Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

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  • 22 May 2019 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sarah Gregory is the Nooks and Neighborhoods Coordinator for Christians Engaged in Faith Formation. Sarah has her MACE from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Sarah has worked as a Director of Discipleship, freelance curriculum writer, and Worship leader. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Kaleb, and son Cecil. 


    How do we know we picked the right curriculum? When I first asked this question, I was really focused on Children's Ministry. After all, my teachers dedicated so much time breathing life into the lessons, I wanted to be sure we were using the best possible materials for our church and our children's needs. And Children's Ministry definitely has its own set of needs. Brittany Sky, the senior editor of children's resources at the United Methodist Publishing House, has a great article for picking great kids curriculum here if you want to know more. 

    But I realized that adult curriculum needed assessed too. At any given time, people are learning something while they meet together in a congregation. Why not make sure that every single gathering of learners and leaders offers the priceless gift of excellent teaching and content?

    In order to really assess the curriculum, I found a few steps were key.


    1. Affirm your leaders
    Most churches have key leaders that pick studies and often those folks do so without much guidance or prompting. Be sure to affirm the work your leaders are doing and seek to support their leadership rather than overstep and over manage their leadership. 

    A leader's commitment to small groups, discipleship, Sunday School, and outreach ministry is a gift to your entire faith community. 

    2. Ask your leaders.
    Maybe you ask in the form of a survey. Maybe you take your leaders out to coffee. Maybe you just catch them quickly after church one Sunday. Just make sure to ask.

    Start with questions like what went well this year in regards to your bible studies and curriculum? What didn't? Let the conversation unwind and see if you can pinpoint how to better guide the leaders towards valuable and exceptional resources.  

    If you are new to faith formation leadership, curated lists like those found on the Cokesbury website can be a great starting point for great theological content and quality teaching. 

    3. Assist your leaders.
    When I worked as a Director of Discipleship, I sent out a list of the key goals for discipleship in our church based on a discipleship survey our church had taken and then sent a list of resources that would meet those goals at the beginning of each semester for our adult leaders. Work with a pastor or leadership team to get clarity about the goals and vision. If you have a good sense of your church's goals and overall mission it will propel your congregation's learning.

    Don't feel confident in your ability to find those resources? Organizations like CEF exist to expose you to all kinds of content, including curriculum, so reach out to your networks and enjoy the support you receive!

    In our church's case, the resources were available through our own media library in our church, the conference library, through an education fund, or through contributions from the small groups. Every church has different resources so share when you can, contact other faith formation leaders in your area to see if they might be stocked with a particular study, and be generous with your own materials. 

    Be available for leaders who want guidance. Meet with them if they need it. Your goal as a faith formation leader is to equip other leaders not to exhaust yourself. Help others find the tools they need.


    So much of the learning in our churches happens when people gather to talk about the good news outside of Sunday morning. How do you make sure you and your leaders are using the right curriculum for your ministry?





  • 15 May 2019 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dr. Jack Seymour is a Professor Emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Theological seminary. He co-chairs the editorial committee of Horizons in Religious Education, the book series of the Religious Education Association (REA). Contact him at jack.seymour@garrett.edu.



    For a Christian educator, nothing is more important than faithfully teaching the Bible and assisting congregations to build engaging settings for Bible study.  Understanding scripture and drawing on its wisdom is foundational to the Christian life.  In fact, many of the conflicts in the church today as well as the church’s fear to challenge the wider culture can be traced directly to ineffective Bible study.  Too often preconceptions block the ways scripture invites us into abundant living and builds community.  We need serious and systematic study!

    Scripture is at the heart of faith.  From the earliest times, scriptures have been crucial to the Jewish and Christian communities.  For Jesus, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) was scripture.  In his day and today, Jewish worship centers around a systematic reading through the Torah.  Torah precepts to love God and love neighbor focused Jesus’ teaching.  Furthermore, he quoted the scroll of Isaiah over and over.  This too came from worship as Jewish communities also read passages from the scrolls of the prophets (Haftarah).  There were also other books used to interpret the signs of the times.  Yet the Jewish scriptures were not gathered until late in the first century (CE). 

