Tag Archives: Youth

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

Springtime is for . . . Confirmation (among other things)

Alleluia! He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

confirmationFor many congregations, the time is drawing near when the bishop will make his or her annual visitation to confirm all those young people who have been preparing for confirmation. Classes were probably held during the Lenten season (or hopefully have been since September), so things are winding up. Perhaps those who were baptized at the Easter Vigil will be presented for confirmation, but most likely youth are finishing up their classes, writing their faith statements or letters to their bishop, and parents are planning the party to be held after the big event.

The Sunday after the rite of Confirmation is celebrated, most of those newly confirmed will be sleeping in, as well as their parents and siblings. The Sunday after a confirmation is often like the Sunday after Easter. “Low Sunday” in church-speak. Hopefully, they will be back in a few weeks, but as is the case in so many families, confirmation is one of those rituals that brings parents back to church to have their child “get done.” And for confirmation, that will mean they’ve been “signed, sealed, and delivered” into adulthood. Their rite of passage. Their graduation from faith formation. The parental responsibility of “bringing up their child in the Christian faith” has been accomplished.

For those who know me personally, you know I’m pretty passionate about this topic. Who (and how) we prepare youth for confirmation, and how we connect with parents about their role in this “mature decision” and lifelong commitment, is something I believe we (the Church = clergy, educators, vestries, parents, congregations) need to address. We need to have conversations about our own experiences and what we believe the role confirmation has in the life of today’s teens as well as what it means to a congregation. If we had a better understanding of why we feel the way we do about confirmation, I believe we would be “doing it” differently.

SignedSealedDeliveredI felt so strongly about this, I invited a group of colleagues in the Episcopal Church to contribute to a book that was recently published. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theologies of Confirmation for the 21st Century offers a historical perspective of how this rite came to be (liturgically, sacramentally, and theologically), essays from bishops, priests, scholars, and Christian formation leaders, and a discussion guide for small groups and congregations to share their own theology of confirmation.

I invite you to read the book (via print or for your e-reader). Join in the conversation – here or on the book’s Facebook page. In the coming week’s I’ll be posting some reactions and resources.

What is YOUR theology of confirmation?

A Cry for Help

But the child’s sob in the silence curses deeper than the strong man in his wrath. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It’s a troubling phenomenon: several gay teens have killed themselves in recent weeks after being harassed because of their sexuality. They were bullied. They were not accepted for who they were – children of God. As people of faith we are called to speak out against those who use their self-proclaimed power to intimidate, condemn, and belittle others. And it is important that we teach our children (of all ages) to respect others as Christ modeled in welcoming the stranger and embracing the outcast.

Our churches need to be safe places for adults, teens and children to learn how to practice tolerance; to understand our mission to respect the dignity of every human being. If the religious community can’t act and become a voice to all generations, we are just as guilty as those who cause the pain of others.

Some articles and resources to assist in the conversation. Don’t wait another day to begin the work. The lives of people (young and old) you know (and even more so, don’t know) depend on it.

Articles & Action:

Resources for Study and Conversation:

  • The documentary Bullied, produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, will premiere today, Oct. 5, in Washington, D.C. Bullied tells the story of Jamie Nabozny, a Wisconsin student who fought back against anti-gay bullying. Kick off National Bullying Prevention Month by ordering your school’s free copy of Bullied here.
  • Download the Study Guide for Bullied, which gives a definition of bullying, how to identify someone who may be a victim, and how to assess your school (or church) environment.
  • The Trevor Project and It Gets Better website features video clips of LGBT adults sharing their own high school horror stories, while telling kids to stay alive because brighter days are coming. So far, there have been 131 videos posted and more than 300,000 views.
  • Bully Bust is a program to stand up to bullying and promote upstander behavior.
  • For the Bible Tells Me So is a film about the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families – including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, A study guide is also available for further discussion.
  • Burst: Bullies and Mean Girls is a short-term study from Abingdon Press (United Methodist Church affiliation) for youth. It’s website also offers a variety of links including movies, books and other websites.
  • If You Really Knew Me is a program that began in July 2010 on Tuesday evenings on MTV. Yes – MTV. Watch the trailer to see how you might tap into this program with your youth.
  • The Golden Rule Pledge website offers bullying prevention resources for churches.
  • From the New York Times (Dec. 5, 2010): Cyber-Bulling and What a Parent Can Do

What resources, programs or action do you plan to engage in?