Parishes and congregations employ various models and approaches in their planning for faith formation. One of these methods is a themed approach to faith formation. In Forming a Community of Faith: A Guide to Success in Adult Faith Formation Today (Twenty-Third Publications, 2014), Jane Regan summarizes the approach: “One model that has proved effective is for the pastoral team to decide on a theme for the year around which all adult formation experiences will revolve. If a parish selects sacraments, for example, all aspects of parish programming would have that as a theme.
A themed approach, of course, necessitates long-range plans, perhaps an over-all plan for three to four years, then a detailed plan for each year.
Pam Coster mentions in “Drink for the Thirsty: Planning for Adult Faith Formation, in the Fall 2009 issue of Lifelong Faith Journal: “An exhausted adult formation team helps no one. Ambitious plans are wonderful. Certainly we are ambitious for the Gospel! But steady, sure development is better than a long list of poorly done programs with no follow-up. Churches should know what is possible for their staff and team and plan accordingly. This is why an annual plan is so important. It takes the stress out of seasonal planning provides sufficient lead time for preparation and marketing, and gives everyone the opportunity for input in a calm and constructive way. Once the plan is agreed upon, the team can execute it with confidence and support.”
This approach, of course, is the opposite of what some congregations do: a “flashbulb” approach to faith formation: someone suggests a four-week Scripture study which gets plopped into the calendar, a week later someone thinks of a three-week prayer series which all of a sudden then appears on the church calendar.
Long-range planning produces a very different approach. Specific programs and processes that are planned to fit together is the cohesive method, rather that scattered programs that are thought of, and therefore, flash on people’s screen (awareness) at the last minute.
At the same time – this might seem contradictory, but it’s not – because we live in a rapidly-changing world. Therefore, we also need to adapt, within our long-range plans, to changing conditions while not losing our focus or our vision.
“Adaptive planning,” “tweaking” our integrated long-range plan is a necessary step with today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, if we’re going to be ready to meet the needs that arise and surprise us. Our long-range plan – necessary as it is – is always also open to addressing new needs.
Some churches have said:
The Learning Exchange Blog is written by our team of Curators: