Breathing Life Into Theories and Practices

Breathing Life Into Theories and Practices

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The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.
- Isaiah 50:4 (NRSV)

Faith formation is…our participation in God’s work of inviting persons into relationship with God, self, others, and creation.
- Sondra Higgins Matthaei

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have found ourselves mired in the details — scrambling to pivot and adapt everything we’re doing to new and safer ways of going about our ministries and daily routines. Now that we’ve been at this for about seven months, we’re starting to find a few routines to settle in to. We can relax a little more than before. And I hope that we are starting to return to some of the things that we deemed not critical enough to maintain when functioning during a crisis.

For the ministries of faith formation with children, youth, and adults, this means going back to remembering the reasons why this ministry is so important. Going back to our goals and our dreams for how our people will thrive in their growth in faith. Going back to the theories of religious education to provide a foundation for our best practices of passing on the faith in the 21st Century.

I know, I know — that sounds nowhere near as exciting as helping children create a Bible story video to share with the congregation. And I’m sure you don’t believe you have time to be thinking through and reading about theories that don’t appear to have anything to do with what we’re facing today. But stay with me here. All that this really entails is asking yourself some questions on a regular basis. Questions such as:

What is education? What is Christian education? How are they the same and how are they different?

What is teaching? What is learning? What is faith formation? How do each of these intersect?

How does all of this impact my day-to-day ministry with my congregation?

How is God manifested in the ministry of faith formation?

These are not questions that can be answered without serious thought, prayer, and reflection. One needs to set aside some time to sit with them, breathe them in, and then imagine their impact on one’s ministry. This is one of the reasons that the Southern New England Conference’s Faith Formation Training Program offers the class, “Making Disciples — Theories and Practices for the 21st Century.” Two identical sessions are being offered via Zoom so that you may choose the best date for your schedule — November 7, 2020 and February 6, 2021, both from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Dr. Joshua Lunde-Whitler is serving as our instructor for these classes. He will engage the participants in how the grounding principles of education, formation, and living in the ways of Jesus can be developed and used to make disciples of all ages in today’s congregations. Josh teaches at the seminary level as well as with children, youth, and families in a Massachusetts congregation, which allows him to speak to the theories and philosophies of education and formation in practical and applicable ways that can benefit every congregation.

Josh shares that "making disciples goes to the very center of our work with our church families. If this was challenging before, this year has certainly complicated that challenge in unprecedented ways! Who foresaw back in 2019 that we would all become Zoom experts? But the pandemic has also forced us to re-examine many church conventions that we have simply accepted, because, well, that's what we were used to doing. So in the midst of this crisis, we have a tremendous opportunity - to renew our understanding of how and why we 'make disciples' in this time and place, and consequently, to move in life-giving, transformative directions that before now might have seemed impossible."

We invite you to join Josh and your faith formation, youth ministry, and clergy colleagues in imagining how you will most effectively walk the path and share the stories of faith with your congregation.

Author

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Debbie Gline Allen

Debbie Gline Allen is the part-time Associate for Faith Formation & Youth Ministries for the Conference.

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