Resource, Guide or Toolkit

This fall we’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I can’t think of a better Sunday take home gift for everyone in your congregation than a copy of Ten Ways My Reformed Identity Shapes My Faith.

October 19, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

Online cultural magazine, Think Christian, recently put out a new ebook, the “Pop Culture Primer,” that aims to help Christians consider what they watch, listen to, read, and play through the lens of their faith in Christ.

October 16, 2017 1 2 comments
Blog

We often end our youth group year by inviting the teens to write down questions they’re struggling with. This past spring I was shocked by the composite question that topped the list.

October 15, 2017 2 2 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

Nothing reaches kids like a well-told story with eyeball-grabbing art. If it’s time for a refresh of your personal or church library, check out these beautiful faith-forming books.

October 10, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

“What is your only comfort in life and in death?” A new course called The Big Question dives deep into Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1 in four easy-to-lead sessions.

September 21, 2017 0 2 comments
Blog

I see a church community as a place to experience the contagiousness of courage. Surrounded by fellow hikers on the path, we hear and see people cheering us on while we in turn do the same for others.

September 20, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Devotional

Classis Grand Rapids South has created a 30 day devotional to promote a time of prayer and celebration commemorating the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation. We'd love for you to use and share! 

September 20, 2017 2 0 comments
Resource, Job Opening

Faith Formation Ministries is seeking a part-time (8-15 hour/week) Children's Ministry Catalyzer. 

September 19, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

The creators of TOGETHER, an inclusive adult Bible study, have partnered with Faith Formation Ministries to put together a list of Ten Ways to Be a More Inclusive and Welcoming Adult Small Group. 

August 29, 2017 0 2 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Faith Formation Ministries invites you to consider joining a cohort of twenty congregations that will work with us to intentionally strengthen their faith formation practices from October 2017 to January 2019. 

August 29, 2017 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

I love David’s invitation in Psalm 34:8 to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” The verse is so tangible, a reminder that we can experience God's goodness. In what ways have you tasted and seen God's goodness this summer? 

August 29, 2017 0 3 comments
Resource, Video

Faith Formation Ministries presents, Choosing a Curriculum,  the companion video to the guide a "10 Question Tool for Choosing Children's Ministry Curriculum." 

August 24, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

For years I attended small groups that appealed to my interests and helped me grow spiritually. And I never thought about the people in my congregation who didn’t have the same choices. 

August 22, 2017 0 1 comments
Blog

Twelve weeks into an 18-week marathon training program, most of my days look the same. Wake up before the sun. Run. Go to work. Rest, rinse, repeat. But the monotony is building endurance for what lies ahead, much like my walk with God. 

August 22, 2017 0 4 comments
Blog

After a week which included a public display of racial hatred, the murder of a young woman, and the shameful failure of a president to name evil for what it is, how do we respond?

August 22, 2017 0 8 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

This resource warmly and clearly articulates ten answers to the question “What difference does being Reformed make in my daily life?”

August 14, 2017 0 2 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

The CRC Office of Race Relations is now offering discussion guides for small groups on books and films that address the topics of race and faith. First up is Trevor Noah's memoir, Born a Crime

August 10, 2017 0 5 comments
Resource, Video

Faith Formation Ministries has created a short video that provides a clear and concise overview of our ministry. Please feel free to use on FFM Offering Sunday (Aug 27 this year) or any other time in the year!

August 9, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

Use this free bulletin insert (or shareable pdf) from Faith Formation Ministries as a way to let people know about the toolkits and where to find them online.

August 9, 2017 0 2 comments
Blog

I know that healing is such a huge and fraught topic. One could begin, naturally, by asking why doesn’t Jesus just heal everyone, then and now?

August 6, 2017 0 1 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

Feel like you’re scrambling to put together each week’s youth group meeting? Are you overwhelmed by carrying the leadership responsibilities alone? This resource can help.

August 2, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

Gratitude somehow builds up in us during the ordinary and good times of life so as to make us less likely to be defeated when the bottom falls out on us in this or that area of life. 

