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March in the Son First Congregational Church UCC Cheshire, CT March 24, 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "March in the Son First Congregational Church UCC Cheshire, CT March 24, 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 March in the Son First Congregational Church UCC Cheshire, CT March 24, 2012

2 Cultural Changes Affecting Faith Formation New Approaches to Faith Formation Ideas/Resource Sharing Introduction and Overview

3 The purpose of spiritual reading is to open ourselves to how God may be speaking to us in and through any particular text. The manner of spiritual reading is like drinking in the words of a love letter or pondering the meaning of a poem. It is not like skittering over the surface of a popular magazine or plowing through a computer manual. We are seeking not merely information but formation. Marjorie J. Thompson Soul Feast The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them... Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together

4 UCC (Education) Consultants (national/regional settings) Partners in Education (conference setting) Local church pastors, educators, leaders Association of United Church Educators (AUCE) Current Picture of Faith Formation in the United Church of Christ

5 Dialogue 1: Marcus Borg Dialogue 2: Doug Pagitt Dialogue 3: Geoffrey Black Dialogues on Christian Faith Formation and Education

6 The UCCs Faith Formation resource for the WHOLE congregation Faith Practices

7 On September 26-28, 2011, the UCC Education Consultants gathered for their Annual Meeting in Cleveland, OH to begin a conversation about the future of Christian Faith Formation in the life of the denomination. The Consultants worked for several months prior to the meeting by collecting responses to interview questions on faith formation across varying constituencies, including: Congregations with Vital Faith Formation Programs Seminary Professors/Deans/Presidents Youth and Young Adult Leaders Educational Systems Beyond Seminaries and Institutions Conducting Similar Research Resource Centers Members of the Association of United Church Educators Partners in Education Collegium/Executive Ministers National Staff Engaging in Faith Formation Work Emerging Church Movements UCC Faith Formation Research: Education Consultants Fall Meeting

8 78 interview responses collected Key national staff were invited and participated in the conversation whose work related to faith formation Ann Hanson, Minister for Sexuality Education and Justice Barbara Blodgett, Minister for Vocation and Formation Barbara Essex, Minister for Higher and Theological Education Derek Duncan, Associate for Global Advocacy and Education Waltrina Middleton, Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership Formation David Schoen, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Team Leader UCC Faith Formation Research: Education Consultants Fall Meeting (cont.)

9 Major Cultural Shifts 1. Technology: This has deeply impacted the way in which relationships are formed and navigated in our culture and has many implications for the church and how we carry out the work of faith formation. The broad use of social networking sites and a constant sense of being in communication with increasingly diverse peoples and ideas are just a few specific phenomena. UCC Faith Formation Research: Education Consultants Fall Meeting (cont.)

10 Faith Communities Today (FACT) Report: Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Usage in American Congregations ( Email use by religious groups from 2000 to 2010 more than doubled, rising from 35% to 90% of congregations Congregational websites plateaued, then declined Over 40% of all congregations say they use Facebook (35% UCC congregations) The dramatic embrace of Facebook by congregations might provide an explanation for the drop in the percentage of congregational websites Technology

11 Visual projection and database software tracking of members were by far the most frequently used new technology, over two thirds of all congregations (53% of UCC congregations use visual projection in worship) Over half of small congregations are technologically lagging while almost half those over 250 attenders are major tech users. UCC is in lowest third of traditions on percentage (10%) of congregations that use technology in major way. UCC is in the upper middle third of traditions on percentage (36%) of congregation that use technology in marginal way. These figures probably reflect the small size of many of our congregations and the age of the population of our congregations. Technology (cont.)

12 The embrace of technology is crucial in the contemporary context not only to connect with current members but also to attract new generations of participants for whom technology is like the air they breathe. The most critical reason for awakening to the necessity of technology in congregational life is the realization that the social context has changed. Increased use of technology is strongly related to the congregation being characterized by willingness to change to meet new challenges. Increased use of technology correlates with a clear vision and with being distinctive from other congregations in its neighborhood. Faith communities that embrace greater use of technology are also perceived as being more spiritually vital. Roughly 50 percent of faith communities with major tech use said a lot of their members are involved in bringing others into the congregation. Increased tech use by the smallest and largest sized faith communities significantly generates greater per capita giving. Technology (cont.)

