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
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.
He suggests we should be focusing on five essential areas in order to pass along the faith to future (and current generations). Links will be added as he publishes further articles on each area (check back here often).
- Intergenerational faith formation in the congregation
- Family faith formation in the home
- Age group and generational faith formation in a variety of physical places and online spaces
- Missional faith formation to the spiritual but not religious and the unaffiliated
- Online and Digitally-abled faith formation
Some resources and links to assist in implementing these areas and break open the box for doing things in a new, creative, innovative, and collaborative way:
- CandlePress offers resources to give to parents (personally or via e-mail) on how to celebrate the church seasons and faith practices at home.
- GenOn Ministries provides a wide-range of services, resources and support that help churches nurture the faith development of children and youth and develop lifelong disciples.
- The Rite Place is a liturgy geared to all ages that is inclusive and participatory. Located at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Illinois. Learn more here and in the video below.
- Rhythms of Grace was developed for families who have members on the autism spectrum. But many of discovered that this hands-on, sensory worship is inclusive and welcoming to all.
- Building Faith Brick by Brick by Emily Given offers a unique way to help children tell the biblical story using Legos™
- Liturgy for the Whole Church offers a variety of ways to engage all ages in worship: through music, storytelling, drama, movement, and the prayers of the people.
- Messy Church began in the United Kingdom as a means to invite children and families ‘back to church’ even if they had never set foot inside a church building. An intergenerational experience of learning a bible story and experiencing what Christian community is all about.
Tomorrow’s post: Part Four: Nurturing Networks