Principle 3-Faith Formation Is Concerned with All of One’s Life

Post 4 of 11 in a series on the 10 Principles of Older Adult Ministry (banner image by Raul Petrie from Unsplash)

I work primarily with children and youth and in many churches with the budget, there will be a dedicated person like me on the paid staff. We are there to walk along with the young people as they begin their faith journey. We are there for the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual needs during those important ages and stages. The things is, this journey is for life. It never ends. We are always learning, exploring, questioning, and needing someone to walk alongside us. As adults we plan a little more of that journey on our own. Gathering for Bible studies, worshipping, involving ourselves in committees with some Pastoral Care to help us when times are tough.

But what about those of us who are getting older and we begin to have varying degrees of mobility and energy? When we cannot engage in the ways we used to, how will the church walk alongside us then?

I know that in early retirement we often get a burst of energy in our congregations. People suddenly have more time to share their talents, attend Bible studies, and serve on committees. Then comes the next stage when mobility, transportation, and even medical issues can limit our involvement or may require some assistance from others.

I worked at a church who was blessed to have a Parish Nurse. I was in awe of the work she did. From taking tours of assisted living facilities with our members, to helping them secure in-home medical equipment, to driving them to doctors appointments, to setting up groups to share their grief, she worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our older members. Still engaging them and connecting them to their beloved community. It was amazing how many people relied on her and grew to love her so. Not unlike my job with youth, our older congregants may need a little more assistance on that faithful journey.

Creative Commons-University of Maryland

As churches, it is important that we are still meeting those important needs of our members as they step into a new season of their lives. This is why I think intergenerational ministry is so important. It feeds spiritual needs of all ages. It connects us to one another and to God. Faith formation is concerned with all of one’s life, but the needs may not be so different. As you think about your adult educational opportunities for the fall, I encourage you to think about ways you can cross the generations.

  • Older members make wonderful Confirmation mentors
  • Have your older members share their stories with your youth and children as part of Sunday school
  • Create opportunities for all ages to break bread together
  • Participate in a service project together
  • Have a monthly or quarterly intergenerational Sunday school
  • In our church we have 2 weekly caregivers, who members and friends of our church can contact throughout the week for meals, rides, prayer, whatever. It is a great way to connect our congregation while taking care of one another.

I encourage you to create environments where everyone learns from each other. Of course we have things like VBS and Sunday school where we need volunteer teachers. Those are always powerful ways to connect the generations. I also encourage you to create the above opportunities where we gather and are community together. Young learning from older and older learning from our wise young people.

Faith formation can be cultivated in many ways. Ann teaches Bella and Nash a new skill. Bella and Nash connect with Ann in a genuine way that creates a bond.

Faith formation is concerned with our entire lives. We are always learning and always growing. There is a woman in my church who plays the glasses. Literally has a set up of wine glasses in different sizes that she plays and it is incredible. My daughter saw this on display one Sunday and was in awe. The woman invited my daughter over to her home to show her how to play. My daughter is a musician and picked it up quickly and the two of them played music all afternoon together. My daughter was taught how to play glasses, but my daughter was also part of this woman’s faith journey. Spending time with someone who missed her own children and grandchildren and was able to share something that gave her so much joy. These holy moments can come where we are forming faith and we don’t even know it.

There are so many ways we can continue to form faith throughout all the ages and it may never involve a Bible or a curriculum. Get creative in connecting with our older members because those may be the ones that surprise you most.

Karen Miller is Director of Children and Youth Ministries at Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, NC and a Member of the Hope4CE Steering Committee

Youth Faith Connections for Mental Health

In a previous article I lamented how this pandemic had exhausted me. At one time it had energized, but now I was just done. Not only are we dealing with our own emotions and fatigue, we have congregations to hold up, including youth and children that have gone through a traumatic year.

Milestones missed. Grades at risk. Athletic seasons wiped out. Friendships lost. An entire school year that did not match any that came before it. This is a lot on top of the stress that the tween and teen years can bring all on their own. We check in with our kids and youth, but sometimes we do not have enough time or the right timing to get into the deeper feelings they are having.

In my ministry I struggle with assuming needs. I absolutely want to fill needs, but I don’t ever want to assume what they need. What I see from the outside may not be what they are feeling inside. A few years ago I received a call at 10:30 pm on a weeknight. It was our parish nurse and she was with the family of one of my youth whose father had been released from the hospital to pass away at home from a glioblastoma. They figured it could be a matter of hours and our nurse thought I should be there for my youth, an only child at 14 years old. I went into panic mode. What was I going to say? What was I going to do? This was my first touch with death from one of my youth with a beloved parent and it sadly would not be my last.

