Last week we introduced you to Jill Friend, Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Iowa. This week, we cross the Mississippi River to head to one of the happiest places to live in the U.S., Holland, Michigan. Laura Keeley is Co-director of Children's Ministries at Fourteenth Street CRC in Holland, Michigan, and serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Michigan. Look for more interviews with Regional Catalyzers for the CRC's office of Faith Formation Ministries in the weeks ahead!
Laura, you have served as a Christian school teacher and a children’s ministry director for a church. How do the roles of the Christian school and church differ when it comes to faith formation?
I loved teaching kids in school, but as a classroom teacher, I only had kids for one year. Working in a church means that I can be part of their lives for much longer. One example of this is Kathryn. Kathryn was one of the youngest kids I worked with when I started at my church. I knew her as an uncertain toddler and a shy 3rd grader. I was part of her life when her family experienced tragedy while she was in middle school, and was at her graduation party when she finished high school. Not too long ago, she came to church with her boyfriend while on a break from college. She introduced me to him, saying “This is Mrs. Keeley.” Then she hesitated trying to explain our relationship. Finally, she just said, “She knows me.” The church gives us an amazing gift of knowing each other and being known by others through working with and being with people for a lifetime.
Describe for us a key person (or people) who played an important role in your faith formation.
Like many people, my parents were a significant influence on my early faith life. Through hearing Bible stories, weekly church attendance, investment in the life of the church community, and watching them as they raised me and my siblings, I got to see what faith looks like when lived out. While there was little talk about personal faith, we did talk about Bible stories and the contents of the Bible. Those times instilled in me a love for the Bible. And all of those details about scripture that I was quizzed on at the table have given me a rich background! My parents’ example of what mature Christians look like was very important for me.
Together with your husband, Bob, you wrote an essay called the Building Blocks of Faith. How do you think the “Building Blocks” concept can help Christian Reformed churches assess and refine their discipleship and faith formation ministries?
Faith formation is complicated. Thinking about it from a congregational perspective is difficult because there are so many places where it happens. It happens in worship, in Sunday School, in boys and girls clubs, in adult ministries, and in lots of informal settings. The Building Blocks idea is a way to get a handle on faith formation in all of those different settings. It is also pretty easy to explain and remember. We hope that this tool will give churches a simple way to explore what they’re doing well, and what they could work on improving. We’re also hopeful that it will give churches a common vocabulary for talking about faith formation. We’re really grateful that Faith Formation Ministries is using Building Blocks as one of the models to serve churches.
You recently became a grandmother. How is that new role shaping your understanding of faith formation?
Joanna has brought us a lot of joy. Being a grandmother is great – way better than being a parent! I worry about her, of course, but not in the same way I worried about my own children. I have the fun of taking care of her and enjoying her without the sleepless nights. I also have a renewed reminder of child development. Joanna quickly went from being a helpless newborn to a nine-month-old who crawls, plays and gets into many things. She wasn’t that helpless baby for very long. It was good to be reminded that God made his baptism promise to her when she was helpless. God’s grace doesn’t depend on what she can do; it depends on God’s relationship with her.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and how would you use it in your role as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries?
I’d like the power to be able to understand every language and culture. In working with churches, one of the challenges of being a Catalyzer is that we recognize and encourage churches to analyze themselves as unique communities of faith. Being able to better understand who they are and what they value more quickly would be helpful.