Q&A

Is their a guideline regarding voting at congregational meetings if someone is a professing member and is under the age of 18?

September 11, 2015 1 7 comments
Blog

The word ‘faithful’ has grown in meaning. It used to just refer to faith. Someone who had a lot of faith and lived faith consistently was ‘faithful.” Now being faithful means more...

September 8, 2015 2 0 comments
Blog

Lesli is the newest member of the team, serving seven Classes in Ontario, Canada. Look for more interviews with Regional Catalyzers in the weeks ahead!

September 8, 2015 2 0 comments
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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
Blog

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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A profound testimony, Karl.  We are grateful for your sharing it with us.  Carl K

Thank you Karl and others for sharing your stories and thoughts.

Thanks for this great testimony of pain, loss, hope, and just that bit of godly wondering.

Thanks, Karl, for this reflection. Grief is so painful; it persists. It is right for us to grieve and to be honest about it. And we are blessed when we hear the testimony of people like you. The hope of the resurrection doesn't take away grief, but it surely puts it in a very different light.  God continue to bless you and yours. Harvey 

Thank you for sharing this Karl.  Blessings.

Karl, our son, Dylan, was only 3 1/2 weeks old when he passed away. Our grief is different because mostly we wonder what might have been. Thanks for sharing your story. It's good to read your testimony of God's sustaining grace. I would guess that many of us parents are on this journey. 

Thanks Karl!

Ruth and I have the same kind of anniversary in 5 days.  This year is will be 18 years since Annie moved to greater glory.  The hole her absence left is still huge - but as you testify - God continues to add new and precious experiences of life around the hole.  There's more than the hole - yet nothing ever replaces all the ways Sarah and Annie imacted our lives when they were still with us.  Six months after Annie died, we gathered to remember what would have been her 13th birthday and to celebrate her much too short life.  I remember the first words of a prayer our friend Heidi Hofman offered at our 'would have been her' birthday gathering and grieving.  Since Annie'd death - 2 of Heidi's own sisters have gone to glory as well.  Heidi's started her prayer this way: 'God - we don't know which planets or stars Annie may be exploring today - but do please remind her that we love her and miss her a lot.'  Those prayer words so blessed me.  They remiind me of something John Calvin himself taught - that our resurrection begins with our death.  

So, I wonder what planet or stars Sarah and Annie may be exploring today.  I picture Annie calling my dad over to look at something she discovered in the 'resurrection world' that is already her home.  It's not complete yet - the resurrection world.  It's waiting for us - we who still serve in this world filled with foretastes of our eternal home.  

Thanks for sharing some of the foretastes God provided you and Liz through Sarah.

Blessings,

John

 

Peter,

The premise of nouthetic counseling is that we simply need to find the appropriate Biblical solution and trust the power of the Holy Spirit to effect the sort of change that is required for us to transform / conform our thinking and behaving more closely with scriptural principles for living. www.gotquestions.org/nouthetic-counseling.html

Inherent in this approach is the idea that psychology is a secular endeavor and therefore has little to offer by way of healing. By such logic medicine too can be called a secular endeavor.  Should we forsake its advances and rely strictly on the Biblical approach of laying on of hands?  Do not get me wrong here Peter, I have gone to a sick person who has asked me to pray for them and lay hands on them but they also went for treatment. If they go for medicinal treatment are they demonstrating a lack of faith?

In the same way a counselor can search the scriptures and ask for the Holy Spirit’s power for a client but they should be trained in psychology as well. Clients come for help with a whole range of life experiences that may effect the expected outcome of counseling.  Having some knowledge and training in cognitive and behavioral issues or in family systems can be very important in understanding the client and his or her problem(s). One issue with Nouthetic Counseling is that Biblical solutions are often applied with little regard to differences in gender, cultural backgrounds, disabilities, age, etc…

Jesus tells Nicodemus that people refuse to come to the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. James tells us to confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed and John tells us that perfect loves drives out fear. Clearly, sharing our sin with each other is important. Accountability is a Biblical Principle and counseling is a wonderful ministry to enable such. A few things to consider are;

1.       THAT we hide our real / true SELF from one another is evil.

2.       WHAT we hide is one thing. Revealing this about our self is just the beginning.

3.       HOW we hide is another. Most of us are blind as to how we do this. When a client comes for counseling they demonstrate how they hide by how they talk, by idiosyncratic behaviors, by what they say and what they do not say, all of which needs to be dealt with gracefully and mercifully knowing full well that the counselor has their own ways of hiding.