July 26, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

“There’s no single way to do intergenerational engagement. There’s no hard and fast rule or one silver bullet. It’s all about experimentation and failure, even,” says Amanda Bakale, a pastor at Community CRC in Kitchener, ON. 

July 24, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Type Not Listed

The fine folks at Illustrated Children's Ministry have just posted a fabulous resource to share with the families in your church. It's a list of  5 questions to ask your kids (and each other!) this summer. 

July 12, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

I keep a growing list about why seminary education is more than just helpful—it is vital for church leaders and the church. Here are three of my top reasons for attending seminary. 

July 7, 2017 0 1 comments

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I can relate to their embarrassment.  When I read an article in which the son of Liberty University's founder said that Trump was their dream president, I decided I would not refer to myself as an evangelical Christian anymore because people like him were giving the word a bad name.  I am not the only one to feel this way either.

I am a 42 year old father of three and I can fully understand how these teens feel.  Many of their comments mirror my own thoughts and concerns.  I have been bewildered and dismayed by some of the words, actions, and inaction of many in Christian leadership.  However, I am heartened by your story of young people who are struggling.  It is encouraging that they are concerned about current events and that they recognize the disconnect between their beliefs and the actions of leaders.  These young people are demonstrating discernment and that is a beautiful thing.  We need to encourage young people to live out their beliefs, as the Spirit leads them, and not fall in the trap of following the crowd.  Even if that crowd is being led by persons with great authority.

Hi Doug, We're sorry to hear that Think Christian might not be as useful to your adult Sunday school class moving forward. And we agree that it is good to "think Christianly" about all of culture. However, since refocusing we've had an enthusiastic response from Christians who do engage regularly with popular culture (some even by way of the movie club at their CRC church!). These folks have been excited to find a denomination that does this in faithful, discerning community. So we're looking forward to the opportunity our focus offers us, both to be a place of discipleship when it comes to pop culture, and to bring a Reformed voice into some of the most vibrant cultural conversations taking place today. Hopefully we'll still be of use to your class from time to time! Josh Larsen (TC editor)

I've noticed Think Christian's recent shift to almost exclusively cover only pop media (e.g., popular singers, rappers, movies, videogames, etc), as if pop media equals the world.

I for one have been quite disappointed.  Certainly, pop media is part of the world but after this shift, Think Christian gives the impression that pop media is all there is to "think Christianly" about.  Indeed, while my adult SS class is called "Think Christian," and while I used to (for the last couple of years") use TC articles as class material, I no longer do, cuz I can't.  My SS class members (of a broad range of ages, occupations, etc) just aren't all that interested in an exclusive diet of pop artists, songs, videogames and movies.

It's very different, Shaun. The Big Question incorporates faith formation practices into the study. You can view a sample of The Big Question here--look for the red "view sample" button. 

How different is this new material from the previous QWA (Questions Worth Asking)? Anyone know? 

My garden the the vegetables grown only by what God has provided. The St Lawrence River with it's power and beauty and it's clear waters, the Black River in the Adirondacks and how it truly appears black. The sun on my body, the raindrops on my head, the cooling wind on a hot day blowing my hair. The majesty  and awe of the Rocky Mountains, the coldness and wind whipping crazily and the warmth of the lake below that I wade in and pull a leach off my grandson and gaze at the beauty of the wildflowers. It has been a busy blessed summer and God has allowed me to see much of his magnificent creation!

We were out on the boat yesterday, hosting two young couples that didn't know each other... and as the day progressed, one couple asked the other, "have you found a community to worship with?"  I could only thank God for the direction and heart of the conversation!  Only HE knew how much that question meant...but I'm praying that it leads to more conversation!  A day on the water, enjoy fun behind a boat, meeting new people -- is ALL part of God's plan as well!  #heleadswefollow

Sounds like you have a great system worked out, Keith! This Ten Ways tool was intended to help people think about how they can incorporate people of all abilities (including immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities, and others) into their small group ministry. If your groups are doing that, we'd love to hear how it's going!

