As I am a curriculum publisher, you might be surprised to hear me say that curriculum is not the most important aspect of faith formation. You can’t just throw a lesson at someone and hope their faith is formed by the experience. There is a reason why, when I describe our products, I call them “faith formation resources.” Curricula, and the rest of our products, are resources, tools, and they are just one facet of faith formation. And just like garden or woodworking tools, the best tools in the world won’t get a project done without someone to use them. So, what are the facets of a faith formation experience?
- Participants– I would say that the most important piece of a faith formation experience are the people whose faith is being formed, who are growing as disciples. If you don’t have people, you can’t have faith formation! I specifically chose the term “participants.” These people are not a passive audience. For faith to grow, people must participate and engage in some way. Now this engagement can look very different depending on the context. It can involve moving, talking, getting your hands dirty, or even listening or receiving the care of others.
- Leadership– To have a faith formation experience, you need to have a leader (or more than one) that gets things moving and possibly guide things along. Most likely, someone has to do the planning or invite people. A faith formation leader can be a parent (or caring adult), a teacher, a preacher, a worship leader, a small group leader, a service project organizer, or even just someone who starts a conversation or offers a hug. And make no mistake, leaders are also participants!
- Training– Most likely, faith formation leaders (and sometimes participants) need some training to be effective. There are some types of faith formation that just come naturally, especially the informal connections with others. Some people are naturally gifted as teachers or preachers or organizers. But, most types of faith formation experiences require some training for leaders (including parents!) so that they know the best practices for what they are doing.
- Relationships– Faith formation is not about transmitting information into people’s brains. It happens through relationships. Relationships between parent (or caring adult) and child, teacher and student, leader and participant, and between friends. Ultimately these relationships are reflections and embodiments of our relationship with God. And, nurturing and forming that relationship is the point of faith formation.
- Time- Forming faith takes time. It takes time to prepare a lesson, worship service, or sermon. It takes time to form and nurture relationships. It takes time to form faith habits. It takes time to work on service projects. Faith formation doesn’t happen by accident or in a moment. It takes time.
- Effort- Just as faith formation takes a time commitment, it requires committed effort. It takes effort as a leader to prepare. It takes effort for a friend to be vulnerable and authentic in a relationship. It takes effort for a family to engage in devotional practices. Without leaders and participants making an effort, faith formation won’t be effective.
- Content– And finally, faith formation needs content. We need to get to know our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Comforter. This is where resources come in. The basic resource is the Bible, but it is a series of ancient documents that can be hard to read and understand. Resources are things that make understanding Scripture, tradition, and theology easier. Resources can be study guides, curricula, devotional helps, hymnals/songbooks, prayer methods or many other things. They can be published (like by Spirit & Truth Publishing) or created locally. But, faith formation requires content.
This is not necessarily an exhaustive list. Do you have anything to add or something you might disagree with? If you do, please leave a comment below!
-Gregory Rawn, Publisher