4.       WHY we hide WHAT we hide and WHY we hide HOW we hide is also very important. The WHY gives credence to gender, cultural, familial and a host of other differences, the differences that God uses to create and recreate us.

5.       WHO we reveal our self to needs to be a righteous person, by which I mean a humble believer, a vulnerable believer, a non-judgmental believer, a person who knows that standing before the almighty with chocolate on our face is not about justice but about mercy. Exposing the self is for the experience of having our Father wipe our face clean with a wash cloth in one hand and a cookie in the other.

Finding a good counselor is not always easy. A good place to begin is to look at their track record.

Rev. K. VanderVeen, B.A Psych; M.A. (counseling). 

Thanks Rebecca, I will definitely look into the SHAPE curriculum.

I went through a Network class about 10 years ago, and liked it. It wasn't a DVD curriculum then, local church members led the class.

We are currently using the SHAPE curriculum, which was developed at Saddleback church and is free to use and share. This was recommended to me by another CRC in our area. I teach this class 1-2 times per year, and it has been well-received by those who have attended, although interest in the class is not as high as we'd like.

I'm always interested in hearing other ideas, too, so will look forward to seeing what others have to add to this discussion.

I received an email asking about research on the faith development of those who were raised in a tradition that practiced infant communion. At this point I've not located any qualitative research in this area. In addition it would be difficult to separate this one variable from the others. I do think the current research by Smith et al as well as Mayo, Mayo and Savage on the roles of adults in young people's lives provides some insight into the issue.

 

Hi Jeff, the best list of churches I can locate who allow for/practice infant communion is on the Paedocommunion.com web site. In regards to the research question, I am unsure of any research that directly tackles this question. The research on children and God generally follows a biological/developmental model rather than a socialization of model of learning.  This area is ripe for research. I'll do some more digging to to see if those researching in the area of children's ministry can provide any leads.   dg

Darwin,

What are some denominations that have historically practiced infant communion?  Are there any studies that show its effect/improvement upon the process of faith formation?

Bruce, 

If you are looking for doctrine/pre-profession of faith type stuff, also check out Deep Down Faith or Quest of Faith (found at www.faithaliveresources.org/youth).  Both are great resources for digging into Reformed faith for mentor/mentee groups. 

Derek 

There is a great booklet available from Faith Alive called "So You've Been Asked to be Mentor".  I give it to all our adults who serve as Profession of Faith and leadership mentors to our youth.

Good books on mentoring include: "Mentoring Millennials" by Daniel Egeler and "Spiritual Mentoring" by Keith Anderson and Randy Reese

Love this thread, albeit a short one. Would love to carry on further conversations of how to do this well. We at CCRC are heading towards what looks like a frutiful path of multigenerational Community Care Groups and as a part of that we are asking ourselves discipleship questions.... For the most part, we have developed a hearty excitement for what is around the corner and all our generations are speaking about how they can see benefits in this kind of approach. If anyone has resources or ideas, pass them on. Let's get concrete! 

posted in: Best way to mentor?

Mentoring provides blessing for both the mentor and the mentee.  In answer to your question about whose responsibility it is to maintain the relationship, many mentoring/coaching resources recommend that the initiative must be with the mentee.  While I agree with this in leadership development, I believe that walking alongside our youth might require a slightly different approach.  

In my opinion, the most natural kind of relationship would involve initiative that comes from both parties.  As a mentor, especially within a church family, we have the opportunity to invest in someone spontaneously and freely.  Particularly in the case of youth mentees, it would be wonderful if the mentor would bless and pour into a life through encouragement, cards, prayer, invitations etc. unsolicited.  I believe a mentor in these situations can be proactive, rather than simply waiting for youth to initiate.  

Imagine how blessed we would be if more of us would just choose to be a mentor to someone else in our church settings.  Perhaps a young mom, or a young family needs to be encouraged in the challenges of parenting, in the absence of extended family that is far away.  Perhaps a young urban professional needs a seasoned, Christian business man to walk along side him, just to offer support and a listening ear.  Or maybe a young teacher in your midst would welcome the support of a mature person or a family home.  