    Paul and the gospel writers also drew on the same Jewish scriptures Jesus did – on proclamations in the Torah and the hopes of the Prophets – as they sought to understand the profound experience and impact of Jesus.  What became the Bible as we Christians know it was first shared in worship and then was expanded as followers sought to understand the “way of Jesus.”  Key books stood out as reliable guides to faithful living.  The church gathered these together into an inspired guide for later generations.

    Scripture is always interpreted.  In each time, we need to ask what scripture means for us and our living.  For example, while Kosher laws are still very important to many Jewish believers, most Christians do not interpret them as crucial for faith.  However, many Jews and Christians practice fasting which is similar to “food laws.” Each time we fast and say “no,” we remember God’s call on our lives.  Furthermore, keeping sabbath is similar.  As we keep sabbath, we are reminded that God is the giver and sustainer of life. 

    Jesus used the scriptures of his time to interpret everyday life.  For him, the “great banquet,” the Shema (the command to love God and neighbor), and the “realm of God” were important lenses to understand God’s presence and call – and our responsibilities.  Paul too used the scriptures as he drew on “suffering servant” images from the prophets to understand Jesus.  Matthew used the foundational Torah stories about Moses to understand Jesus as messiah. We too use the scriptures to understand how to follow Jesus. 

    Scripture is embodied in context.  As the Jewish leaders learned during their captivity in Babylon, the Torah stories that depicted God residing in Jerusalem had to be understood anew.  As slaves in a “strange land,” they struggled with what it meant for them to be separated from their homeland and oppressed.  Particular psalms and laments expressed their fears. 

    The gospels were also embodied in a context.  They were written during a time of significant conflict between Jewish leaders and Roman oppressors.  Mark for example is written during or immediately after the Roman/ Jewish War that saw the destruction of the Temple.  The other gospels emerged when the Romans were tightening their oppression of Jewish and emerging Christian groups. As gospel writers sought to witness to the power of Jesus, their own time profoundly affected the ways they constructed their stories.

    These three realities affect how we teach the scriptures.  We honor the power of scripture to reveal God, we struggle to understand God’s calling, and we seek to make it real in our world.  In Teaching Biblical Faith: Leading Small Group Bible Studies (Abingdon Press, 2015), I suggest that each teacher engages these realities as we pay attention to the people, to the text, and to the teaching process. 

    Content is always impacted by experience. We engage the biblical text as fully, honestly and faithfully as we are able.  Yet, we teach people  – people who come with concerns, joys, hopes and questions; people who come with knowledge, preconceptions, and expectations.  Just like the followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus were consumed by questions about “the things of Jesus of Nazareth (CEB Luke 24:19),” we too come to the scriptures to grow in faith, to address life concerns, and to seek to be faithful to God’s will. 

    Finally, we all know that certain approaches to teaching open up the scriptures to help us grow and others simply provide information that we may or may not retain.  A good teacher prayerfully studies the text and humbly attends to the learners.  A good teacher explores approaches that assist learners to make connections and live the power of the scriptures. 

    We pay attention to the text, we pay attention to the people, and we pay attention to how we teach.  I invite you to look at Teaching Biblical Faith.  You will find 10 approaches which have been tested.  Each is a best practice of Bible study.  They range from historical study of biblical texts, to prayerful appropriation of their meanings, and to missional responses.   I also encourage you to look at chapter 14 in Teaching Biblical Faith where I seek to guide us to “shape” a biblically-enlivened congregation, where preaching, study and mission are linked to release the power of scripture to guide mission.  Finally, for those of you who minister to children, I suggest a new Bible story book that pays attention to the text, to readers, and to the processes of story-telling.  See Elizabeth Caldwell and Carol Wehrheim, eds. Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible (Westminster John Know Press, 2018).

