Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

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  • 12 Nov 2018 12:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rev. Kathy Wadsley is a former CEF Board Member. She served most recently at St. Matthews UMC in Bowie, MD. We are thankful for this resource she has freely shared. If you would like to make a donation in her honor to continue to support CEF's efforts to make member-created resources like these available, please use the donate tab on this website.

    This three-year series of devotional calendars is available in both English and Spanish for both Lent and Advent. Great for all ages and families of all sizes. May be printed at home, or inserted into church newsletters or emails. Each day includes a suggested activity a symbol to color.

    Advent Calendar Year C English 18.pdf

    Calendario de Cuaresma Ano CAdventCalendarYearCSpanish18.pdf

    Intro and Printing Instructions

    Adviento y Cuaresma Calendarios Devocionales en Inglés y en Español - Intro e Imprimir

    These calendars are part of an ecumenical three-year series of Advent – Christmas and Lenten calendars based on the new common lectionary scriptures. The calendars, available in English and Spanish, are designed to encourage families and individuals to take a few moments each day to focus on the meaning of these special seasons of the church year. Each day of Advent through Epiphany or each day of Lent though Easter Sunday has a scripture reference from the new common lectionary or a related activity and a symbol which children of all ages may enjoy coloring. 

    Suggestions for use: 

    † For Families at home. 

    † Use in Sunday School as a class or weekday ministries to learn about the seasons and the symbols. 

    † Classes could draw their own symbols, write the meaning on it and make a large calendar on classroom wall or bulletin board. 

    † Color symbols with magic markers or colored pencils. 

    † Use as daily family or individual devotional. 

    †Distribute at Worship or Sunday School, in church newsletter or other ways. 

    Printing Instructions: The Advent Calendars are designed to be printed on legal (8.5” X 11”) paper and can be printed on ledger (11” X 17”) paper for larger print. The calendars are designed to be printed with calendar front on one side and calendar back on the other side using one sheet of paper. 

    Copyright These copyrighted calendars are designed by Kathryn (Kathy) L. Wadsley, Minister of Christian Education, The United Methodist Church. Churches have permission to copy and distribute the calendars for use. Calendars may only be freely given as a spiritual formation tool and may not be sold.


  • 30 Jul 2018 9:36 PM | Tim Gossett (Administrator)

    CEF is seeking an individual to fill a short-term role between now and the end of October to help us launch our new Neighborhoods and Nooks. The position will begin on or about September 1 and will last through October, with the possibility that the position will be continued for the long-term after that (depending on feedback at the CEF2018 conference).

    Click for a description of Neighborhoods and Nooks, as well as a general position description.

    Deadline for applying: August 15. Questions may be directed to Scott Hughes, barnesvilletheologian@hotmail.com.

  • 23 Jul 2018 11:11 AM | Tim Gossett (Administrator)

    CEF Call for Nominations

    The CEF Board is now taking nominations to elect 4 new Board members for the upcoming 2019-2022 term. 

    You are invited to nominate yourself or another qualified individual that would serve CEF faithfully in the following ways:

    • Board members serve a four year term, beginning January 1st. Those who can will also meet with the current Board members at CEF2018. Each member serves on one of the teams that make up the Board’s work (e.g. Neighborhoods, Nooks, finances, etc.) Board members work on team projects that serve to enable the work of CEF to live into its mission to develop leaders in faith formation to equip people of all ages to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
    • Participate in monthly or bi-monthly conference calls
    • Participation at the bi-annual conference is strongly encouraged.
    • Board Members are encouraged to cover expenses as they can, such as travel to the annual board meeting, but it is not a requirement.
    • Participate in an annual onsite meeting in Nashville (approx. 3 days, near the end of January)

    Election Timeline

    Nominations accepted until the end of day (CST) on August 15, 2018

    Elections will begin as soon as possible after the deadline.

    Click here for the Nomination Form
  • 07 Apr 2018 1:29 PM | Anonymous

    The Life to Come
    Re-Creating Retirement

    by Steven M. Tipton




    Rekindle your love of life. Find your true calling, maybe for the first time.

    What must we do to make our dreams come true? What can we do together to keep the promise of the American Dream? What should we do when so many of us have saved so little? Retirement not only offers a time to rest from our labors and relax with family and friends—to travel, play, and have fun—but it beckons us to find our true calling in action, peace of mind in reflection, the spirit moving in the moment of each day, and the grace of God in prayer and love of neighbor.