The 'success' of a small group ministry rests with the content. Small groups have a tendency to become social gatherings rather than spiritual formation gatherings.  Our small group spends the first hour discussing the past Sunday's message, using questions provided by the church office.  The second hour is much more significant; men and women separate, meet in separate rooms, and become accountable for their personal lives over the past week. They share -- frankly and openly -- about their struggles over the past week as they dealt with sin, temptation, the amount of time they spend in devotions, their relationships (spouses, parents, children).  And throughout the week, they connect to each other by email or phone to see how they're doing.

This is spiritual development. It's accountability, something that few small groups seem equipped to do; nor do they desire to become that vulnerable.

Your "Ten Ways.." are a given. They are the ground rules.  It's what happens during that weekly discussion time that shapes one's faith journey, and that ends up strengthening the entire congregation's faith journey.

For me it would have to be kayaking in Deep Cove, Vancouver BC on the ocean. The beautiful scenery, the sun shining off the water, the salt on my lips, the wonder of being able to move my body and the friendship of others all made for a beautiful afternoon.

 

Chris, thanks for your comments and insight!

Thanks for reading, Angela!

Thank you for drawing attention to the mundane moments, Drew. I've often heard self-control (in the fruit of the Spirit passage) described as being able to resist temptation, which is certainly true. But I wonder if we're missing out on the real substance of self-control when we only talk about it as restraint - or not doing something. Your post depicts a more engaged view of self-control, with an emphasis on what we commit ourselves to doing, not just what we avoid. I think what you are describing lends to a more active and deliberate, rather than a passive and reactive, discipleship.   

Antifa does not plan to kill anyone as far as I know.  

I will Get working on that. Thanks for the recommendation!

I would love a discussion guide for the documentary Accidental Courtesy.  I was brought up in another network post I believe.  I watched it and really appreciated it.

Thanks for your question. We don't have any other guides available yet, but we are working on developing them. Let us know if you have suggestions to pass along!

I heard Trevor Noah's interview on Fresh Air. It was good. I haven't read the book yet, but now I will. Your questions look great and I plan to return to discuss. Thanks!

The main stream media says Trump equated the two sides.  He did not.  He said there was blame to go around.  Yes there were some espousing hatred, racism and Nazi Symbols.  But some on that side were also there about the issues of keeping the confederate symbols as part of history. On the other side were people standing for equality and peace.  But that side also included Antifa and others just looking for a fight.  Calvinists and every parents knows that rarely is there a purely evil and totally righteous side in a fight. 

Sorry Sid but I'm not a fan of too much of this post.  Certainly, we should be agents of reconciliation, but the political conclusions in this post are a bit merely politically fashionable.

This post clearly, even if a bit vaguely (another CRC trait beside having "gentle grace"), promotes grace for all except the "bad guys" of course.  At best, they get a "just say no," and the president (without speaking his name of course) gets an unambiguous "put your thumbs down everyone."  We can do better than that.  A lot better.

Which is the approach taken by Daryl Davis, as described in the documentary, "Accidental Courtesy."  It would seem that Davis, a black musician, has been doing reconciliation work -- including with KKKers and white supremacists/separatists, for years now, and with the kind of "sturdy, gentle grace" that is suggested by this article to be the perhaps exclusive possession of CRCers.  And Davis has been doing this all while doing it was neither cool nor politically current.

Davis understands, quite correctly I believe, that fear and ignorance predominantly underlie the postures of KKKers and white separatists/supremacists.  Davis exhibits "gentle grace" there, not a simplistic "just say no" posture, and it does indeed make for results.  

This article, and most if not all CRCNA agent articles on this same hot political topic, give no hint that the CRCNA understands what Davis does.

Perhaps there should be a GR showing of "Accidental Courtesy."  Knowing there would never be (too different from the preferred GR political narrative, which frankly is less "gentle grace filled"), I'll recommend watching it on Netflix, now showing.

Thank you for your prophetic voice and willingness to share.

Beautifully written Syd. Thank you!

I agree that Christians must make efforts to be accurately informed, and that we must also respond with both grace and truth. Donald Trump, in calling out evil on many sides, equated the two sides; and that's exactly the problem. One side espoused hatred, and racism, glorifying Nazi symbols. The other side stood for equality for all people. These two sides are not the same. We must, as Christians, stand on the side of justice for all people, and not on the side of hatred and bigotry.