    Without a doubt, teaching the Bible is at the “heart” of our work as teachers because the Bible is at the heart of our faith.  Through studying the Bible, we see how the Hebrew people relied on God to help them love God and neighbor, we see the ways Jesus pointed to God’s action emerging in lives, and we learn the ways his followers sought to faithfully follow God and continue to live the “Way of Jesus.”  Indeed, teaching the Bible is at the heart of our work.


  • 15 Apr 2019 2:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Barbara Bruce is a facilitator with a passion for learning and teaching about learning.  She lives part of the year in Western NY and part in Northern Florida. She can be reached at bbcreative@aol.com or www.ministrymatters.com


    How Do I Teach Adult Learners?

    This is an excellent question. Below are some great ways to approach adult learning

    MULTIPLE INTELLEGINCE THEORY OPENS MINDS!

    First things first – all adults learn differently.  If you attempt to teach primarily by lecture, you will lose a good number of your adult learners.  Trust me.  Some adults learn by lecture, but many do not.  87% of adult learners self report to being “visual learners”.  I am one of them.  If I can see it, I can understand it.

    Some adults learn best through music, others through movement, still others through wrestling with problem solving activities.  In short we all have specific preferences for learning.  One of the greatest gifts you can give your students is to discover and respond to your students most preferred ways of knowing.  For more information on this fascinating topic, check a copy of “7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults.” (Abingdon Press)  The book needs to be updated to include the 8th Intelligence.”  

    WHAT, SO WHAT, NOW WHAT?

    As facilitator, you may assume that your students know some basic biblical information.  DO NOT GO THERE.  A tried and true method of insuring that students get the most out of a biblical story is to use the WHAT? – SO WHAT? – NOW WHAT? strategy.

    WHAT? addresses the issue of the basics of the story.  For example in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) do NOT assume that everyone knows what a Samaritan is or how much Jews and Samaritans hated each other.  These basic facts add incredible depth to this story.  Also who is a Levite? or a Priest?  Making sure that the background provided broadens the effects of this story.

    The next step in this process is SO WHAT?”  What does this story have to do with me?  The Bible is a living book with guidance for our lives today.   It can not - must not be simply a neat story that took place roughly 2000 years ago.  Questions like, “When have you “walked on the other side?”  “When have you been the Samaritan?  When have you helped someone in need (not just by the side of the road). This kind of question draws learners into the story.

    The last step in this critical sequence is the transformational piece.  NOW WHAT? takes your involvement in scripture to a greater level by considering how knowing this informational teaching/learning will change your behavior.

    Using this three step strategy is essential if we are to learn about how the Bible still speaks to us today. 

     JUST DO IT.

    Yet another strategy that I use all the time is to ask for several “right answers”.  If I ask a question and someone gives me an answer and we move right along – we are not doing our job facilitating the learning process.  I will often ask for “5 right answers”.  If one person gives an answer and we move along, no one else has to think!  If you ask for 5 (or 3 to begin) right answers you will get learners actually thinking and responding out of their understanding.  It is a powerful learning strategy.

    I DON'T KNOW IS OKAY

    Another aspect of having the right answer is “it is perfectly O.K. for you, as facilitator, to say, ”I don’t know – let’s find out together.”  I love to use the “% Theory” of facilitating.  I am fairly confident that I know at least 1% more than my students, but I am not necessarily the “keeper of the answers”.  Many times adults are reluctant to answer a question because they fear that they do not know enough about the Bible to answer.  These two strategies help to lessen that fear

    BE AWARE

    I do not like “absolutes”, but I am going to suggest that you NEVER call upon a person by name to read.  It is wiser and much less threatening to ask for a volunteer.  I have seen this happen where someone will be called upon to read (or to answer) and they are embarrassed by their (real or perceived) lack of knowledge or ability.  