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Micropracticing

“What is the simplest this can be and still be effective?”

Over the last twelve months I’ve found myself asking the question above over and over. I’m exhausted by the realities of day-to-day living during a pandemic, and I’m guessing many families around the world would say the same.

As I was brainstorming what to offer for Lent in Vibrant Church Communications, the question of simplicity was front and center in my thoughts. As my thoughts tumbled around, the rough edges knocked against each other and smoothed into shape: micropractices.

directions for planting seedlings

On the surface, micropractices are simple. They are an action that can usually be taken in the moment or easily done at some point in the day. They follow the three pillars of Lent: praying, fasting, and giving. There’s an additional fourth category called “more” for practices that don’t fit into the first three.

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And the Survey Says . . .

Sharon Ely Pearson shared the results of her ecumenical curriculum survey on her own blog. I wonder how your ministry matches or challenges these results.

Rows of Sharon

4006230793_9b2742c25e_oAn on-line survey was held on a voluntary based during June 2016 to learn what curricular programs were being used in congregations with children, youth, and adults. The survey was disseminated through e-mail and social media (predominately Facebook groups) and various organizational list-serves (Forma, APCE, CEF,AUCE, and the Christian Education Network of the ELCA). The construction and results of the survey was conducted by the research group of the Church Pension Group, the parent company of Church Publishing Incorporated. The analysis of the data is strictly mine, and I take all responsibility for its interpretation.

Godly Playcontinues to be the most used program with children, with Montessori-type programs used by 36% of churches. The other three types of curriculum were lectionary-based (25%), Bible story based (30%), and workshop rotation model (9%). Most churches use a variety of resources, combining and tweaking them…

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Faith Sprouts

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a number of questions from parents and grandparents about where and when to start talking to their young children about faith. Many of them have little or no experience as children themselves or ones that they would not like to repeat. Recently, I began a blog “FaithSprouts”. Designed to provide simple ways to engage small children around stories of faith, the blog includes a short reflection for caregivers, a book suggestion, an activity and a suggested prayer. You can find the most recent blog here . Hopefully these simple stories and practices can support faith in each household.

Linnae Himsl Peterson
Coordinator, Formation Network NH
Episcopal Church of NH

The Village

Our story is so common, a 125 year old congregation, inner-city, wants to minister to the community around it, I’m sure you have heard it all before.

The Facts:
Our average attendance: 170ish
Average Sunday school was: 30ish (all in, all ages)
Most families attended once a month
We have a separate family chapel, attended by substantially more persons than Sunday school hour.

Our take away was that families are interested, but not in our traditional model.
We kept coming back to the old adage “it takes a village…”

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Stepping Stones in Faith

One Church’s Process to Identify the Basic Milestones on the Journey of Faith…

Over twenty years ago in my early days as Minister of Education at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA we began to talk together about what were the most important concepts to teach our children, youth and adults. We needed a plan and a goal. So we formed a committee! But what a gift this committee became to me and our ministry together. For as we met over more than a year and a half we began to solidify what became the foundational book of our Christian Education at Peachtree – Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith. I don’t remember the term milestones at that point in time but our work does seem to relate to the emphasis that is now found in many churches in providing milestones for the journey of faith.

As we got started I did some research to see if there was a document in existence that listed what the important concepts of our faith were and at what age they should be taught. I remember having a conversation with Liz McWhorter at the PC(USA) national offices who told me they had always talked about creating something like this but never had that she knew of. She challenged me to create it. So we began our work together at ground zero and it was well worth it.

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Peace Garden

After Easter—Spring and Summer in the Garden! Wondering what to do with kids and adults in Ordinary time? Go outside!!! Our Christian Education team invited adults’ and children’s classes to come out to the Sweetwater Garden behind our church to make a Peace Garden. This garden is part of the Wylde Center neighborhood gardens. We enlisted folks who could help us but were not the usual teachers: a person who volunteered in the garden, another to build benches out of recycled wood, an artist to help paint the benches and the peace pole we erected as well as a bird bath that we decorated with mosaic tiles. Continue reading

Preach This, Tweet That (Part I): What Black Millennials are Looking for from the Preacher

Dominique Robinson begins a series based on her Doctor of Ministry research on preaching and teaching for “Black Millennials.” Thanks to Columbia Connections for sharing of the beginning of her series. There is much here for all to contemplate in addressing this digital generation.

Here is the link to Part II. She has also done a public presentation on this and is willing to share her bibliography for this event.

Robinson iHomiletic Presentation Bibliography