Last week I attended a congregational faith formation workshop along with a couple of other members of my congregation and members from ten other area churches. I’ll have to admit that it was not quite what I’d expected. That is partly because of my own stuff. I’d gone intrigued by the invitation to explore ways churches can be stronger homes of discipleship for all ages. I thought the workshop might help us address some specific issues our congregation is dealing with in church education. It did that, but also tapped into other questions we have been asking about the overall ministry of our congregation. Our discussions ended up going in a different direction than we first thought it would.
If the workshop was not quite what I’d expected that also had something to do with the approach taken by the workshop leaders, who understand that you cannot deal with one ministry in a church in isolation from the other ministries. Using the image of a house, they said you cannot change one room without changing the others. With that in mind they asked us to think about basements, attics, pillars and posts, to consider faith formation in the context of the culture and assumptions that guide our congregations, and to think about key ministries or initiatives that bring life to and influence the entire congregation. Those members of our church who attended with me were excited by this approach.
The workshop was the first of a series planned by the “Next Step in Congregational Faith Formation”, a pilot project that seeks to build on the work of the Faith Formation Committee. Eleven more workshops are planned across North America. In addition to these workshops, the twelve coaches on the project team are available to churches and classes in a number of ways. These include but are not limited to,
- consulting (by phone or in person) with a congregational faith formation committee,
- walking along with a congregation for a period of time, or
- leading workshops or retreats in congregations or classes.
Though "faith formation" is fairly new language for us, it has always been a concern of a church that is called to make disciples of every nation. In a time when we are concerned about hemorrhaging faith, the concern is even more pressing. These workshops are a welcome resource to help churches take next steps in faith formation.