    The Life to Come: Re-Creating Retirement is sure to engage anyone who reads it… see how carefully Tipton avoids the impersonal and cliché versions of advice-giving. Whoever reads this book will be introduced or reintroduced to experts, whose work bears on reflecting on “the life to come,” including how to address and master many of the arts of living in retirement…This book is not about the “care of the very aged,” but about facing and growing into retirement...I picture that readers will be better prepared for waking up to tomorrow, which means “living that life worth living.” —from the foreword by Martin E. Marty

    In this book Steven Tipton confronts a stubborn but perennial human dilemma with rigor and clarity. Eloquent and engaging. —Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City and The Market as God

    Steven M. Tipton is C.H. Candler Professor Emeritus of Sociology of Religion and Senior Research Fellow at Emory University, Candler School of Theology. A 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, he is the author of Getting Saved from the Sixties: The Transformation of Moral Meaning in American Culture and Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life, and coauthor of Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life and The Good Society.

     

    Wesley’s Foundery Books is an imprint of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church. These books are clearly and accessibly written by Methodist/Wesleyan experts, with an emphasis on church life and ministry. Representing the rich diversity of the church, Wesley’s Foundery Books offer a disciplined and balanced approach.


  • 02 Mar 2018 7:24 PM | Anonymous

    Hanna Schock is a CEF member and the creator of Picture Book Theology. She is also the writer of Manna & Mercy: An Elementary Curriculum based on Daniel Erlander’s popular book for adults.  Because of her training as a teacher and school psychologist, Hanna is passionate about Christian education that is easy to relate to, is rich with meaning, and leads to deep learning.


    Recently I was asked to present at a professional conference for those who work in church-based nurseries, preschools, and daycares. The conference theme was Shine a Light On Positive Behavior – a great focus for teachers. We all need reminders to encourage our children’s positive behaviors. My workshop was about Paul’s list in Galatians (5:22-23) of The Fruits of the Spirit. Exploring these themes in a classroom is one way to encourage positive (and godly) behaviors.

    Below is a list of 3-4 picture books I connected to each of The Fruits of the Spirit. With most books below, you’ll find a link to its post on my Picture Book Theology blog. As I prepared for the workshop presentation, I discovered several new picture books. Look for those posts on my website soon. Beside each Fruit of the Spirit is a question you might explore with your children. You’ll likely need to simplify my words for your kiddos. For some books you’ll see a way to adapt if a book is too advanced or too long for your audience. Most of these books are also appropriate for elementary-aged children.

    Twice below I refer to a PBT series I wrote a few years ago called 12 Theological Statements for Young Children. I also give a link to the post in the series where that particular book was featured. One last note. I’ve changed the order of the Fruits. I end the list with Love, Kindness, Goodness, & Faithfulness because those concepts overlap. The last books might help you explore more than just the Fruit it is listed under. Overlapping concepts is also true for Gentleness and Self-Control.

    Surely Paul’s list is not complete (Where is compassion?), but it’s a wonderful collection of positive and godly behaviors we can all aspire to and encourage in our children. I hope you find these fun books enjoyable while making The Fruits of the Spirit more meaningful to children (and their parents) in your faith family.

    JOY   (Ask: How is joy shown in different ways by different characters?)

    Yes Day! by Rosenthal & Lichtenheld (This book is also a great secular book for Easter.)

    Lola Loves Stories by McQuinn & Beardshaw

    Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke & Tobia   

    #12 Theological Statement for Young Children: God wants to be worshiped


    PEACE (Ask: How does peace change you and others in the moment?)

    Peace, Baby! By Ashman & Lew-Vriethoff

    The Peace Book by Parr      

    A Little Peace by Kerley  

         

    PATIENCE (Ask: What does having no patience look like?)

    Albert by Napoli & LaMarche (Too long? Just tell the story while showing the pictures.)

    Bear Has a Story to Tell by Stead & Stead

    Owl Moon by Yolen & Schoenherr


    GENTLENESS (Ask: How does gentleness help others?)

    Be Gentle by Miller

    How to Heal a Broken Wing by Graham

    You Will Be My Friend! By Brown (This example of the opposite of gentleness offers humor and redemption.)