    GROUND RULES

    Further addressing what I just said about absolutes, please make it a habit to ALWAYS establish “Ground Rules” when beginning a class.  Respect and Confidentiality are premium rules to establish and others can be added to meet specific needs.  Adults have left the church because of something that was shared in a Bible study class was repeated and gossiped about

    GO FOR IT

    It is perfectly O.K. to deviate from the curriculum.  Feel free to go with a “teachable moment”.  I taught a 12 week Bible study that lasted nearly 5 months.  As we addressed issues in the lesson plan, students wanted to know more – Let interest and need to know more guide you.  

    Lastly, remember that adults learn only what they WANT to learn.

    MAY IT BE SO!


  • 08 Apr 2019 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Scott Hughes is the Director of Adult Discipleship; Executive Director of Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. Scott is an Elder in the North Georgia Conference and received his M.Div. Asbury Theological Seminary and D. Min. Southern Methodist University. Scott is currently the co-Host of the Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way podcast, and creator of the Courageous Conversations project.



    When first asked to provide a book list for the the Basics of Faith Formation Series, I was overwhelmed at the possibilities. I do not pretend this is a complete list and it is certainly my subjective choices. In fact, I’d like to hear what books you’d add to this list. 

    ·      Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom by Suzanne Johnson. Though 30 years old now, this concise book is still hard to top. My copy is full of underlines and yellow post-it note flags. Johnson clarifies that we should aim beyond individualized spirituality (that arises from within) but for Christian spirituality (that is passed on) that truly offers freedom. Johnson pushes us beyond popular psychological categories to the formation of Christian character. If I could only recommend one book, this would be it.

    ·      A Blueprint for Discipleship: Wesley’s General Rules as a Guide for Christian Living by Kevin Watson.While Professor Watson has become much more known for his book The Class Meeting, many overlook his previous book which takes a broader look at discipleship formation or the method of us Methodist. While it is not the most practical book on this list, it is certainly a helpful guide for faith formation leaders wanting to focus on the patterns of Wesleyan spirituality.

    ·      Spiritual Theology:A Systematic Study of the Christian Life by Simon Chan. The first non-Methodist on the list. I don’t remember how I came across Chan’s work, but I found it a delightful and comprehensive read. This book is for those who want a deeper exploration into the theology of spirituality and spiritual practices.

    ·      Keeping in Touch: Christian Formation and Teaching by Carol Krau. Carol, now retired from Discipleship Ministries, has been a mentor to me and many others. Though her book is concise, it is theologically rich and practical. Though this book is geared for teachers and facilitators of Sunday School classes and small groups, it is certainly beneficial for any overseeing Christian education as well.    

    ·      Toward an Adult Church: A Vision of Faith Formation by Jane Regan. Though Catholic, I include this book for its focused and well-developed argument for transformative learning. Additionally, Regan is right to challenge churches who are more apt to focus on children and youth ministry at the expense of adult ministry. Focus on adult faith formation can cultivate a pervasive culture of discipleship for the whole church.  


    What books would you add to this list?



  • 02 Apr 2019 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Patty Meyers is a deacon in full connection with the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. She recently retired from teaching Christian Education at Pfeiffer University. Patty is President Emeritus of CEF and its current Treasurer.  She and her husband Bob live on the Central Oregon Coast with Tacy, her loving chihuahua.

    My contribution to the Faith Formation series will reflect where I start with most of the courses I teach: biblical foundations.

    My starting hypothesis: We are children of God. Secondly, we are not intended to stay children, we are to grow into the mind of Christ, and it is a lifelong process. There are lots of periscopes (bible passages) in the Bible to support the hypothesis. Here is a brief overview.

    Old Testament Examples of Faith Formation

    Torah and History

    From the beginning, the Judeo-Christian scriptures show the importance of spiritual maturity and the responsibility that each generation has for the next. Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 emphasizes the importance of educating our children and the primary place of faith formation: the home. The first part of this passage, the Schema, the great commandment, to love God with our whole beings, is a starting place for living a life faithful to God. Recite it again and again, at meals, before you leave the house, when you return, when you tuck the kids in bed at night. John Calvin wrote that nearly all the wisdom that we humans have consists of knowing God and knowing ourselves. Joshua continues the theme declaring that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

    Wisdom Literature

    Wisdom literature examines faith formation through advice, proverbs, and poetry.