The blessing of mentoring - an opportunity waiting to be embraced!

posted in: Best way to mentor?

A couple of years ago, the Youth Group leaders at our church asked willing adults in the congregation to volunteer if they were able to team up with a member of the youth group.  Pairs were matched after which it was up to the individuals to pursue the relationship.  Continuation and "success" has been varied, but it has provided positive communication and fellowship between the generations.  The biggest question seems to be where the impetus and responsibility to start and maintain the relationship should come from:  the mentor or the mentee?  Presently, this is under discussion.  As someone who participates(d) in this program, I must say I was blessed and enriched.

posted in: Best way to mentor?

At our last Elders meeting, the topic of baptized children taking communion, without having made profession of faith, was a lengthy agenda item.  We talked about the issues of understanding and appropriate age, help and guidance for parents in discerning readiness for their child, how involved the Elder should be in "approving" a child's understanding of communion. 

We are concerned about profession of faith becoming less important and how to guard against that.  Our desire is to gather information from other CRC churches who already are including young children (or considering it) at the Lord's Table.  How have you informed and educated your congregations?  What criteria has worked for your families?

Thanks for any input.

I was looking for something specific concerning the Holy spirit and came across this RC Church handout 

I would love to see a similar CRC Baptism handout specific for parents and Children

Handout: Romans Chapter 7

BIBLICAL EVENTS WHICH PREFIGURE BAPTISM BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They refused to believer long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah’s time when the ark was being built. In it only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now…

 

 

1 Peter 3:18-21

 

Biblical events that prefigured our baptism in Christ:

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

EVENT

 

 

 

Genesis 1:1-2

 

1. Creation: when the Holy Sprit brought life and order to the waters of chaos.

 

Genesis 6:9-18

1 Peter 3:20-21

 

2. Noah and his family were saved from the waters of the flood that cleansed the earth of sin, which St. Peter tells us prefigures our baptism in 1 Peter 3: 20-21.

 

Exodus 14:1

1 Corinthians 10:1-2

 

3. The children of Israel, fleeing from the Egyptians, passed through the waters of the Red Sea—passing from the old life of slavery into their new life as God’s Covenant people; which St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 is a form of baptism.

 

Exodus 30:17-21

Numbers 19:11-13

 

4. The water purification rites of the Old Covenant:

-When the priests cleansed themselves with the water from the laver so that they were ritually cleansed and able to enter the Holy Place of the desert Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem.

-The ritual purification for coming in contact with the dead.

 

2 Kings 5:1-19

 

5. When the prophet Elisha told the Syrian general Naaman to dip himself 7 times in the waters of the Jordan River to be healed.

 

Ezekiel 36:24-27

 

6. Ezekiel’s prophecy that Yahweh will pour clean water over His people and they will be cleansed and filled with a new heart and a new spirit when God places His very spirit within them.

 

Joshua 3:14-17

 

7. The crossing of the Jordan River when God parted the waters and the priests stood midway across the River with the Ark of the Covenant as the children of Israel passed through the waters of the Jordan, leaving their old lives behind to become citizens of the Promised Land.

 

Mathew 3:4-5; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3-4; John 1:31

 

8. The baptism of John the Baptist which called the faithful of Israel into the baptismal waters of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah’s ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

 

later than 120AD records:

Regarding baptism. Baptize as follows: after first explaining all these points, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. But if you have no running water, baptize in other water; and if you cannot in cold, then in warm. But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Before the baptism, let the baptizer and the candidate for baptism fast, as well as any others that are able. Require the candidate to fast one or two days previously." [ Didache, 7. 1-4 ].

Please notice that no where in these instructions is it permitted to baptize without water!

 Jesus taught that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through "water and the Spirit." In Titus 3:4-8 St. Paul instructs St. Titus: "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior for humanity were revealed, it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. This is doctrine that you can rely on." Paul’s statement reaffirms Jesus’ instruction to Nicodemus in John 3:3-3-6: "In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. […]. In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is spirit."

A profession of faith does not replace water baptism as the spiritual rebirth into the family of God [see John 3:5 and for more information see the study on the Gospel of St. John chapter 3]. Faith is the first step in the process of salvation and baptism is the second step in what is a life long journey toward eternal salvation.

