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Integrating Faith Formation

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Faith Formation & Integration

When I start discussing a topic, the first thing I do is define my terms. It doesn’t do any good to think we’re on the same page but to find out that we’re actually talking about different things altogether. So, if I’m going to argue that you should integrate your congregation’s faith formation experiences, we need to make sure you know what I mean. At the most basic level:

  • Faith Formation: Any activity that helps faith grow.
  • Integration: Bringing different parts together.
Faith Formation

I have a broad definition of faith formation. I define it as “any act, relationship, or experience that nurtures a relationship of trust with God and shapes the way we see and interact with God’s world.” It’s not just about Christian education, it’s about everything we do. Faith formation includes (but is not limited to) worship services, fellowship time, service trips & projects, visitation ministry, small groups, household devotions, and yes, education classes. In fact, the worship service is the single most important faith formation activity a congregation does. It’s where you will find the most people the most often. Find out more about what I’m talking about at What Is Faith Formation?

Integration: All for One

Here I’m looking at bringing all the different faith formation activities a congregation does together. It looks different in different settings. In some, it means that all (or most) of the activities support one central activity. Perhaps your various educational and small group ministries support your worship service. Faith formation participants can learn the meaning behind why you do what you do in worship. It might be learning the meaning of the language of the liturgy, the festivals of the church year, or the specialized language you use in worship (e.g. How often do you explain what faith or worship even mean? What’s the difference between praise and thanksgiving?). It could be an in-depth look at the sacraments or a study of common hymns or praise songs. It can be reflections on the sermon topics (in preparation for or continuing the conversation).

Integration: One for All

Alternatively, all the different ministries can focus on the same topic. The most common way to do this is for all (most) ministries to study the same Bible readings, however those readings are chosen. This way, education and other ministries prepare for or continue the conversation of the reading(s) heard in worship, and worship provides a devotional (worshipful?) context for a deeper study. This is the purpose behind lectionary-based curricula. In my mind, this is one of the strong points for the Narrative Lectionary. In the Narrative Lectionary, there is a single Bible reading (usually a story) each week for everyone to focus on, each week is connected to the previous and upcoming weeks, and the whole of the Bible is represented as the greater biblical story is learned. But, I’m a bit biased. 😉

Integration: All Together Now

A third way of integrating faith formation ministries is to make your ministries cross+generational (intergenerational). Here, all ages are focused on the same thing as they’re all doing it together. Not only are they learning and experiencing the same thing, but they are building faith-growing relationships across generations. Now, making your faith formation ministries cross+generational does not by itself integrate these ministries together. If that is your goal, you would still need to use one of the above methods or something similar.

Integration Difficulties

Let’s be honest. Not every faith formation ministry lends itself to integration. Take a mission/service trip, for example. It would be difficult to focus the trip on supporting the worship service or focusing on the same Bible passages, other than using those topics for daily devotions. You can also integrate it with the worship service by focusing a portion of those ministries on the trip. It is already common for the mission group to be sent off with a prayer from the congregation in worship, and the team often shares what happened in worship afterward. But, especially for longer trips, a portion of the worship service could be devoted to specific prayer for the trip, a “mission moment” could share a video clip or statement by trip participants, and/or the worshippers can learn about the community and project(s) the team is working on (in preparation for or during the trip).

Benefits of Integration

The benefit of integration is that the different interactions that a person has within your congregation can be unified, strengthening that witness. Families can have conversations at home on the shared topic, with all ages being able to contribute. People of all ages can better engage with worship if they come with an understanding of worship elements or the Bible reading(s). Basically, your faith formation ministries can be more effective in forming the faith of participants.

Integration & Us

Integration is one of the primary motivations for the resources we create here at Spirit & Truth Publishing. Our largest faith formation series, Living the Word: Teaching God’s Story, provides faith formation products for all ages (separately and together) on the same topic each week, the readings of the Narrative Lectionary. Our elementary-age curriculum, Spirit & Truth: Teaching Kids the Heart of Worship, explains the meaning of our worship vocabulary, liturgies, and church festivals. And, our various cross+generational products integrate within the different generations. Our download this week shares summaries of our various resources.

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-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

 

2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are now available for purchase. Fall lessons can be downloaded right away! You can download the 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence to start your planning for the next program year!

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

Image Copyright: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo