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Rather than feeling guilty about the places where I am failing as a parent, I am resolving to take small steps to pass on my faith to them. I'm starting with "lunch box notes"... 

September 3, 2015 2 0 comments
Discussion Topic

What should be included in a new member's class? Please share your ideas, best practices - and maybe things to avoid - in developing a new members class.    

September 2, 2015 1 6 comments
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Does your congregation welcome children to the Lord's Supper but also offer a children's ministry program during worship? If so, find ideas for how to make this transition go smoothly! 

August 31, 2015 2 0 comments
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The best of the best on faith formation this week (from what we could find). We hope these resources are helpful, resourceful , and hopefully even humorous.

August 28, 2015 0 0 comments
Q&A

Does anyone have suggestions for resources that can be used for helping children/youth prepare for baptism? 

August 27, 2015 0 1 comments
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In the weeks ahead, we’d like to introduce you to the people who serve CRC congregations as part of Faith Formation Ministries. We’d like to start with our regional staff, also known as Regional Catalyzers. 

August 24, 2015 0 0 comments
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Check out the latest ideas from the world of faith formation. We’ve gathered some practical tips, radical ideas, and a great new resource from one of our favorites, LifelongFaith Associates.

August 20, 2015 0 0 comments
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By the time August rolls around, I find that stress and anxiety are starting to appear more and more (right along with the mosquito bites). If I've been having so much fun, why am I stressed?

August 20, 2015 2 3 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

Watch and enjoy this great webinar for Story Hour, Little Lambs and preschool ministry leaders, led by Diane Dykgraaf.  It is packed with inspiring tips and helpful tools for teaching 2 - 7 year old children.  

August 19, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

In this new webinar, Marian Lensink shares the basics of leading the Coffee Break Bible discovery process. Engage with this resource from your home computer or use it as a training tool. 

August 19, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

In this webinar, presenters share the top 14 ways Youth ministry people from across Canada have used to start their youth ministry seasons well.

August 18, 2015 0 0 comments
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In hopes to narrow searches for indecisive youth workers everywhere, we decided to look through many of them to find the best of the best. Here are some of the ones we found...

August 17, 2015 1 0 comments
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As the summer sun is still heating up our houses and runs, here are some COOL resources our team has found this week.

August 14, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Many churches hold commissioning services in September as a way to acknowledge, bless, and celebrate those in leadership roles within various church programs. What about the rest?

August 13, 2015 1 1 comments
Discussion Topic

Frodo commits to the task saying, “I will take the ring to Mordor. Though, I do not know the way.” Is this a good parallel to profession of faith? 

August 11, 2015 0 0 comments
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I received one very memorable care package as a student at Dordt College. It was my first year living off campus and my mom thoughtfully sent a package. But first, customs got ahold of it...

August 11, 2015 3 1 comments
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The Children at the Table Toolkit is now available from Faith Formation Ministries. The online toolkits, designed to fit YOUR ministry context, offer a wide variety of resources, stories, ideas, and more.

August 10, 2015 0 0 comments
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Fall is almost upon us, but fear not! These new resources can help you prepare your church and home for the end-of-summer scramble.

August 7, 2015 0 0 comments
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The practice of profession of faith emerges from a history laced with confusion. As a result of such a complicated history, we often find conflicting approaches to profession of faith. 

August 4, 2015 2 1 comments
Q&A

I recently got into a discussion that could probably be boiled down to "Why does the church's theology matter? Both churches [profess the creeds] so who cares what they believe past that." 

August 4, 2015 0 5 comments
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After the call ended and I continued preparing dinner, I quietly gave thanks that she and I were able to celebrate congregationalism together. Isn’t that a delicious oxymoron?

August 3, 2015 1 0 comments
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To be holy is to be separate, different, not mundane, unique, and distinct. God is all of these. Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to move in you to live the holy God has called you to?

August 3, 2015 0 0 comments
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Each week or so, we search the web for the most thought-provoking blogs, online articles, book reviews, and resources on faith formation and discipleship. Check them out and add your own!

August 3, 2015 0 0 comments
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Each week, we will be searching the web for the most thought-provoking blogs, online articles, book reviews, and resources on faith formation and discipleship. Check them out and add your own! 

July 24, 2015 3 0 comments
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It’s easy to be critical of social media. It’s particularly easy to be critical of the person using their phone in church. Are they checking Facebook instead of listening to the sermon?

July 23, 2015 3 2 comments

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Good questions, good responses.

I suppose "remember your baptism" is technically the wrong phrase.  Which perhaps points us in the right direction: it's "remember that you are baptized" and so we need reminders that do that.  Which I think Richard's and Nick's suggestions do.  (I also have led an ordination of new elders/deacons from the font, to set their present calling within their baptismal calling.  Also, I have promised to parishioners that if they come to me on the anniversary of their baptism day [or a reasonable facsimile], I will meet with them in the sanctuary and share the baptism promises with them again.  I've actually had a couple of people take me up on this - ha!)  All of this is where the language of "re-affirming" baptism comes in.  Someone else's baptism can be another occasion for "remembering that you are baptized."

Here are some things we've done: We have repositioned the font so that it is visually in line with the table and the pulpit. (It might sound trivial, but the next week I received a comment from someone who said, "I noticed that it was there." That's a start!) We've also filled the font with water for professions of faith, and mentioned baptism at funerals. I also try to stand next to the font at appropriate points in the worship services.

However, in our zeal to remind believers of their baptismal identities, we should take care that we aren't trying to flatten out the topography by implying that everyone must have the same powerful sense that a few have. It is perfectly appropriate for baptism to be a different reality for the adult-baptized and the infant-baptized. One of the things that baptism signifies is regeneration and conversion (dying and rising). And so, many who were baptized as adults remember conversion as a sudden moment -- and their baptism is an equally acute memory. And many who were baptized as infants remember conversion as a gradual work of the Holy Spirit throughout their childhood -- and their baptism is but a photo in an album. (It is for this reason that I would suggest that it is not a problem at all if you cannot remember your infant baptisms -- neither can many of those baptized as infants remember their conversions.) There are, of course, many times when this kind of match doesn't occur -- the person baptized as an infant who has a powerful conversion experience in her late 20s, for example. But a diversity of conversion experiences is appropriately signed and sealed by God in a diversity of baptismal experiences, and our reminders of baptism should encourage different people to "remember baptism" in this diversity of ways.

 

Pictures. Video. A candle. A wrapped present, like a book, that can be opened when they make a public profession of faith (like at age 5 or 8 or 11 or 16). A letter from someone in the congregation who was there at their baptism... that can be given to them later on. A constant reminder by the older folks of "I remember the day you were baptized... this is what it meant to me. I'm so glad that I was the one given the task of praying for you, encouraging you, maintaining contact with you for all these years..." Just some thoughts.

Perhaps one small step would be to remind ourselves, and pastors remind their congregations, over and over again that we are baptized. (I fell far short of this when I was in parish ministry.) I love Martin's Luther's statement in his Larger Catechism (XIII, Part Fourth), "Thus we must regard Baptism and make it profitable to ourselves, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body."

I think Neil makes a very significant point when he suggests that a pastor's personal contact with siblings or other children is key to making a baptism memorable. Let me expand on it....

We had many baptism in our congregation on a regular basis (a lot of children!) and there were a number of non-negotiable considerations we always observed:

-siblings are always to be included in the baptism event (located in a position so they could see the actual baptism clearly) and they were  personally addressed by the pastor at the time of their siblings baptism.

-all the children of the congregation were welcomed to the front for the entire baptism. The pastor addressed them to help them understand what was happening here.

-When the baptized child was presented to the congregation so they could promise their "love, encouragement and prayers", the child was always introduced to the gathered children FIRST. The new child is their peer, and they were to give the first welcome.

-We resolved that we would not be annoyed by noise, rustling, cries, etc. After all, if children are valuable before the Lord, then we ought not to have the right to say "SHHHH".  If we have a problem with a little noise, the problem is ours not those who are doing what children normally do.

Any other ideas?

 Howard,

This is a good story! I don't have strong positive examples in mind, but I do know that I've appreciated times when pastors have addressed small children warmly and personnally, while I've felt very uncomfortable with some baptisms I've witnessed where the older siblings are "up front" but essentially ignored. It's a small but powerful thing just to treat them as people.

This is a profound thought and one that, I think, is extremely important when considering faith formation. In terms of where we are at as a church in regards to the criteria mentioned in the quote, it seems to me some things we are strong on and others quite weak. The CRC seems to do well with continuity (most members have parents/grandparents in the CRC) and also with common worship.

I do fear common worship may be falling mainly because of two things--1. the development of two morning services, often one 'contemporary' and one 'traditional' and 2. the loss or decline of evening services in many churches. I also think we as a church could do better to emphasize historical memory, rituals marking seasons of life, and intergenerational interdependence. Exactly how we go about those things goes beyond the means of my post here (or my ability).

