Creating a sense of community is critical for feeling like you belong in a congregation—or anywhere in your life. Now that our connections have become more complex because of our busy lifestyles and the prevalence of social networking on the web, how do you know if your connections are strong or weak?
As we, more frequently, use communications technology in faith formation, there are still some questions - and sometimes reluctances – that are expressed. A few (among others) are:
To explore the third question, leaders can utilize the following questions from Elementary CC’s For Evaluating Internet Sites (adapted by Maggie Roche with permission from Betsy Richmond, May Gibbs Memorial Library, Neutral Bay Public School).
Many of us are making our final plans for starting up our fall programming in our faith communities. Barbeques, picnics, bowling parties, ice cream socials, pizza night, and kick-off Sunday celebrations are all in the works and we are looking forward to the year ahead. In all of the excitement, it can be hard to remember that for many youth, there will be uneasiness, anxiety, and fear about the unknown. If a child has never been to youth ministry programs before, they may not know what to expect at all. If they have been, they may be wondering what will be different this year, will certain people come, will a different person talk to them, or what crazy stuff will the youth minister make us do this year. This kind of unknown, even if they have grown up in the church and have been excited, can make the first few months of the year so important.
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.
Leaders must work with people. People have emotions and emotions drive our decision making and our behavior. For a simple explanation of how this happens, check out this short article by clinical psychologist, Dr. Mary Lamia: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201012/it-or-not-emotions-will-drive-the-decisions-you-mak. If you want to lead people effectively, you need to be very aware of not only what your emotions are signaling to you, but also of what is happening emotionally with the individuals and teams you lead.
Recently I was reminded of a quote from Benjamin Franklin that I have used quite often as a good one in reference to empowering and encouraging ministry through hands-on doing ministry and getting involved. The quote is: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
We imagine and long for a future in which all world religions will peacefully coexist, and we suffer under the pain of knowing that one of the greatest scandals of religion is that we too often find ourselves at war with each other. Imagining the future is a critical prophetic task of religion and all faith formation programs should have an eye on our ultimate future: the peaceful reign of God. Every once in a while, something happens that captures the future with a powerful concrete symbol. When it does, faith formation leaders can take advantage of it as a teachable moment.
For centuries, religious people from Hindus to Buddhists to Catholics have been using prayer beads. Now Protestants are adopting prayer beads as a spiritual practice.
The word bead comes from bede, which means prayer. “For those who struggle with how to pray—or what to pray—prayer beads can provide much-needed structure,” writes Kristen Vincent in her book: A Bead and Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads.
Hopefully, (a long time ago) we have moved beyond parent meetings which tell parents all the “stuff’ they need to know to “get through” the year, e.g. dates, times, Baptismal certificates to turn in, etc. (things they can read on their own).
Perhaps, though, we are still in the phase that parent meetings - especially at sacramental times - are focused on the children approaching the sacrament for the first time; catechesis is given to parents about what is happening to their child. For all practical purposes, we prepare the child for the “holy thing” and explain to the parents the meaning of it for the child. The end result of this approach is that often a child’s experience of the sacrament is his/her last participation in the community until another event arises, such as preparation for another sacrament.
This Spring, you probably celebrated the seniors who graduated from High School and are headed off to their next adventures. Their adventures may include a job, the military, community college, college, or something unknown. Regardless of where they are headed, staying in touch with them and letting them know you are still thinking about them, holding them in prayer, and looking forward to seeing them is important. Just because they graduate, does not mean that they graduate from the community. But how does one stay in touch? Here are my top 10 ways that I have found to stay in touch.
An 89-year-old is encouraged by her teen-age mentor to create a YouTube cooking video. When a 92-year-old declares that still has all her teeth, her teen-age mentor turns her statement into a rap song for the video.
This is just one episode in an inspiring, warm and touching documentary, Cyber-Seniors directed by Saffron Cassaday, in which a group of companionable teenagers serve as mentors to many elders, helping them to jump into the use of social media and today’s technology.
If you want a better youth ministry, pay attention to author John Green.
Many teenagers follow John Green closely. John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars has been made into a movie and currently is showing in movie theatres. Many teenagers not only read John Green’s books, but they also visit his YouTube channel—and often subscribe to it.
