I learn a lot from my kids. The things they come up with can be both hilarious and fun—but they can also be quite thought provoking.
My daughter is almost 8. When I pray with her at night, we hold hands while we take turns praying out loud. For the last few months, in every bedtime prayer she uses this phrase: “Help me keep walking toward you, Lord.” At first I thought that was kind of funny because I assumed she was mixing up some words. But the more she says it, the more I see the profound, honest heartfelt request in it.
This phrase makes my heart do a little dance of joy because it implies that she is already walking toward God (best news ever for this mom!). But this phrase also says that she knows she needs to walk toward God and that she wants to walk toward him (more best news ever!!).
Organic Faith Formation
I’m convinced that the most authentic faith formation happens in organic, everyday, non-formal interactions with the people God puts in our circles. While there is a time and place for Sunday school and catechism class that help us learn about our faith, spontaneous faith conversations impact our faith journey in very personal ways.
My daughter’s prayer “Help me keep walking toward you, Lord” didn’t come from me or my husband, and she can’t remember where she heard it. But something or someone, most likely at church or school, sparked that thought in her and it has become part of her daily routine and part of her faith-forming journey. I get to hear her prayers and talk with her about this phrase and what it means to her and I get to tell her what it means to me. Both of our faith journeys are deepened in that moment.
Planning for the Spontaneous
So how do we make these organic interactions happen in the church? Can we plan for spontaneous faith formation?
While your church can’t make faith form in people, you can provide the garden in which it grows. You can plan events that help intergenerational relationships sprout. You can provide materials for adults and children to learn God’s big story together. You can provide opportunities for gifts to be tested and used. Your congregation can be a place of inclusion where everyone feels rooted and can flourish and grow. It can be a safe place to question and to be comforted.
Here are some organic, everyday, non-formal ideas to provide opportunities at your church for faith to form:
- Eat. Pray. Share. Invite the congregation to a potluck. When they arrive, seat them at tables, intentionally mixing groups and ages. Fill a jar with simple questions that will spur stories like: “Share a story about your mother or father that makes you laugh” or “What’s one thing you would like to do but have never been able to?” As tables fill up, invite each table to get their food and then pray together before eating. Have them pass around the jar as they eat. The room will soon be filled with laughter and encouragement. Think about other opportunities your church might have for intentional story sharing. For dozens of other ideas, see Faith Formation Ministries’ Faith Storytelling Toolkit.
- Baptism and profession of faith letters. Have parents, grandparents, or an elder of the church write a letter to each child at baptism or profession of faith and then read it to the congregation during the worship service. Suggest they pick a verse for that child that speaks to their hopes for that’s child’s faith journey.
- Encourage stewardship of money and time. This is important to remember: no one finds every mission or project interesting, but give everyone the chance to find something interesting and they’ll want to give. Have a month long church-wide challenge for everyone to find a charity or ministry they feel connected to. Have volunteers share with the congregation about these projects and why they want to get involved. This will open people’s eyes to the infinite ways God is working in his world and encourage involvement in the community as well as global awareness. CRC ministries like World Renew provide many ideas for giving projects.
- Church-wide work projects. Every church has its ministries and volunteer opportunities, but is there a way to be more intentional with these events? Think about what groups of people participate and what kinds of projects are already ongoing. Maybe you can switch the work groups up with each project, or if you want to keep groups the same to help them bond, provide some common experiences or sharing opportunities to encourage those bonds. It could be as simple as getting together for a meal after the work is done, or ending the project with a time of sharing their favorite moment of the day or something that challenged them.
- Family Bible studies or family Sunday school. What about a few Sundays out of the year where Sunday school is done with families instead of same-age grades? Kids would see their parents digging into the Bible with them and parents would get some much needed time with their kids and the Bible as well as some mentoring on how to study the Bible with their kids. The WE curriculum is specially designed for multi-generational gatherings.
There are a million different ways to encourage these spontaneous, organic faith-forming moments, but sifting through a million online ideas is not easy. Sometimes we need just one story or one example to spark an idea. Faith Formation Ministries is all about helping you find your one spark. We have free coaching and all sorts of resources to help your church create these faith-forming opportunities.
My prayer for you and your church is that you keep walking toward Jesus, and if I can help you find ways to encourage that, please let me know!