13 Consultant Survey of UCC Youth/Young Adult Leaders: What we do needs to be online : I think if there isnt video from an event posted online, it might as well not have happened. Resources must become interactive (i.e. online, self-taught confirmation, new member courses) It is important to learn how to reach youth and young adults where they are. Jesus modeled going to the people. It may not be physically going to the people, but meeting them by using familiar technologies to them. Resources need to be created that meet them where they are at. Need to help young people be responsible in their use of technology The response of the user (youth or young adult) has to shape the core curriculum in order to be seen as authentic, as opposed to curriculum that appears to have all the answers. This will be a difficult balancing act as we are trying to transmit timeless truths in a post-modern era that no longer believes in timeless anything. Technology (cont.)

14 2. Generational Changes: With new generations come different ways of doing and being in the world. With regard to churches, younger generations are seeking to transform hierarchical, intellectual, specialized structures and programs into collaborative, experiential, organic, and fluid models of faithful living. Church looks differently for these people, especially in a culture where people are identifying as spiritual but not religious now more than ever. UCC Faith Formation Research: Education Consultants Fall Meeting (cont.)

15 Generational Changes FACT 2010 Study: A Decade of Change in American Congregations 2000-2010 ( -Over 52% of mainline/oldline Protestant churches report that 1/3 of individuals in their congregations are 65 and older. -UCC was the 2 nd highest (only behind the UPUSA) in percentage of congregations with 33% or more members older than 65. -75% of mainline/oldline Protestant churches have less than 10% of their participants between the ages of 18 to 34.

16 Generational Changes (cont.) Religious, Spiritual, Both, or Neither? With Their Own Voices: A Global Exploration of How Todays Young People Experience and Think About Spiritual Development A Research Study from: Search Institute Center for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence Minneapolis, MN

17 Generational Changes (cont.) What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual? When asked to identify what it means to be spiritual, youth (ages 12 to 25) in the Unites States indicated the top three items below (out of nine choices).

18 Generational Changes (cont.) Perceived Changes in Aspects of Spirituality (Past 2-3 Years)

19 Consultant Survey of UCC Youth/Young Adult Leaders: 1. What are characteristics unique to this current generation of youth and young adults that could potentially impact how we do faith formation? Action-oriented; self starters; non-passive; collaborative They are book smart but are hungry to know how to be street smart and integrate their knowledge into everyday life Are both religious and spiritual and want to experience God They have short attention spansits not bad, just different. Their brains work and process information differently due to technology. Have a number of opportunities and commitments that compete for their time Need hands-on, interactive learning, not lecture-based Engaged about social justice issues and care about the global community Generational Changes (cont.)

20 3. Vocabulary/Language: Church language is no longer understood by a majority of people in the U.S. In addition, the language of Christian Education connotes older models of teaching and learning and is often understood as and relegated to the confines of children and Sunday School. Newer models promote the language of Faith Formation or Spiritual Formation which more appropriately signifies the holistic and engaged process of learning and practice throughout all aspects of congregational and daily life. This new language is changing the conversation on this ministry in the church and is opening up possibilities for increased collaboration in the areas of worship, preaching, and other ministries. UCC Faith Formation Research: Education Consultants Fall Meeting (cont.)

21 Definitions from the United Church of Canada, Seeds of Change: Exploring a New Approach for Faith Formation and Christian Education, 2005. Christian Education : Signals a desire to have a more defined focus in terms of learning about faith and developing skills for living faithfully May be understood as a large process in which learners are teachers and teachers are learners People who use this term take seriously new developments in educational theory that can be applied to the Christian education task Can be solely understood as or limited to: Sunday School, children and youth education, or formal Bible study Vocabulary/Language

22 Faith Formation : Signals a desire to differentiate from a school model and a view that faith is limited to ideas, doctrines or practices to be learned An understanding that faith is being shaped and actively shaping our lives in terms of a total environment of church, home, family, and world Vocabulary/Language (cont.)

23 Spiritual Formation : A term that seeks to place the transformative work of God at the center of ones formation Spiritual Formation Alliance: Proverbially speaking, SFA doesn't have a dog in the fight. We dont have a program to promote or curriculum to sell. We are encouragers, connectors, and hosts – wanting to set the table for great Spirit-led conversations about spiritual formation and provide space for the transforming work of God. We know that changed lives, change lives and -- ultimately -- our world. ( Term appeals to those of younger generations and people in the spiritual and/or religious category and signifies less association with tradition Christian education models of learning Is also associated with a renewal of ancient and contemplative prayer and practices in the church (ancient-future) Vocabulary/Language (cont.)

24 4. Intergenerational and Family-Centered Movements: Because Sunday School and mono-generational activities have become less central to the overall lives of congregants in recent years, pastors and educators are discovering that some of these new ways of doing and being involve learning and engagement across generations and throughout the week. Equipping parents and others to practice their faith at home and in the workplace, while providing opportunities for meaningful conversations and practices across generations, transforms the faith lives of all individuals. UCC Faith Formation Research: Education Consultants Fall Meeting (cont.)