    SELF-CONTROL (Ask: How does self-control help these characters and you?)

    Katie Loves the Kittens by Himmelman      

    More by Springman & Lies

    Wild Feelings by Milgrim

    #5 Theological Statement for Young Children: God gave you feelings. They’re not good or bad. What matters is how you act on your feelings.


    LOVE (Ask: What does love look like here? Feel like here?)

    The Invisible String by Karst & Stevenson   Not yet posted.

    I Love You Anyway by Inkpen & Inkpen

    Love is… by Adams & Keane

    Love by La Pena & Long (There are some dark situations here. If you prefer, use paper clips to skip pages.) 

                 

    KINDNESS  (Ask: What kinds of choices are being made here?)

    The Kindness Quilt by Wallace      

    Miss Maple’s Seeds by Wheeler

    Be Kind by Miller     Not yet posted.


    GOODNESS (Ask: What makes these characters’ behaviors good?)

    Bear Feels Sick by Wilson & Chapman (This book is about servanthood.)

    What Baby Wants by Root & Bartow (This book is about empathy.)

    One Winter’s Day by Butler & Macnaughton (This book is about generosity.)


    FAITHFULNESS (Ask: Who do you know that is faithful?)

    The Carrot Seed by Krauss & Johnson (This books connects with being faithful to God. The other books are about being faithful to other people.)

    I Promise by McPhail          

    Mama Always Comes Home by Wilson & Dyer    

    A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Stead & Stead



  • 11 Feb 2018 5:45 PM | Anonymous

    Today we have a Q & A with author, Glenys Nellist. Glenys serves as the Children's Ministry Coordinator for the West MI Conference UMC. Below she dives deep into how she approached writing this Easter book for children. 

    To Enter the Giveaway: Her publisher is giving away a FREE copy of this book to one person who comments on the post on the CEF Facebook Page before  8 p.m. CST on February 18th. Please note, entrants must have a street address in the USA. The winner will be contacted by Facebook messenger. 

    Glenys, thank you for joining us on the blog today! You've written a number of books for children. I'm curious, what are your favorite children's books and how have they influenced your writing?

    Thank you for having me Christine. Wow, I have so many favorite children’s books! But two in particular have influenced my writing. When my four sons were little, their favorite book of all time was The Jolly Postman, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. It told the story, in rhyme, of a postman who rode his bike delivering letters to Nursery Rhyme characters. As if that wasn’t creative enough, the ingenious feature of the pages being real envelopes containing the letters made this text a forever-favorite. My sons loved taking the letters out and reading them. I didn’t know it at the time, but this little book would become the inspiration behind my Love Letters from God series.

    The second book that heavily influenced my writing style is The Jesus Storybook Bible, by the prolific British author, Sally Lloyd Jones. I distinctly remember reading this amazing book when it was first published in 2007 and savoring every word. The way she shared the gospel message in an unforgettable fairytale-like-style captured my soul. I knew, then, that I wanted to write like her.

    Speaking of writing for young children, sharing the stories of Holy Week can be a challenge because of the violence of the cross and because the stories are laden with theological implications. How did you approach this? 

    Thank you, Christine, for this opportunity to discuss the theology behind Easter Love Letters from God. Let me preface your question with this: I know that every person picks up a story and reads the text through their own theological lens. It’s quite impossible not to. Equally impossible, then, is the enormous task of an author who tries to placate each reader. And so rather than tie myself in knots, trying to please everyone, I decided, early on in my writing, that I would try to please God. By that I mean that in my writing, of this book and every other text, I would rely heavily on prayer, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I prayed that God would guide my pen and my words, so that what I wrote would please God, who would work through my words and touch the reader’s heart. In this way, I would hope that readers might be able to see beyond the perimeters of their theological lens, into the wider scope of what God might do through the text.

    The trickiest part of the Easter story is, of course, the crucifixion and I know that some of my ministerial colleagues prefer not to share any details of that with a young audience. As I wrote this part of the Easter story, I really wanted to emphasize the humanity of Jesus by exploring some of the pain, the feelings, and emotions he would have experienced. Because of this, the book does contain reference to the nails and the crown of thorns, and so even though it’s recommended for 4-8 year-olds, every adult must decide whether or not it is suitable to share with young children.

    What theological decisions did you make and how did you make them?