If you know John Green, you also know he has a brother, Hank Green, and the two of them are revolutionizing an entire generation of young people. How? By listening to them. By challenging them. By being entertaining. Effective youth ministry can learn a lot from John Green.
“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12, NRSV)
Parenting was less complicated in the first century. These verses from Luke indicate that there was wide agreement among parents about what to give and what not to give to their children. That’s really not the case today. Parenting options are so abundant and there are competing voices in the culture about what kinds of things and experiences children should have. Your pediatrician might recommend one thing. The Disney Corporation has another opinion. Your kids’ friends often act like expert advisors. The sports world has another agenda, and then there are the criminal elements eager to weigh in as your children move into adolescence. Parents are often confused and isolated among this chorus of voices.
Recently I attended an E-Formation event at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. It was a wonderful opportunity to become familiar with the many choices we have today when it comes to social media. From Pinterest to Face Book to Instagram to Vine to Snap Chat, one can get lost, confused, and struggle to choose which is the best way to stay in touch and connect with others via social media.
Which subject does the church avoid most?
Especially with teenagers.
Especially with parents of teenagers.
Yet, no one is more interested in this subject than these two groups of people. People of faith want guidance about sex, and they often look to church leaders to guide them.
Life is never boring and humdrum. There are moments we may feel it is, but if we are awake to life, it doesn’t take long to realize the giftedness of life, especially because of the diversity with which God has surrounded us in all of creation.
We are formed by the sacredness of all life; we learn through the events of life which we choose to remember and celebrate.
As we plan our congregation and faith formation events, we are fortunate that our liturgical year guides us through the ebb and flow of our lives and its challenging and glorious moments. In addition to the liturgical year, we remember and celebrate. . . .
A middle-aged man has a heart attack while doing some yard work with his teen son. The son calls for help which comes quickly and saves the man’s life. As the days pass, both wonder how the hand of God was present in this life-changing event. Can your church’s faith formation program “think on its feet” to provide meaningful help to this family that is now open to meaningful conversations about the deeper matters of life and death? Powerful faith formation emerges from the events of real life.
(This post is the second in a series on best practices for using digital media in ministry. Read the first post (on blogging) here.)
Among the most frequent questions I get when wearing my “digital missioner” hat is this doozy: “Our church website is terrible. Where do we begin?”
If there were an easy, straightforward answer to this question, I suspect we would have a lot fewer awful church sites adrift around the Web. Fortunately, a number of professional communicators have heard or been a part of enough stories of success and failure to extrapolate a bit and offer advice to the rest of us. I’ve tried to pull together from the best of their advice.
It is that time of year when students and families are in the midst of transition. The school year is ending, summer is beginning, and everyone is already looking toward to the next school year. As elementary students move into middle school, as middle school students become senior high students, and as the senior high students transition from school to the next steps in their lives, now is the time for us to help them as shift into the next stage. If you remember back on your own transitions in life, you will recall that they are both exciting and stressful. Students and parents wonder what they will encounter in this new space, who will they meet, what teachers will they have, and will they find new connections in this new stage in their lives. As ministers to these age groups, we have a vital and important role in helping make the connections and reaching out to those who are in transition.
There are many articles and blogs addressing the subject of change. The church is one of the last places people seem to be willing to accept and go with the flow of change. I find this to be very interesting due to the fact that everything else in our lives changes almost on a weekly basis. Weather, work, school, clothing sizes (for children and adults), homes, and budgets are a few examples. Change is inevitable.
It’s technology training season in the seminary teaching and learning center where I work. In classes, in individual coaching, and in regional and national workshops and conferences, our attention is fixed on helping congregational practitioners, seminarians, and faculty better utilize digital media in their ministries of faith formation, communication, and beyond.
As a relationship coach, I frequently get questions from people about how to deal with a challenging person. I’m used to that kind of question. Last week, I got a new one that I wasn’t prepared for from a young woman… “So, you’re a relationship coach. I’m single and looking for a husband. Can you help me find one?” Helping people find dates is not really in my coaching wheelhouse and will not be the focus of this blog. I’m more comfortable helping people make their dates better!
We are creative people. Why not make creativity a part of your faith practice?
That’s what spiritual director Maggie Oman Shannon has done. She recently wrote the book Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation. “Our lives themselves are the ultimate act of creativity,” she writes, “and each of our lives is as unique as our fingerprints.”
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