How do we respond?  Grace and truth always goes together.  If one listens only to the mainstream media, then one could say that President Trump had a shameful failure to call evil for what it is.  But a key problem is the mainstream media has become shamefully unreliable.  By his own words, President Trump called out evil on all sides.  Christians must be informed accurately before we respond in grace and truth.

What other discussion guide to you have?  You mentioned film discussion guides.  Do you have any film discussion guides available?

This is great, Ruth! Can't wait to hear how it goes in your Together group this fall!

This article clearly articulates what it is like attempting to live "in Christ."  I am pleased at finding the material, and wish to share it with my people.

Thank you for your help! 

Very encouraging Drew! Thanks for sharing this.

This is great! Thanks, Faith Formation. 

Hi Carmen,

Thanks for pointing that out to us! I have uploaded a new bulletin insert that has two inserts side by side on an 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Let us know if that is more printer friendly. 

Unfortunately, neither of these formats is printer friendly, at least not for me. The image is blurry when brought to size for a half page 8 1/2 x 11. The PDF prints centered on the page.  Suggestions?

Beautiful, Jennifer! Thank you!

Before seminary I was doing ministry in a non-denominational, organic, young and hip group with zero budget and no ties to a building. I was living the dream that a lot of anti-seminary, anti-denominational, anti-institutional seminarians and pastors think they want. And there were some great things about it - but it wasn't nearly the dream that people like to think. I was so thankful when God called me to attend CTS! I came in with the attitude of wanting to get to know God better and understand His community of children - the Church. I was seeking for a greater filling with Christ, and I found that. The time I spent in seminary were some of the best years of my life, digging deeper into my relationships with God and with His Church everyday. I got to sit at the feet of people, past and present, who have been recognized as deeply knowledgeable, passionate, and wise about God. Yes, there is an academic structure and rigor to it all, but every relationship comes to a point where it takes an organized and intentional effort to grow. When I hear someone talk down about the importance of a seminary education I end up wondering how serious they really are developing their relationship with Jesus.

I cannot speak for every CRC pastor, but I've always used the New International Version. For most of my life it was the 1984 NIV, but a few years back I purchased the 2011 NIV. While I consult many other versions, the Bible I use for sermon preparation, visiting, and personal devotions is the 2011 NIV. Hope this helps . . .

Great post, Syd.  As to your question, "how to encourage" such a perspective/attitude, a think a key is to persuade that having a contrary perspective or appreciation is absolutely, unqualifiedly OK, even good.  That's only a key of course, but without it, folks tend to see themselves as compelled to act as if they think/feel the same (that they like rap when they don't, or that they believe food stamps shouldn't be increased when they don't think that), or choose the route of being divisive.  

If we lie about our honest differences to keep community, we ultimately will not keep community.  Nor will we learn, as Mr. Wellstone has, how to "deal with" those differences and how to discern priorities of importance.

Probably the largest collection of Christian radio programs and podcasts can be found on Crosswalk.com, though they will tend to be the mainstream sorts of programs you'd hear on Christian radio. Another resource might be iDisciple.  But neither of those would likely have much for independent or start-up podcasts. 

And as Karen mentions, we at ReFrame Media have three regular audio programs: Groundwork, Today devotional, and Kids Corner!

 

-Steven Koster

This is provided by the CRCNA. But if the RCA would like to offer something similar to their churches, we'd certainly be open to exploring it.

Is this assistance program also available for RCA churches?

Thanks!

Just came across another new podcast suggestion while reading this post on The Twelve. The podcast, called Rewrite Radio, is produced by the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing’s Creative Director Jon Brown and hosted by the CCFW’s managing director Lisa Ann Cockrel. Per the description, the podcast showcases sessions from past Festivals, along with new conversations to frame the sessions’ content. 

