A colleague and I recently spent an evening with a group of children’s ministry leaders via Zoom talking about how to practically engage families at home through the use of faith formation “playlists.” And, no, we’re not referring to the playlists you create on Spotify….
Using playlists to encourage at-home faith formation is not a new idea. I first learned about it at a 2016 Vibrant Faith workshop in Minneapolis with faith formation expert John Roberto. He describes playlists as “curated content and experiences focusing on a particular theme or topic.” In my teacher brain, that translates to “a themed curriculum unit with a bank of theme-related activities built around a set of educational goals, incorporating different learning styles to help motivate and engage individual learners.”
Whew! There’s a lot packed into that last sentence, but if you look closely there are four parts to creating a faith formation “playlist”: theme, activities, goals, and learning styles.
First, let’s start with goals
When I do a puzzle, the first thing I put together is the edge pieces. It doesn’t matter what the size of the puzzle is; I need the edges to give me perspective and provide boundaries. That’s what goals do for your faith formation programs and for playlists. They not only help you organize and plan, but they give focus.
If you don’t already have goals outlined for the faith formation programs at your church, I encourage you to dedicate some time to the goal-discernment process. The goals our group of ministry leaders on the Zoom meeting used were the following (If you’d like to see how we came up with these goals, let me know, and we’ll chat!):
Encourage spiritual practices
Provide opportunities for faith-and-life conversations
Encourage celebration and fun
Encourage involvement in church life
Second, pick a theme
In the Zoom meeting I mentioned, we gave the ministry leaders the following themes to play with: summer, fruits of the Spirit, and prayer. The options are endless here. You could correlate your themes with the church seasons or the natural seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter. You could set themes according to a sermon series or a book of the Bible. My one word of advice would be that the more things connect to each other, the more your activities will “connect” at home.
Third, remember that people have different learning styles
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, type “eight multiple intelligences” into your web browser. You’ll get a bunch of resources about the different (but equally valid!) ways people learn. The main thing to know about these “intelligences” is that every time you incorporate one into your playlist, you engage that type of learner on a deeper level.
My favorite example of drawing on multiple intelligences is a scavenger hunt for the family where they have to use a map to drive around and take pictures of specific things. That simple activity engages the logical, kinesthetic, visual, and interpersonal intelligences. Why is that important? Because you have just helped four different types of learners feel that they belong and they can contribute! So just keep these learning styles in the background as you put together your list of activities. Which brings us to the next component of a playlist.
Fourth, build your activities
Here are the activities that our amazing group of ministry leaders compiled in about 20 minutes. We gave them the chart attached below to help keep the goals in mind, and we reminded them to consider different learning styles as they brainstormed together. As you read through the lists, notice the variety of activities that touch multiple learning styles.
After reading through the chart, you probably have a multitude of questions, but I hope you are either mildly interested or truly inspired to try this at your own church. Whichever category you fall into, know that Faith Formation Ministries’ regional catalyzers are more than happy to help you figure all this out, and we hopefully have answers for your questions, or at least some useful guidance! We are also hoping to launch another cohort in the fall and when we do, we would love to have you join us. Follow the CRC Children’s Ministry Facebook page for updates.
Before you go, I want to leave you with some of the comments from the ministry leaders in our Zoom meeting when they answered this question: “What is one takeaway you have about working with playlists for at-home faith formation?” I think their responses speak volumes and can end this blog better than I can:
“Love the playlist idea as a way to resource and empower parents to build faith formation at home.”
“I love the idea to use a mix of methods!! Be creative!”
“It is better to not be working alone. Sharing ideas together is so helpful.”
“Remember that parents also are learning along the way as they are forming their children.”
“Summer programming can be reimagined in the form of a playlist…and it can be fun and silly!”
“Keep a good balance of learning styles.”
“God is in and through everything…so use variety when forming faith at home.”
“Equipping families for formation can be fun.”
“Time to start working on some playlists!”
One last thing: here are a few of the resources from John Roberto on playlists for faith formation. They are very helpful and form the base for the majority of the info and thoughts laid out in this blog. Enjoy!