25 Vibrant Faith Ministries ( Three Decades of Research on Faith Single greatest impact on childrens and youths spiritual formation: Parents/adults Faith integrated into family identity and practice positively influences youth and young adult faith Intergenerational/Family-Centered Movements

26 Intergenerational/Family-Centered Movements (cont.) Emphasizes learning across the lifespan and highlights four key faith practices: -Caring Conversation -Devotions -Service -Rituals and Traditions

27 5. Finances: While decreasing funds for programs have been a factor this shift, the more critical emphasis should be placed on the opportunities that this has provided to help us live into new ways of envisioning faith formation and education in congregations without relying on the structures and programs themselves to sustain this ministry. UCC Faith Formation Research: Education Consultants Fall Meeting (cont.)

28 Loss of income affects: Paid church staff position (particularly Education/Faith Formation Directors/Ministers) Conference support staff for faith formation ministries Available resources for congregations and regions Other factors (morale, vitality, etc.) Creativity (both positively and negatively) Finances

29 How have you observed or experienced these shifts in your congregation in the last several years? In what ways have these dynamics affected the ministry of faith formation in your church? Technology/internet/social media Generational differences Vocabulary/language Intergenerational and family-centered movements Financial issues Small Group Discussion

30 John Roberto: APCE 2012 Workshop Without the formal authority of the church in place, it no longer has the influence over peoples lives that it once had. So how do we gain credibility? Build relationships by meeting them in their worlds, then provide content and resources to respond to their needs. Christian Educators are now Curators!!! -Shift from Content Creators to Content Curators -Yet there is a need to adapt content to context; so its both curating and creating content (in some form) New Approaches to Faith Formation (cont.)

31 -Develop a network approach to faith formation; stop placing main focus on figuring out how to program for peoples time at church-- this is a new way to be the body of Christ -Shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to a network of personalized and customized faith formation activities and resources -The network is now the curriculum (i.e. the whole life of the church) and vice versa -This network is both physical and virtual; build it around the people and the community -Example: A baptism network for young families -Mentors -Practices (first prayers, start of school, etc.) -Parenting -Milestones New Approaches to Faith Formation (cont.)

32 The Hyphenateds: How Emergence Christianity is Re-Traditioning Mainline Practices edited by Phil Snider. Chalice Press, 2011. Characteristics of faith formation in these communities: Worship practices that draw upon ancient traditions and rich symbols of the faith Theological questioning and depth that informs each practice/activity Authenticity, as expressed in community gathering Irreverence, irony Pastor as curator, facilitatorall participants share in co-creation of community and possess equal knowledge and wisdom New Approaches to Faith Formation

33 The emerging moment helped Christians from a variety of contexts to (1) encounter wider Christian traditions that have come before and (2) consider ways to reappropriate these traditions in creative, authentic, and culturally accessible ways (p. xix). New Approaches to Faith Formation (cont.)

34 Church Re-Imagined: The Spiritual Formation of People in Communities of Faith by Doug Pagitt and the Solomons Porch Community. Zondervan, 2003. Toward A Hopeful Future: Why the Emergent Church Is Good News for Mainline Congregations by Phil Snider and Emily Bowen. Pilgrim Press, 2010. New Approaches to Faith Formation (cont.)

35 Consultant Survey of UCC Youth/Young Adult Leaders: What attracts youth and young adults (and all people) to learning and growing in the UCC? Social justice work/advocacy appeals to sense of mission and service Open and affirming commitments, welcoming all Youth and young adults experience divisions (such as interests) and don't necessarily see divisions between people (such as race, sexual orientation). They lose patience with adults that don't show openness and acceptance. They like being a part of something that has acceptance at the core. UCCs culture of seeking/asking questions Electronic modes of communication (Daily Devotional), on-line Facebook challenges Mission trips, outdoor ministries, camps More spiritual/missional ways to engage faith through worship that are not focused on the structures of organized religion UCC youth and young adults are energized when they find other UCC youth/young adults who share their similar values Not one solid strategy or answe rWe will have to work at it every step of the way. New Approaches to Faith Formation (cont.)

36 How might you envision your faith formation ministries differently in light of these new approaches? What ideas or practices have you come away with today that might impact and enliven your ministry? Discussion

37 For questions or more information, please contact: Rev. Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi, Ph.D. Minister for Christian Faith Formation Research Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Team, Local Church Ministries 700 Prospect Ave. Cleveland, OH 44115 1-866-822-8224, ext. 3866

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