Again- great questions and great wisdom. I invite you to take these thoughts/challenges/struggles alongside your faith in the Holy Spirit, and your hope for God's children as we move into chapters 3 & 4: Reimagining the Vision and Reimagining the Model...

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