From time to time the Forma Facebook Group has a post from someone (clergy, youth minister, Christian educator) who is asking if anyone has a “rubric” for what children should learn in each year of “Sunday School” (or whatever you call it). I don’t want to disparage anyone who asks such a question; we live in a culture of moving from one milestone to another and having to “prove ourselves” in our accomplishments – especially if you want to “move on” to the next step, phase, class, or even graduate with that degree. And often employment, promotion, or a raise is determined by our success. But honestly, this question drives me nuts.
For those of you who have known me for years, I get this sort of question all the time. What curriculum should we be using? What should we be teaching? What does the Church (in my case, the Episcopal Church) say we need to teach? To that I always answer, “There is no one answer. Tell me about your context.” What would Jesus say? “Love one another.”
I don’t want to rehash my mantra here. (I’m saving that for other subsequent posts in the coming weeks as I dig through old boxes of books, articles, and research papers written.) But I will share what I have learned in my 40 years of ministry – benchmarks don’t form disciples of Christ.
As I introduced the group to the Confirmation Collaborative. Basically, anyone who is gathered to discuss best practices of confirmation as well as share stories and struggles about making this catechetical time a catalyst for ongoing faith formation in our congregations. One of our discussions centered around having mentors for confirmands. What does this entail? Who does the choosing? What do mentors actually do?
Gail Sheehy, the author who did pioneering work about the various passages of life, recommends some tasks to consider during the fifth decade of life. She said that some of the most important work is in having and being a mentor. Will Willimon writes in Making Disciples: Mentor’s Guide:
As noted in a previous post about results of The Confirmation Project and the Confirmation Collaborative, curricular resources are not the key to a good confirmation “program.” However, many churches still depend on written materials, programs, and “lessons” to form the basis of their confirmation program with youth. When the press release of the Confirmation Collaborative came out, many got in touch with me about what new resources (aka curriculum) we were going to develop, including The Living Church. Somehow I feel that the whole point of the Collaborative was missed. Sadly, the Church automatically goes to default when formation and confirmation are discussed.
While the Living Church initially requested information from me about what new materials are in the works to be published, I was glad to see that their article did focus on the process in “Raising Confirmands in the Way They Should Go.” I think I would have appreciated the title “Raising Confirmands in the Way WE Should Go, but it takes awhile to move that needle. In the article, Lisa Kimball states:
“They don’t want the teacher in the front of the room lecturing about those things,” Kimball said. “They want to be learning pedagogically and be more engaged in participatory ways.”
Many of the formative experiences in life happen when several generations are together. Think about it – when were you fully engaged in learning about Jesus or living out your Baptismal Covenant? Surely it wasn’t when you were alone. Perhaps it was in serving others or immersed in a worship service. Most likely there was more than one generation present. In our society we tend to separate people by age mainly for education and employment. In the recent past, Christian formation programs have made the same separation of generations, but more and more formation educators are offering programs in which adults and children learn together. It is a way to pass on faith – generation to generation. Old learn from young, and young learn from old.
While Sunday mornings may still sadly be the most segregated time in our country (at least for mainline church-goers), it is the most generationally diverse time many of us experience all week. Our worship involved young and old, and every age in-between at worship.
Over the past several months, The Way of Love has always been on my desk in one form or another. As part of the Presiding Bishop’s Working Group to create resources for the Church based on the seven practices of following Jesus. It’s been fun (and quite a ride) working with a creative bunch of Christian educators from across the Episcopal Church. I’ve created two particular resources for Church Publishing: The Way of Love for Families and An Intergenerational Gathering for the Way of Love. I was also excited to work with Mary Bea Sullivan of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama in bringing her Living the Way of Love: A 40-Day Devotional to publication in record time.
Many have asked for children and youth ministry resources for The Way of Love. You can certainly adapt the Families and Intergenerational materials I created above to fit your needs. Gratefully, many of you have been creating your own, or tweaking what exists to fit your ministries. Keep checking back to The Way of Love “official” website where seasonal resources are continually being updated and offered. Much of The Way of Love is created for “open space” sharing, meaning if you have created something – submit it to The Way of Love email addressor through this form. Those of us (myself included) on The Way of Love Working Group will review and be in touch if this is something shareable on the website so others can learn and use also.
Are you aware of these newly posted resources? Chris Sikkema has been Traveling the Way of Love. His first episode focused on Bless. Join him in the second episode from Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he focuses on Rest. Love the Tetons!
Resources for Eastertide are now available, with a focus on Go. Here you will find images to use as well as ideas for evangelism – yes, going out into the world to spread the Good News of Jesus in the neighborhood. If you tapped into any Way of Love resource during Lent, there is a “Test Kitchen” of Life Transformed on Facebook, where you can share how you are practicing Go and hear what others are doing.