    I know that the book contains several features that might be questioned, particularly by more liberal audiences, and perhaps by some of my UMC colleagues. Let me preface this question, also, by sharing that I was born and raised in the Methodist church and am proud to belong to this denomination that stands for inclusivity. That being said, here’s three questions that I anticipate might be uppermost in some minds:

    Why does the book use the term ‘Father’ to refer to God, when gender-neutral language is so important in our denomination?

    The text for Easter Love Letters from God was written several years ago, before I became cognizant of the importance of using gender-neutral language for God. However, even though it is a goal of mine to strive to use inclusive language in all future writing, I felt that the Gethsemane scene in this book, which contains the heart-felt plea from Jesus, to God, simply could not be written any other way. In this story Jesus is on his knees, in the darkness and cold of a Gethsemane evening and cries out: “Father, are you there? Do I have to die? Is there any other way we can teach the world about heaven?” Consider the alternatives here. If I had substituted Father for God, that tender and vital connection between parent and son would be lost. How about Mother, are you there? or Parent, are you there? I was not willing to use either of these alternatives and trust that the reader can appreciate why.

    In the resurrection story, why do you have the birds sharing the good news that Jesus is alive, rather than the women at the tomb, whose witness is so important?

    The resurrection story contained in this book is the third that I have written in the Love Letters Series, and I had to find a new angle from which to approach the resurrection narrative. I had already explored Mary Magdalene’s beautiful encounter in Girls' Love Letters from God and I suddenly thought about how creation herself might have reacted to this wondrous event. After all, if Jesus said that rocks could cry out in praise, and the Psalms contain reference to the hills and oceans singing and trees clapping their hands, then it stands to reason that all creation, along with the birds who nested above that sealed tomb, must have known that something amazing had happened that marvelous morning. I know that as the author of these words, I am obviously biased, but I just can’t help feeling the Holy Spirit as I read this portion of the book:

    Jesus, King of the whole world, was alive again! The trees clapped their hands. The flowers danced for joy. The birds flew high over the fields and carried the most wonderful news that the world has ever heard—Jesus is alive!

    The wonderful illustrations by Sophie Allsopp complement the text by showing, not only the birds on the wing, but Mary Magdalene running toward Jesus with joy. Of course, Mary was the first human to hear and share that good news but the birds, the trees, the oceans, the hills, and all of God’s creation must have been singing glorious praise.

    Why does the final letter from God read as a sort of sinner’s prayer, inviting children into God's family, when in the UMC, it is by baptism that we are incorporated to the Church - God's family?

    As a United Methodist, the sacrament of baptism is one of my favorite services. I truly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as we welcome a little one into the church. I know, without doubt, that as the water is poured, in a mysterious and wonderful way, God’s powerful presence surrounds and infills the child. But I do not remember my baptism. I know that my parents faithfully brought me to the altar. I know that I was incorporated into the church family as a baby. But I do not remember it. What I do remember, however, is one Sunday evening when I was about ten years old and I attended a service in a little red brick Methodist church in England. I was with my older sister and the preacher was a woman. I don’t remember what words were said, but the invitation was given to come to the altar, to kneel before God, and invite God to be part of my life. A little hesitant, a little scared, we went together, my sister and I, and knelt there as the preacher placed her hand on our heads. I don’t remember what she said, but I’m sure that her words might have echoed these, which are the ones contained in the final love letter of the book:

    Jesus, I believe in you. Teach me more about how you want me to live. Thank you for showing me what love looks like. Thank you for dying on the cross and for coming back to life, for forgiving me, and showing me the way to heaven. Amen.

    I remember feeling special as I rode the bus home that night. I thank God that I have that memory. I thank God that someone, called by God, called out to me, so that I could respond to God’s great invitation myself.  Was I part of God’s family before that evening? Yes, of course! Would I still belong to God’s family had I not knelt at the altar that evening? Yes, of course! But thank God for that preacher, for the invitation, for the call I felt so strongly and was able to respond to of my own accord. This is what I hope to do in the final love letter of the book—to offer the young reader a chance to say yes to God, to respond to that mysterious, holy call, and perhaps to feel their heart strangely warmed, as John Wesley did. As an author, to deny the reader the opportunity to RSVP to God would be to leave my book unfinished.

    Glenys, thank you for sharing how and why you approached the Easter story for young children. For the final question, I'd like to ask you about the place on the last page where children are invited to write back to God. What do you hope they will say?