    Psalm 78 contains an entire theory of religious education in the first eight verses.

     Listen, my people, to my teaching;

        tilt your ears toward the words of my mouth.

     I will open my mouth with a proverb.

        I’ll declare riddles from days long gone—

             ones that we’ve heard and learned about,

            ones that our ancestors told us.

     We won’t hide them from their descendants;

        we’ll tell the next generation

        all about the praise due the Lord and his strength—

        the wondrous works God has done.

     He established a law for Jacob

        and set up Instruction for Israel,

            ordering our ancestors

            to teach them to their children.

     This is so that the next generation

        and children not yet born will know these things,

            and so they can rise up and tell their children

         to put their hope in God—

            never forgetting God’s deeds,

            but keeping God’s commandments—

         and so that they won’t become like their ancestors:

        a rebellious, stubborn generation,

            a generation whose heart wasn’t set firm

            and whose spirit wasn’t faithful to God.will open my mouth with a proverb.

    (Psalm 78:1-8 CEB)

    It gives the who, what, where, why and how of teaching about God’s redeeming acts of unconditional love for all generations. I think it’s brilliant.

    Proverbs is full of wisdom. I sometimes imagine parents sitting down with a teenage child before she or he goes off to college, reminding the young person everything they’ve tried to teach so far in life. There are the practical admonitions of chapters 3 through 6 plus all the wisdom couplets. Ecclesiastes offers reflections of the Teacher for whom the book is named.

    The Prophets

    Isaiah 51 has three oracles of promise for Israel. Like many of the Major and Minor Prophets tests, these oracles provide examples of forming faith in the midst of difficulty and strife for the children of God.

    New Testament

    The Gospels

    The Gospels give a glimpse into the life of a disciple and how to lead like Jesus as a teacher. The gospels are not biographies but they are the best source we have in which to learn about and from Jesus. To be a disciple is to be a student, a lifelong learner, to be a follower of Rabbi (Teacher) Jesus. We hear his words and follow his example in our behaviors. Much can be (and has been) said about teaching the way that Jesus did.

    The Epistles (Letters)

    Much is written in the epistles about promoting growth of the body of Christ, individually and corporately. We are to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds so that [we] can discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2) and “be renewed by the Spirit of [our] minds” (Eph. 4:23). Thomas Merton wrote, “To keep ourselves spiritually alive, we must constantly renew our faith.” (Thoughts on Solitude, p. 43).

    Paul asked, “how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Romans 10:14-15). Throughout the Bible, God uses people to proclaim, teach, and form the faith of God’s children so that those children may mature.

    A Life-Changing Story

    One of my favorite biblical stories that exemplifies the importance of faith formation is found in Acts 8, Philip and the Ethiopian (see Acts 8: 26-31). Philip had been preaching in Samaria; all the disciples had scattered after Pentecost and the number of believers in Jesus multiplied. An angel told Philip to go south down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Of course, he got up and went. There he encountered a court official for Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was returning home after worshiping in Jerusalem, reading Isaiah in his chariot. Philip asked if he knew what he was reading. The Ethiopian’s answer provides the foundation for why I am a Christian educator. The Ethiopian responds “How can I unless someone guides me?” (v.31).

    How will anyone know the Good News if no one guides them? Everyone needs a guide, a soul friend, a mentor, a teacher, family member, someone who knows Jesus and lives the great commandment as Jesus did: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and your neighbor as yourself. Everyone who calls themselves Christian (which means little Christ) is to do what Jesus Christ did. The name most used for Jesus in the gospels is Rabbi-Teacher.

    We are being shaped by the Holy Spirit much like a drift of snow is shaped by the wind. It takes a lifetime to “grow into the mind Christ,” or “be all that you can be,” as the U. S. Army used to say. Paul said that we are “being transformed from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). Several years ago the CEF Board adopted Acts 2:42 as its guiding scripture for the board’s work: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship in the breaking of bread and the prayers.” From Genesis to the Revelation, the Holy Bible is filled with models and teachings about how to grow in our relationships with God. It’s a love story from beginning to end. May it be said of all of us that we were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship and prayers. May each one of us be a guide for others. If you do, you will be on biblically solid ground.

