You’ve been hearing the phrase “faith formation” a lot lately. While the phrase may be new vocabulary around Prince of Peace, it has roots that run deep within the broader Church. Simply put, terms like “Christian education” and “spiritual development” now feel too limited in describing what the church is called to do.
How does the ELCA talk about “faith formation?”
Faith forms as a person discovers trust in a living God, claims their identity as a beloved child of God, and boldly follows Jesus. Joining the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, faith formation requires intentionality. Communities of faith are intentional as they are thoughtful and reflective on their faith formation perspective, practices, and orientation. Intentionally nurturing faith over time allows it to mature and become integrated into everyday living. – A Framework for Faith Formation in the ELCA, 2015
In the past, the church has used “faith formation” in reference to the task of teaching children and those new to the faith the building block of our Christian beliefs. More recently, it has been recognized that this work doesn’t stop after childhood and is truly a lifelong concern. It’s much more than learning bible stories or memorizing the catechism. It’s also about embodying an on-going practice of curiosity and a continual re-forming by the Spirit in response to God’s love. Forming faith is something that can and should happen every day, and is just as important for 70-year olds as it is for 7-year olds.
This is work that Prince of Peace has been deeply engaged and committed to since its inception over 60 years ago. Sunday school, confirmation, youth group, and children’s sermons are all examples of classic faith formation activities. But so are adult forums, book studies, women’s circles, and bible studies. And since faith is also formed in action, our service and outreach activities, our partnerships in Tanzania, and our times in fellowship with one another are also ways of forming faith.
Why are we now using “faith formation” to describe our work at Prince of Peace?
During the summer of 2016, as we were preparing for the retirement of one lead pastor and the calling of the next, this community engaged in a “Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT).” One of the primary findings in that survey was that our congregation had a longing to deepen and re-energize its efforts around faith formation. (“Spiritual development” is the terminology the survey tool employed.) This finding, among others, was integrated into the call process that led us to Pastor Peter. Similarly, last year’s work conducted by the Mission Staffing Exploration Team (MSET) on the fuller staff configuration discerned a similar finding: “A renewed focus on faith formation across all ages.” (MSET: Proposal to the Congregation – January 28, 2018)
The MSET proposed that the new staffing configuration adopt the language of “faith formation” as it crafted the Ministry Site Profile to help differentiate and clarify the role and expectations of the next Associate Pastor, even titling the new position as “Associate Pastor/Deacon for Faith Formation.” This description has helped to focus the efforts of the call committee and the Synod in identifying the best potential candidates for the nature of the position being formed here.
How will we experience “faith formation” at Prince of Peace?
The MSET recommended the position descriptions for the pastors and key staff be adapted to reflect how important the focus on faith formation should be engaged collaboratively across each ministry area of the church. In practice, the new associate pastor will be taking the lead on faith formation activities for children, youth and families (like Sunday School) and Pastor Peter will be leading these efforts with older participants. At the same time, both pastors will play supporting roles throughout the full spectrum of faith formation activities (i.e Pastor Peter will play a role in Sunday school & confirmation and the associate pastor will find a place to support adult education). In addition, other ministry areas (like music, outreach and fellowship) will be encouraged to explore faith-forming dimensions.
Though the vocabulary may be new, we think you’ll agree that the underlying concepts make sense for the life of this community of faith. We hope and expect that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide and shape our efforts and that each member of our community will have greater opportunity to be formed and re-formed in faith each day.
For more on this topic… here is a great new resource from the ELCA entitled, “Recommended Practices for Lifelong Faith Formation.” Take a look and discover more about how these ideas can be put to action with Prince of Peace, at home, in school, or at work.