What is Formation?

A few months back, the Christian Education Commission and I organized a workshop that was meant to help clarify the purposes of Christian Formation and set some goals to help move us toward our vision for Christian formation with children and youth.  The congregation as a whole has been doing some visioning this past year, so we thought it might be helpful to do something similar that would focus more specifically on the work of our commission.

We started the workshop by doing some brainstorming in small groups on the question, “What is the purpose and goal of Christian Formation?”  Before we could get to any specific ideas for our congregation, it was important to spend some time thinking about this question from a very foundational level.  I had each of the small groups at the workshop draft an answer to that question.  Here are their responses:

The purpose and goal of Christian formation is…

  • ...to instill a curiosity-filled understanding and experience of God’s universal love, as revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus, to be expressed in our lives.
  • ...to nurture a foundation for belonging, behaving, and believing through fostering biblical literacy, encouraging independent thought, and modeling intergenerational community to deepen our relationship with God.
  • ...to give individuals (within a family, congregation, community, and world) the tools, guidance, and skills for understanding God, spirituality, the world, and how to live through: biblical literacy and interpretation, awareness of God within us, learning how to make the world better, and opportunities to practice these things.
  • ...to form a framework for seeing oneself in the arc of God’s story, participating in a loving and supportive community, and developing Biblical literacy.

The goal of this exercise was NOT to work toward one, singular statement for us to adopt in any official capacity, but my hope was to be able to see what kinds of recurring themes, phrases, and ideas rose to the surface. 

What common themes do you see emerging?  What would you add? 

I find myself looking back on these ideas as we look forward to starting our new year of Sunday School next Sunday.  Christian formation is so much more than just education, and our Sunday School classes try to reflect this by creating spaces where everyone can not just learn about faith but practice it, build relationships, grow in awareness of God, express curiosity, and explore lots of different ways to believe, behave, and belong. 

Thank you to everyone who was able to participate in the workshop.  I look forward to seeing where your ideas may lead us in the year ahead.