    Blessings,

    Rev. Patty Meyers, D. Min., Ed. D.


  • 01 Mar 2019 10:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ellen Wehn is the Director of Children's Ministry at First United Methodist Church Owasso in Owasso, Oklahoma. Ellen also has experience in church daycare and week day preschool ministries.

    Easter is a time when churches prepare for visitors. Of course we want all of our visitors to feel welcome. We make sure there are volunteers in the parking lot to help with parking, as well as volunteers inside - available to give directions to classes. Easter Lilies line the altar in keeping with the occasion.

    But what about one of the most important areas for young families visiting your church?

    The nursery is one of the most important rooms in the church. It can mean the difference in a family making the decision of returning to your church after Easter. This area of the church should always be a warm environment for these young families. If the nursery doesn’t feel welcoming - and most importantly - safe, it won’t matter how many volunteers you have helping with parking and giving directions or how many Easter Lilies are lining the altar. Those families won’t be back.

    Here are some tips to help you get your nursery ready to greet Easter visitors.

    • TOYS: The church nursery seems to be the place people bring toys that their children have outgrown. Unfortunately, some of those old toys can make the nursery look like a forgotten area. Take some time before Easter to inspect all the toys. Get rid of old and broken toys, and toys that look dirty.
    • SAFETY: A major concern for all parents is safety. Are all your nursery workers and volunteers background-checked and CPR certified? Is your nursery there some kind of boundary to limit only people with background checks into the nursery? These things help parents feel secure about leaving their child with you. Don’t be afraid to post a sign letting everyone know about your safety procedures and background checks.
    • HAZARDS: Look around for any safety hazards. For example – If you have no door to a restroom in the nursery, be sure there is a baby gates to keep a toddler from going into a bathroom. Dangerous items need elevated beyond the reach of babies. Electrical outlets should be covered. Check for rips in the changing pad. These are things that visiting parents will see.
    • A CALM SPACE: This might be a good time to update the look of your nursery by giving it a fresh coat of paint. Remember, the child is separating from their mother, you want this to be a very calm area. Avoid a bright color on the wall with bold designs or huge murals.  You want to choose a very soft color. Gray is very popular right now and very calm. You can always add a few areas of color in the room to give it some pop, but be sure to emphasize a calm feeling.


    • DECORATING THE NURSERY: A great way to decorate your nursery is with pictures of your happy babies in your nursery. One of my favorite pictures we have hanging in the nursery is a 6 month old child playing with one of our pastors.


    • HOSPITALITY ROOM: Some parents are not comfortable leaving their child in the nursery. Is there a room you can have available for mothers to nurse, change diapers, or just calm a fussy child? Even better, stream the worship service into the room.
    • FINAL TOUCHES: Ensure the nursery smells nice! Use an appropriate, safe device that can emit nice scents (the scent needs to be mild and not over powering). Some soft music playing helps with a relaxing drop off time.
    • GOING HOME: Be sure to provide the parents a report they can take with them of how many times the child was changed, as well as bottles or snacks they have had. Include a few details about activities to show the visiting parents that their children are kept active whenever possible.
  • 22 Feb 2019 6:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sarah Gregory is the Communications Coordinator for CEF. Sarah has a MACE from Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. She writes as a freelance writer for Deep Blue Rotations and has worked in local churches as a Director of Discipleship, Worship Leader, and Nursing Home Chaplain.


    Finding the right resources for Lent and Easter for your community can be challenging. I have highlighted five that I think work well for bridging age gaps and uniting the entire congregation. What resources are you using?


    #Picturelent is a free online resource. It is a joint project between Rio Texas and Michigan Annual conference with sponsorship by Deep Blue Connect and Sparkhouse Publishing House. #Picturelent is a daily online devotional and picture challenge for social media users. Each devotional encourages action and questions, making the resource flexible for small groups, personal devotions, and online communities. (Full disclosure, I wrote the entry for April 17th this year.) 

