If your church is planning a new faith formation initiative (or any type of initiative), gaining the support and buy-in of your congregation is key. But what’s the best and most authentic way to go about gaining that support?
Recently I worked with Exeter Christian Reformed Church in southern Ontario. The church had participated in FFM’s Family Faith Formation cohort, which was designed to help churches experiment with new ways to help families build faith together. As they worked, their cohort team realized that without broader congregational engagement, their work would most likely not be sustainable beyond the cohort experience.
They concluded that they needed to communicate their work in a variety of ways and places, and they also needed to reassure existing ministries that the work of their cohort team was meant to support existing programs and ministries, not duplicate or add work to those programs. They addressed these challenges with two strategies.
First, the team invited the entire congregation to an evening of discernment where they encouraged everyone to prayerfully answer the following question: In what ways can the ministries of Exeter CRC best support faith formation in the homes and families of those attending or connecting with ECRC?
Because this was a congregation-wide discernment process, there were people from a wide variety of demographics present. They expressed their support for families, shared wisdom through their reflective answers to the question, and even voiced their concerns that folks who were not presently raising children might feel excluded from the process.
Their concerns were received with grace by the cohort team, and they helped inform the new faith formation strategies that would operate alongside strategies and programs that were already working within the community. This allowed for a strong sense of consensus from the body and empowerment for the cohort team as they moved into the implementation phase.
Second, the team used a variety of communication methods beyond the church bulletin and PowerPoint slide announcements. They created a mobile Family Faith Formation library, which they placed in a variety of strategic locations outside of their church library. This allowed them to share information and resources with parents and grandparents where they naturally gathered: near the nursery and Sunday school rooms, in the coffee fellowship area, and even in the sanctuary on baptism Sundays. They also shared FFM’s 52 At-Home Faith Formation Tips with the congregation to give concrete expression to the work they were doing as a team.
These thoughtful strategies have resulted in the work of the cohort team being incorporated into the life of the church in a way that will impact the congregation for years to come. If you would like assistance in developing faith formation strategies and discernment processes in your congregation, visit crcna.org/FaithFormation/coaching to find your Regional Catalyzer. We’d love to walk alongside you as you strengthen faith formation in your church!