    Let me answer this with a story…

    When the first Love Letters from God book was released, I was sitting on the sofa with my little grandson. He was only three. We reached the end of the book, where the child is invited to write back to God. He was so excited at the thought of joining Jesus’ team and wanted to write back to God immediately. “Xander, you can do that when you’re older.” I said. After all, he could barely hold a crayon! But he was insistent, and so I gave in. “Okay, what do you want to say to God?” I asked. Since he was only three, I wasn’t very confident about his response. I was sure that he wouldn’t know what to say at all. But his three-word reply was precious and perfect and was, perhaps, the only thing God would ever want to hear, from anyone.

    “I love you.” Xander said. It was as if the curtains opened and God stepped into the room that Thursday afternoon to gently whisper, See Glenys, you’re never too young to say yes to Me.

    So what do I hope children will say to God? It doesn’t matter what they say. What matters is that they respond for themselves to our great God, the One who sent Jesus to the world, the One who reaches down, calls out to us by name, writes a love letter on our hearts and then waits, hoping, for our reply. 


  • 15 Jan 2018 6:38 PM | Anonymous

    Below is a collection of Lenten resources from the CEF community. Have something you would like to add? Please pass it along.


    From the CEF Forming Faith Blog:

    FREE Printable Lenten Devotional Calendars for Year B by Kathy Wadsley

    An Intergenerational Event for Lent by Carolyn Peterson.

    More Intergenerational Activities for Lent by Angelina Goldwell

    Holy Week prayer stations by Jenny Reilly

    Don’t forget to update your worship activity table for Lent


    From CEF Community Members:

     Picture Books that relate to Lent and Easter themes from Picture Book Theology creator Hanna Schock.

    Family friendly Easter Stations and reflections on Easter planning by DeDe Reilly.

    Lent in a Bag and other resources from Sharon Pearson.

    Lent Resources, including Prayer stations, praygrounds and a not-just-for kids- children’s time series, from Christine V. Hides

    A free Worship and Adult Resources Webinar is happening on Tuesday, January 16 from Discipleship Ministries



  • 15 Jan 2018 6:25 PM | Anonymous

    Rev. Kathy Wadsley is a former CEF Board Member. She served most recently at St. Matthews UMC in Bowie, MD. We are thankful for this resource she has freely shared. If you would like to make a donation in her honor to continue to support CEF's efforts to make member-created resources like these available, please use the donate tab on this website.

    This three-year series of devotional calendars is available in both English and Spanish. Great for all ages and families of all sizes. May be printed at home, or inserted into church newsletters or emails. Each day includes a suggested activity a symbol to color.

    Year B English - Lenten Devotional and Coloring Calendar Download

    Calendario de Cuaresma Ano BLentCalendarYearBSpanishMaster.pdf

    Intro and Printing Instructions

    Adviento y Cuaresma Calendarios Devocionales en Inglés y en Español - Intro e Imprimir

    These calendars are part of an ecumenical three-year series of Advent – Christmas and Lenten calendars based on the new common lectionary scriptures. The calendars, available in English and Spanish, are designed to encourage families and individuals to take a few moments each day to focus on the meaning of these special seasons of the church year. Each day of Advent through Epiphany or each day of Lent though Easter Sunday has a scripture reference from the new common lectionary or a related activity and a symbol which children of all ages may enjoy coloring. 

    Suggestions for use: 

    † For Families at home. 

    † Use in Sunday School as a class or weekday ministries to learn about the seasons and the symbols. 

    † Classes could draw their own symbols, write the meaning on it and make a large calendar on classroom wall or bulletin board. 

    † Color symbols with magic markers or colored pencils. 

    † Use as daily family or individual devotional. 

    †Distribute at Worship or Sunday School, in church newsletter or other ways. 

    Printing Instructions The Lenten Calendars Year A are designed to be printed on legal (8.5” X 11”) paper and can be printed on ledger (11” X 17”) paper for larger print. The calendars are designed to be printed with calendar front on one side and calendar back on the other side using one sheet of paper. 

    Copyright These copyrighted calendars are designed by Kathryn (Kathy) L. Wadsley, Minister of Christian Education, The United Methodist Church. Churches have permission to copy and distribute the calendars for use. Calendars may only be freely given as a spiritual formation tool and may not be sold.