    Illustrated Children’s Ministry Lenten Coloring Projects are not just for kids. Entire churches can gather to bring color and life to the vibrant and modern coloring sheets. When I was a Director of Discipleship, I used the coloring sheets with small groups of all ages, then posted the finished work throughout the church at Easter to bring a little color to the sanctuary and hallways. 

    Celebrate a Deep Blue Family Easter Books--These affordable Easter booklets feature the Deep Blue Kids on an egg hunt. The story features the symbol of the Easter Egg and helps children understand the story of Easter. New this year to the Easter Books, families will find discussion questions inside to guide the whole family through the story together. If your church does an Easter Egg hunt, consider getting these books as a way to tie together your joyful celebration and the Easter story. 

    Free Lenten Coloring Calendar by Kathy Wadsley have been featured on our website before and for good reason. The Calendars correspond to the Lenten readings and guide users through scriptures for their Lenten practices. You can find the coloring calendars in English of Spanish.

    The CEF Lent Resources Blog Post- These resources posted in 2018 still offer incredible insight guidance and ideas. Consider Lent in a bag, Lenten picture books, holy week activities, or intergenerational lent events. 

    Bonus resources:

    Want to know more about Lenten theology and practice? Check out these great resources.

    Lent Worship Planning by Discipleship Ministries

    Lent 101 by Upper Room

    Ash Wednesday for Kids by Discipleship Ministries


  • 21 Feb 2019 7:11 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 Englishand 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.

    Lenten Calendar Year C (English)

    Intro and Printing Instruction

    Calendario de Cuaresma Ano C (Spanish)

    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 Coloring 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.


  • 25 Jan 2019 1:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dr. Jack Seymour is a Professor Emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Theological seminary. He co-chairs the editorial committee of Horizons in Religious Education, the book series of the Religious Education Association (REA). Contact him at jack.seymour@garrett.edu.

    Margaret Ann Crain holds the distinction of Professor Emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  She is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and author of The United Methodist Deacon: Ordained to word, service, compassion, and justice. Contact her at margaretann.crain@garrett.edu.


    Scholarship in Christian Religious Education is alive and well.  The following important books written by a diverse set of authors, all Christian religious educators, focus on teaching the people of God for hope and transformation.  Promoting “abundant living” promised in the gospel is their commanding vision.  They are all grounded in actual experiences and communities. Of course, some are difficult, primarily because their content addresses the violence, racism, and division of our time, but they tell us the truth. They offer direction and insights for how Christian education impacts our world.  Reading them enriches vision and empowers ministry.  They will make a difference!

    We would be happy to be in touch with any of you about the ideas and practices in these books.  We suggest starting some small groups in your local areas to read them together and to glean directions for our work as church educators, youth ministers, children’s workers, and teachers. 


    Elizabeth Caldwell.  Engaging a Child’s Curiosity about the Bible. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2016.

    How do we support children and parents as they read the Bible and interpret its meanings?  After a review of several Bible story books, Elizabeth Caldwell offers an effective method (“I wonder”) of joining in conversation with families and children. Upon completing this book, she and Carol Wehrheim edited a wonderful Bible story book, Growing in God's Love: A Story Bible (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2018), to help parents, teachers and children experience the witness of the Bible.

    Leah Gunning Francis.  Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership & Awakening Community.  St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2015.

    Through this rich narrative, we meet the people of God in Ferguson, Missouri as they respond to the shooting death of Michael Brown.  Leah Gunning Francis spoke with those who lived and worked in Ferguson – church and community leaders who responded to racism and violence.  She introduces us to effective practices of leadership and action that make a difference, offer hope,  and educate communities.

    Courtney T. Goto, 2016. The Grace of Playing: Pedagogies for Leaning into God’s New Creation. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016. 