The necessity of water in the Sacrament of Baptism: CCC # 694; 1213-17; 1228; 1238-39; Infant baptism = CCC# 1252

Michal Hunt © 2006

www.AgapeBibleStudy.com

I love the ideas of talking "to" & "with" the children/siblings up front and not "at" them so that we do not preach down to them with a sermon, but I still struggle with what we should be telling/showing them about this event in a way they can grow to understand and celebrate what God has said or done for them in their baptisms, while still making it clear that they need to confirm & profess their own faith.  What things have you said to the kids watching or what questions have you asked of them at varying ages to help them understand what's happening?  As cute as the story about the lost/disappearing cross on a brother's forehead is, what should a parent or pastor be saying to this concerned sister about her brother's being signed and sealed as God's child?  I'd love to hear more...   

Mark Buchanan, Your God Is Too Safe is one of the best books I've ever read. I was also blessed by recently reading Roy Hession's classis book The Calvary Road. ~Stan

posted in: Books to read

John, faith is hope. We will allways have doubts because of the fall. You sound like you have a good grasp of Jesus. the questions you ask your self are another sign of knowing Him. Those questions help keep us humble and striving to worship God by seeking  relationship with Jesus.  I agree with Howards statement, We are completed as believer's at death. It's like life on earth is a life long birth with the real living afterwords. As a sick person and I am sure it's felt by the elderly too, I need Jesus to be real. This may sound weird to both you and Howard, but I feel the Holy Spirit radiating through both of you. God bless you guys

Ken

Oh boy!, is that old lady right or what, being an always been a Christian guy, having doubts along the way of course, if not, does one really search for truth? Now, finally getting to be mature,(even though I have trouble convincing any one I know), you know, have a grand child, almost of retirement age, involved in several things in the church, I consider myself to be a Microburst Christian. From my early school days in Holland where we had to remember the words of a Psalm every week, which was agony to me, and was forgotten as soon as class was done, save for another week, knowing the order of all the books in the Bible, learned them several times, but like the main roads in the city I visit sometimes, the rest does not stay with me. So was remembering names, other that those of the village people, then I began playing the organ and for about 48 years I have been behind the console accompanying the hymns, no multi tasking, play, don't sing along, so I know a lot of first lines, of the first stanzas, the tune that goes with. The Bible? yes I know quite a bit of what the Bible says, but it is mostly, it says somewhere in the Bible........ I believe in my Saviour, His word and try to live by it, but despite that and being reformed, knowing about Grace, do I know Him, really? That question is my biggest hang up I think.

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? "

Hi Jeff,  Could you explain what these statements say in different way?   Thanks

I'm part of our church's video team.  Wouldn't it be interesting to have video clips of members' baptism and/or profession of faith attached to their membership credentials - something they could take along with them wherever they go?  And suppose they had some of their children baptised and received a video clip of that occasion to pass along to their children?  And suppose that clip became part of the occasion for the profession of faith of those children?  Today's technology presents a whole new realm of "remembering" possibilities!

Hi Nick, I think the Word as the Holy Spirits tool. The Spirit has many of them to direct our path to Jesus. I think you should look at the early church to relize there are many faith forming tools. After all, they didn't have the written word as we do.

A healthily challenging question, Nick! I'm glad to let it kick around in my brain for awhile and I hope that my other committee members will do the same.

Personally, I'm not sure that "forming" as "creating" is a very commonly understood way of referring to the work "forming". It usually means taking something that is already and giving it shape, health, and direction. The Spirit gives us "unformed" faith and the ministry of the word and sacraments, as well as the nurturing of parents, is to give this "unformed" substance some meaningful form that will direct a life into discipleship and cope with the tests of life.

When synod came up with this word, I think it intended to catch all the confessions were referring to by "shapes", "confirms", "sustains" and "nourishes".

But I'm glad to hear other perspectives on it. The last thing we want is some misunderstanding that begins a journey in the wrong direction.

Howard

Thanks, David.  I like the "remembering that" terminology. And I'm also pretty comfortable with "Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows" from SNC 240, although that treats only the "vow" part of it as our action, and doesn't round it all out with a proper recollection of God's actions in baptism.

I like meeting a few parishioners on the anniversary of their baptism and going over the promises again.  Could be very rich!
 

Howard

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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