Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 5

This is the fifth part of a series of posts stemming from a presentation I did at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. Read Part 1: How Did We Get Here? and Part 2: Today’s Context and Part 3: A New Ecosystem and Part 4: Nurturing Networks

weather vanePart Five: Where Do We Go From Here?

Over the past several days I’ve outlined the history of Sunday Schools, the context of the world in which we find ourselves today (very much like the early Church), the emerging ecosystem which requires us to focus our energies in new directions as well as creative ways, and how technology has opened up opportunities for personalization and customization of program delivery. But tapping into technology to solve the concerns we have is not the answer. Hybrid networks and models may assist us in counteracting what some headlines proclaim, such as “Is the Sunday School Doomed?” but we shouldn’t put all our prayers into that basket.

The Sunday School is not doomed, but if we continue to develop our programs for children, youth, and adults on the pedagogy of the 19th and 20th century, we are dooming ourselves.

What IS working in formation today in our churches? Plenty. Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 5

Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series of posts stemming from a presentation I did at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. Read Part 1: How Did We Get Here? and Part 2: Today’s Context and Part 3: A New Ecosystem

Networked TeacherPart Four: Nurturing Networks

In our new ecosystem, we have available numerous tools to connect with one another beyond our church buildings. As we help equip our members (and others in our communities) to learn more about the Gospel, develop spiritual practices, and  nurture their children’s faith development at home we can provide numerous entry points of engagement. We are all networked – through our smart phones, computers, and other digital devices. We can research any topic we have an interest in, and many research about God, Jesus, and religion. But are their Google™ results compatible with our faith tradition and practices? There are a variety of ways we can help connect and collaborate in our learning and formation – but we need to find (or create) the content we want to share. Scott Thuma wrote an article on Building Faith in March 2012 entitled, Virtually Religious: Technology and Congregations that gives an insight on why we need to be moving in this direction.

Hybrid networks are one of the ways churches are beginning to experiment and try new models of faith formation. Connect with people where they are at times that are convenient to them – for we know that Sunday morning is not the best time for everyone anymore. Randall Curtis, Ministry Developer for Youth and Young Adults in the Episcopal Church in Arkansas shares how the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Seminary is helping congregations do just this: Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 4

Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 3

This is the third part of a series of posts stemming from a presentation I did at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. Read Part 1: How Did We Get Here? and Part 2: Today’s Context

the-futurePart Three: A New Ecosystem

We know things are broken in how we are doing Christian education in our churches today (for the most part). It is often difficult to determine how they got broken, what the cause was (which is usually not just one thing), and how we can make corrections for the better. John Roberto, of Lifelong Faith Associates and Vibrant Faith Ministries suggests we need a new ecosystem for faith formation:

One of the most important tasks for 21st century faith formation is to create a new faith formation ecosystem for the continuing mission of making disciples and forming faith across the whole life span. What is an ecosystem? An ecosystem is a system formed by the interaction of a community of living organisms with each other and their environment. It is any system or network of interconnecting and interacting parts.
For well over 100 years in the US, Christian churches had a highly integrated religious ecosystem. It was comprised of multigenerational family faith practice and religious transmission at home; strong congregational community relationships; church life, especially participation in Sunday workshop; weekly Sunday School for children and youth (and in many cases, adults); and separate church groups for youth, men, and women. All of this was surrounded by an American culture that explicity or implicity supported the Christian value system and Christian practices.
This ecosystem has eroded and changed over the past several decades because of all the changes in the culture and society, the family, technology and communication and more. The environment has changed, and the relationship between congregational faith formation and its environment has changed. We need a new faith formation ecosystem that must be faithful to our mission of making disciples and lifelong faith growth, and at the same time be responsive to the challenges of the 21st century and the religious needs of people today.

Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 3

Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 2

This is the second part of a series of posts stemming from a presentation I did at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. Read Part 1: How Did We Get Here?

Part Two: 21st-century-classroom-2cbd20d Today’s Context

While trying to make Sunday School “fun,” we’ve lost many who did not make the connection from the games and craft projects to becoming a disciple of Jesus 24/7/365. What was once seen a sporadic attendance at worship and education offerings is now considered “regular attendance” (once or twice a month). Christian Smith, in his longitudinal studies explored in Soul Searching and Souls in Transition, describes the theology of today’s young adults (and I would theorize many adults and high schoolers) as Moral Therapeutic Deism.

  • God exists, created the world, and watches over the earth.
  • God wants people to be good and nice to others.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy.
  • The only time God needs to be personally involved in one’s life is when one has a problem needing to be resolved.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

As I explained these attributes, one participant in the workshop commented, pointing to a handmade poster hanging on the classroom wall that pictured a large red heart with the words, “Be kind to each other.” Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 2

Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 1

Over the next several days and posts, I will share a presentation given at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. 

THe-broken-Church-X2Part One:
How Did We Get Here?

The world around us is changing – is our church changing for the context in which we now find ourselves? However, we must remember that the gospel message has not changed at all – but how we share it and the methods we use to engage others in following The Way needs to meet people where they are – children, youth, and adults.  In order to understand where we need to go, we need to understand why we do what we do today and where we have come from.

A little history . . . since the time of Christ there have been times of transition that influenced and were influenced by theology and educational praxis (how we learn and practice) of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: (1) Apostolic Age – first four centuries – disciples went forth into communities to share the gospel in a world that did not know Christ; (2) Christendom – 4th→10th/11th centuries – Christianity became part of the “state”; (3) Middle Ages in which the Church, as an institution, held a monopoly on the gospel that left lay people “in the dark” → leading to the Reformation, a transitional time of being drawn back to the roots of Christianity for the people; (4) Modernity [the Age of Reason when answers were sought to all questions] – 17th→20th century; and Post-Modernity = Today. And we are in yet another transitional time. Read more: Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence. Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 1