  • 10 Jan 2018 10:19 AM | Anonymous
    This post is by Traci Smith, pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in San Antonio. She is the author of Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home. (Chalice: 2017).  Faithful Families is a book of faith practices families can use at home to deepen faith and connection. Traci enjoys speaking to groups of pastors, parents, and Christian educators about faith formation and practice. www.traci-smith.com

    I went to seminary to get the tools and training to help teach people faith, never expecting my own faith would be challenged nearly to the point of breaking. And yet, like so many others, that’s exactly what happened. The story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho snuck up on me out of nowhere. Though it was more than 10 years ago now, I remember it like it was yesterday.

    I was in the basement of the Princeton Theological Seminary Library during my first year of studies, and the article I was reading was discussing how the walls of Jericho might not have existed at all in a literal sense. I don’t remember the details, but I remember the article presenting a case for there being no archeological evidence for those walls. The premise was mind-blowing to me. “Not literal walls? What?” My mind flashed back to being a small child in Sunday School, marching around in a circle, singing “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a-tumbling down.”

    As I replayed that scene of that little girl, marching around the (actual, literal, real) walls the idea that there were no such walls was unbearable to me, and I started to cry big sloppy tears right there in the library. (Lots of people cry in seminary and university libraries, but it’s usually because papers are due the next day, not because crises of faith are commencing.)  The article about the walls stuck with me for weeks. “If the walls weren’t real, what else isn’t real? Have I been sold a bill of goods? What am I doing here?” The walls started to feel like a metaphor. My faith was crumbling, just like those walls, which (by the way) weren’t even real! I kept my thoughts mostly to myself as I trudged on from class to class, learning and reading and turning in assignments. There’s not an end to this faith crisis I can point to as easily as I can the beginning, but it did go away, eventually.

    Eventually I came to a place where I was able to say, truthfully, that it didn’t matter to me whether the walls of Jericho were actual, literal walls or whether the story about them in the Bible points to a deeper truth about who God is. By the end of seminary I was able to distinguish a theological truth from a scientific truth in a way that made my faith infinitely stronger. For me, the story turned out just fine, and the wrestling I did in seminary turned out to be an experience I would not trade for anything. I think I’m a better minister because of it. And yet, as I reflect on the my season of doubts and questions in seminary now as an adult, I wonder how it might have been different if I were better prepared for it.

    When we think of the most helpful tools for children’s ministry and faith development we often talk about age appropriate lessons, craft projects, or creative ways of telling the stories of our faith. But what about doubt? Doubt rarely makes it on any list of appropriate “tools” of the faith. And yet, we as Christian Educators and Pastors might actually serve our congregations well if we talk about doubt a bit more than we do. So often, doubt is talked about as something to get through or leave behind, rather than something to sit with for awhile as it marinates in us and transforms us. I agree wholeheartedly with theologian Paul Tillich:

    “Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” 

    It makes good sense to think about faith and doubt as two sides of the same coin. Wrestling with doubt, asking questions about our faith, and teaching children to embrace doubts is a way to strengthen faith, not tear it down. Doubt is like a mysterious muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger our faith can become. How can we flex our doubt muscles and teach children to do the same?

    Doubters and Questioners in Scripture

    Scripture is full of great figures who doubted and wrestled with their faith. In these cases, the doubts and questions end up leading to a more mature faith that can withstand storms and trials. When we teach children about these figures, we would do well to emphasize their doubts and questions, not downplay them. Here are five stories of doubters that  can be woven in to discussions about doubt. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start:

    Abraham and Sarah: God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. When Sarah learns of this promise, her response is to doubt by laughing. “Yeah right,” she says in so many words, “I’m way too old!” But the prophesy comes true and Abraham and Sarah do become parents. When do we say “Yeah, right!” to God? When do God’s promises seem ridiculous to us?

    Gideon: Gideon is one of the judges in the book of Judges who God chooses to deliver the people of Israel. Gideon can’t believe it, and puts God to the test by using fleece. One night he asks God to make the fleece wet and the surrounding ground dry. In the morning, there is so much water in the fleece he has to wring it out. But this miracle isn’t enough for Gideon. The next night he reverses the test, asking God to make the fleece dry but the ground surrounding it wet. Again, God answers the miracle. How do we test God? What does it mean when God answers us in the same way God answered Gideon? Even more challenging: What does it mean when God doesn’t answer us?

