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.
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 Congregationsthat 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 Teachingat Virginia Seminary is helping congregations do just this: Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 4→
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
Part 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.
Note: Many of you have traveled the journey with my mother and I on Rows of Sharon through the past several years. She died on February 22, 2015 and what follows it the homily I gave at her Memorial Service. Given at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, Connecticut on Sunday, March 15, 2015, it was based on some of the readings of the liturgy: 2 Corinthians 4:16––5:9 and John 14:1-6.
There was no question in my mind what lessons would be chosen for this service in which we remember Trinette. Whether we knew her as Trinette or Aunt Net, Grammy or Mom, I think we can each visualize some portion of her life within these readings.
Some context about the Gospel reading we just heard. Moments earlier Jesus had told the disciples that he was going away and that they could not go with him. This creates not only confusion in the disciples’ minds, but anxiety as well. What Jesus said first was not surprising. “Believe in God” – depend on God to see you through and trust God to care for you. But what he said next was powerfully new. “Believe also in me” – rely on me as you do on God; trust me to care for you. Jesus is asking the disciples to think of him in the same way they think of God. “I and the Father are one.” Continue reading Rooms Full of Love→
It’s the beginning of February and I’ve been compiling lists of resources for Lent to be used by individuals or congregations. There are many I have ‘followed’ in recent years: Lent Madness, Episcopal Relief and Development’s Lenten devotional, the annual CPI “pick” of a book that offers a study guide alongside a calendar and/or app. But this year none of them are appealing to me.
Several years ago my mother-in-law was placed in hospice during Lent. She died during Holy Week. Lent took on a whole new meaning for me that year. This year I suspect Lent will take on quite the opposite meaning for me. See . . . my Lenten practice will be getting ready to be a grandmother.
My first grandchild is due April 13th. (“Awfully close to tax day,” says my CPA/Financial Planner husband.) So I am in the midst of planning a baby shower, figuring out what kinds of baby paraphernalia I’ll need to have around the house and other deliberations, such as “How will I be able to fit a car seat in the back of my 2005 Mustang convertible?” (You can’t.) Continue reading My 2015 Lenten Practice→