In terms of faith formation, I believe it's vital to have this solid depth and stability in order for any meaningful formation to take place. It's clear this stability is absent in our culture, so the church will have to come up with unique ways to try and achieve this stable, deep formation.

Dr. Vanderwell, thanks for sharing this! See you back at the sem in just a few weeks!

I am so very grateful for this decision. My only concern is that I have found that my leadership is most comfortable relying on criterea. For example, using the age of 10 as a cutoff point instead of assessing each individuals readiness. I was wondering in any other churches run into this and if strict critereas are bing used?

Reflection is so important in Spiritual growth and it is one of my most favorite things in the world. The discipline of reflection is written all over scripture and I am especially reminded of the times when God told the Israelites to create a monument to remember the work of God in their lives, such as when they crossed the Jordan. So many times people of the old testament created these monuments to reflect and remind them of the amazing ways God had worked in their lives. I learned to do this from my parents. They have a jar of rocks and each rock represents a pivotal event that God did in their lives and the life of their family. That jar has gotten pretty full over the years. And in the difficult times many of us have sat with that jar and held on to the "rocks" of reflection as a reminder that "all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." It has been especially meaningful in the years since my dad's death to reflect on God's amazing love for our family.
Reflection doesn't always have to be during the difficult times. In fact I have come to take great joy in reflecting during a monthly prayer group time at our church. We have a phenomenal prayer group that meets once a month to do listening prayer in the quiet, together, which is driven by scripture. The silence allows us to make room for the Holy Spirit's transformative work in our lives. It has been a source of exponential growth for me as well as many others. At the end of the prayer group we do reflection as well as at the end of the year. We reflect on the work that God has done in each of us and also corporately. I equate my emotion to that time of reflection with the excitement that my 2 1/2 year old daughter had on her Easter egg hunt this year. The joy on her face when she would find an egg hiding in the bushes was overwhelming and her excitement just kept growing through the whole hunt. Each egg was a brand new experience but more exciting than the time before. I feel the same way with reflection, but my "finds" in spiritual reflection are pure gold. It just doesn't get much better than that this side of eternity. It gives me an ever so tiny taste of heaven and I just can't get enough. To see how God moves and works in the lives of us individually and together as a body is AMAZING! But to get the most out of reflection takes work and discipline. Work to keep notes in order to jog our memories and discipline to take time to be quiet and reflect. But it is soooo worth it!
The next step is to teach others how to reflect, which has been so rewarding to me as well. Just because someone has sat in a pew all of their life doesn't mean they know how to or even realize their need to reflect. That is why it is so important to walk people through reflection so that they can model what that looks like for them and incorporate it into their daily life. So many that have grown up in the church are afraid to ask for help in this area. At our church we have tried to make it as non-threatening as possible for people to come and experience what reflection looks like and then to provide practical training steps to do it. The growth in others has been so rewarding to see. To see that moment when they "get it" and are in awe of God's amazing work in their life is phenomenal. And it draws the body together in unity.
So I couldn't agree more about the importance you place on reflection. If you haven't done it - try it - you won't regret it one bit. And if you don't know how, don't hesitate to ask for mentoring.

Kyle,

Your post reminded me of a quote from Bernard of Clairvaux on reasons why we learn. He says:

"For there are some who long to know for the sole purpose of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity; others who long to know in order to become known, and that is shameful vanity. To such as these we may apply the words of the Satirist: "Your knowledge counts for nothing unless your friends know you have it." There are others still who long for knowledge in order to sell its fruits for money or honors, and this is shameful profiteering; others again who long to know in order to be of service, and this is charity. Finally there are those who long to know in order to benefit themselves, and this is prudence.

Of all these categories, only the last two avoid the abuse of knowledge, because they desire to know for the purpose of doing good. People with sound judgment act in this way. Let all others heed the warning: he who knows what he ought to do and fails to do it, commits sin; just as food eaten but not digested is injurious to one's health. Food that is badly cooked and indigestible induces physical disorders and damages the body instead of nourishing it. In the same way if a glut of knowledge stuffed in the memory, that stomach of the mind, has not been cooked on the fire of love, and transfused and digested by certain skills of the soul, its habits and actions - since, as life and conduct bear witness, the mind is rendered good through its knowledge of good— will not that knowledge be reckoned sinful, like the food that produces irregular and harmful humors? "

We are often a "head heavy" denomination, and may be accused of posessing at times a "glut of knowledge". Christian reflection, I think, is part of the process by which that knowledge is "cooked on the fire of love and transfused and digested by certain skills of the soul."--integrated into the heart and into the patterns of every day life.

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