    Thomas: Thomas is the quintessential doubter in the New Testament. When Jesus is raised from the dead he wants proof. He won’t believe it, he says, unless he can actually see Jesus and touch him. For Thomas seeing is believing and he will accept nothing less. We ought to raise Thomas up, not put him down. “Do you have questions? Would you like proof? You’re just like Thomas, he wanted those things too, and he was one of the disciples.”

    Jesus: In Jesus’ darkest hour he doubted God and felt abandoned by God. From the cross he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When children or young people express doubts we can remind them that nobody, not even Jesus, has a faith that can withstand every trial or every question.

    Do’s and Don’ts for Handling Doubts and Questions in Children’s Ministry

    DO: Encourage questions and doubts. “Tell me more about that” or “Oh that’s interesting, I never thought about it that way,” or “Thank you for sharing that” are all affirming ways of hearing children and young people expressing their thoughts. Use them liberally. Don’t be afraid to follow conversations where children want to take them. I also love the idea of having a question box in the classroom where children can anonymously write down their thoughts and questions.

    DON’T: Teach that faith is not an “all or nothing” game. Some faith systems are so rigid and so fragile that questioning just one tiny premise makes the whole thing fall down like a house of cards. Remind children that just because they question or disbelieve in one area doesn’t mean they have to give up all of their beliefs. There are many different types of faithfulness. My faith doesn’t have to look exactly like yours. The pastor’s faith doesn’t have to look exactly like yours.

    DON’T: Give answers when you don’t have them. As I say in Faithful Families, the word “mystery” is a great one. I think the word mystery allows for room for a not knowing that has confidence. “That is such a mystery, isn’t it?” is a way that I answer a whole variety of questions. Another answer that inspires confidence and trust is this one: “Nobody knows.” Somewhere along the line, particularly in Western culture, we’ve gotten the idea that teachers know the answers and students are the ones who are there to receive them. Remind the children in your care that you’re there to learn together, and talk about mysteries together.

    DO: Lift up stories of those who had questions and doubts, including your own story (as you are comfortable.) The stories listed earlier in this article are a great place to start, but there are dozens of characters in the Bible and throughout church history who wrestle and doubt. Explore them together, and lift up their struggles and challenges as well as their virtues. Our heroes are complex. It makes them more interesting.

    DO: Maintain a sense of humor, joy, and curiosity when teaching. This is good advice all the time, not just when working with doubts and questions. Faith is playful, joyful and fun. There are so many lighthearted ways to approach ministry together with children and young people. Enjoy!

    So what about you? How do you handle doubts and questions in children’s ministry? Do they seem like challenges to overcome, or a wonderful and necessary part of faith development?

    Note from CEF: If you want to explore meaningful questions like these, register for Curious.Church, the 2018 CEF Conference


  • 20 Dec 2017 1:57 PM | Anonymous

    As 2017 comes to a close CEF would like to thank all those who contributed to Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation this past year. Your articles encouraged us to explore new ministry ideas, kept us up to date on the newest books, and inspired us to be a curious.church. In case you missed them, we’ve highlighted a few posts below.

    The Forming Faith blog amplifies the voices of  faith formation leaders from around the country. We invite clergy, staff, lay persons and volunteers involved in faith formation to contribute an article (or two!) for 2018. Please contact C. Hides if you would like to be a part of the Forming Faith blog. Guidelines are posted here.

    The Highlights:

    Kathy Wadsley shared coloring calendars in English and Spanish for Lent and Advent. Look for the 2018 Lenten calendar in late January.

    Debbie Kolacki posed the question, Does Sunday school have a future?”

    Lynne Smith offered ways of Nurturing Healthy Family Relationships.

    Author Traci Smith provided Tolerance: A Home Activity

    Intergenerational Faith Formation & worship emerged as a theme:

    Laura Stahl provided detailed directions for What to include in a worship activity center.

    Anglina Goldwell developed an All Ages Pentecost Lesson.

    Laura Hollinger Antonelli offered the Story of an Intergenerational Worship Service

    Intergenerational Activities for Lent were shared by Angelina Goldwell

    And the 2018 Conference Featured Line Up was released! Intergnerational Ministry expert John Roberto will be there,  will you? Register soon for the best rate!



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