I highly recommend "On Being" with Krista Tippett. I believe she herself is a Christian, and definitely brought up Christian, but she discusses faith and life with people of other faiths, too. Incredibly insightful, throught-provoking, and for me life-changing: https://onbeing.org/

Also as a side note Alex, you mentioned when in one's life does this take place. Truth be told, we may not be aware of or know when this takes place. For example, there is a good chance (and many theologians believe this) that the Holy Spirit could be given in the womb as in the case of the baby in the womb of Elizabeth when she was greeted by Mary who was pregnant with Jesus at the time. (see Luke 1:39 and on) In such a case the baby who would have been regenerate by the Holy Spirit would rightfully respond in faith when he would grow to understand and first hear the gospel (as faith comes by hearing of the Word.) For others, this may take place later in life as an adult who never grew up trusting in Jesus, and upon hearing the Word of God, they respond in faith because at some point prior to that (we don't know when/could happen immediately prior) such a person's heart had been changed from a dead heart of stone to a heart of flesh, made alive by the power of God to see, hear and respond in faith. Does that make sense?

Hey Alex,

Good questions to be asking! I grew up in a different tradition and was taught a few things that I later found were very much less than biblical. Regardless of the label "Reformed" or not (which is also a nuanced term depending on who you speak to) our goal should be to define according to the standard of God's Word.

Biblically understood, one receives the Holy Spirit by an act of God's grace and not as a response to our faith. The tradition I grew up in sadly reversed this order and made it seem as though the new birth (being born again) takes place once you repent and believe. However, biblically understood (read John 3 for example which talks about the new birth) we are dead in our trespasses and sins and are not capable of such things and need to be made alive to the things of God and thus are given the Holy Spirit as a gracious gift of God's choosing according to nothing more than His good pleasure. What takes place as a result of the new birth are also gifts: repentance and faith.

While the word is not found in the bible, historically theologians have called this "regeneration," another term for being born again, or made alive by God's Spirit.

Hope that helps. Not sure if the second question can be narrowed down to one primary role that the Holy Spirit does within the role of the Triune God. He leads us in all truth, empowers for gospel ministry, glorifies the Son and proceeds from the Father and the Son and countless other things.

Eric

I just heard that Shauna Niequist launched a podcast. I haven't listened to the first episode but the description looks good: 

Best-selling author and speaker Shauna Niequist hosts this interview-style podcast featuring personal conversations with leading writers, thinkers and leaders about life, relationships, purpose, family and faith.

Hi Annette, 

That's a great question! I was at a conference for Christian leaders and heard that podcasts continue to gain in popularity. (Wonderful news for those of us who are getting tired of 'screens', right?)

I posed your question to my Faith Formation Ministries team members and they recommended two sites---one is actually hosted by team member Sam Gutierrez from his Granite Spring Church. It's called Curious Church and you can find out more about it here. The other is called Groundwork, Biblical Foundations for Life and it's one of the excellent resources provided by the folks at ReFrame Media. (If you're not familiar with their site, it's worth a look as they have all kinds of encouraging resources on a variety of topics.) 

If I hear of any more recommendations I'll post them here for you.

Do we receive the HS at baptism or our second birth (as in profession of faith and our acceptance of Jesus)? 

Alex, that's a great question and one that I'm glad you're getting the opportunity to wrestle with.  Maybe the first thing that we should look at is defining our terms.    What do you mean when you use the phrase "receive the Holy Spirit"?  There is, shall we say, a lot of freight in that truck.  It's a phrase that not only appears in Scripture but has taken on nuances of meaning from various theological traditions...pentecostalism, etc., as well as specific meanings in more liturgical traditions.  So to unload the truck a bit, what's the particular understanding of that phrase that you're wrestling with?

 

In terms of the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit, that's another important discussion.  I guess off the bat I've been helped by Max Ander's illustration of the spotlights that ring the Washington Monument.  The spotlights do not draw attention to themselves but to the monument.  In the same way the Spirit is "the shy member of the Trinity", tending to draw attention not to himself but to the work and the person of Christ.  Christ says that "he will take what is mine and make it known to you".

Excellent article, Kurt Monroe.  Very well written.... inspiring.  

Thank you so much for sharing, John. The book sounds interesting and insightful. 

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