    Connecting devotional practices, art, meditation, and teaching, Courtney Goto invites us to experience the “grace” of teaching.  Our vocation as people of God is to respond to God’s invitation in the everyday real moments of our lives.  She provides directions on how we teach, play, and learn so that we can “lean” into God’s emerging creation?

    Thomas H. Groome. Will There Be Faith: A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples. New York: Harper Collins, 2011.

    Tom Groome asks how faith will last into the future?  He responds calling us to teach a living and vital faith. He describes the ways congregations and schools organize their ministries to touch the deepest realities of people’s lives, including a concrete method for teaching.  For Tom, we join in vital villages of faith and partner in God’s vision enlivening our world with hope and justice.

    Charles R. Foster.  From Generation to Generation: The Adaptive Challenge of Mainline Protestant Education in Forming Faith.  Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2012. 

    Exploring past decisions that limited the scope and impact of Christian religious education, Chuck Foster offers directions about how to engage the whole congregation as a setting for learning.  He calls us to teach the fullness of faith.  Practices of hospitality, celebration, and conversation are enlivened as profound moments of teaching and learning.

    Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook. God Beyond Borders: Interreligious Learning among Faith Communities.  Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014

    Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook introduces us to many projects in interfaith dialogue, community-building, and action.  We see concrete efforts that assist us to cross differences, to understand each other, and to work together for the common good.  She shows us how to engage in interfaith learning. 

    Emily A. Peck-McClain. Arm in Arm with Adolescent Girls: Educating into the New Creation. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018. 

    We hear the stories of several young women from diverse cultures as they seek to live day to day.  Emily Peck-McClain invites us to see their struggles and their hopes as they confront forces that seek to limit and silence them.  In the letters of the apostle Paul, she finds resources for enlivening faith, offering practices for living, and building healthy and faithful futures.

    Patrick Reyes.  Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community and Surviving to Adulthood.  St. Louis. MO: Chalice Press, 2016.

    One of the most powerful and prophetic books on this list.  Patrick Reyes exposes us to the violent realities in which he and many others grow up.  We meet mentors that offer hope and new life.  He shows how many of our patterns of Christian education tame the gospel and avoid the most important realities of living together.  He calls Christian education to focus on survival and abundant living – on how God “calls us to life in the midst of violence and pain (p. 169).”

    Jack L Seymour.  Teaching the Way of Jesus: Educating Christians for Faithful Living.  Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2014.

    Grounded in biblical study, Jack Seymour invites us to rethink Christian religious education as teaching and living the Way of Jesus.  Community-building and prayer, teaching, and mission all become pathways of learning.  Like the disciples of the first generation who sought to embody Jesus’ practices of healing and new life, we are concretely invited to know the Way of Jesus so we can teach and live the Way of Jesus. 

    Mai-Anh Le Tran. Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope.  Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2017.

    How does Christian faith address the violence of our world – the violence of racism, class segregation, and bullying?  Mai-Anh Le Tran offers us actual practices and case studies of Christian religious education that empower us to communicate and learn as we seek redemption, hope, and new life.

    Katherine Turpin & Anne Carter Walker. Nurturing Different Dreams: Youth Ministry across Lines of Difference. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014.

    Using experiences and case studies, Katherine Turpin and Anne Carter Walker offer options for youth ministries in churches and schools.  In an increasingly diverse world where youth encounter each other daily as well as the realities of social stratification and separation, we need their suggestions and practices for teaching across differences and promoting mutual learning.

    Almeda Wright.  The Spiritual Lives of Young African Americans. New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    Through extensive study with young African American Christians, Almeda Wright reveals the realities of racism and violence that they face daily.  She provides concrete practices of youth ministry, practices of spirituality and transformation that help us offer and choose life – abundant living.


  • 21 Jan 2019 11:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rev. Dr. Brenda Buckwell is founder of Living Streams Flowing Water spiritual formation ministry.  As an ordained elder she preaches, consults with congregations, districts and judicatories integrating spiritual formation into the mainstream of ministry. She teaches prayer and spiritual direction at Ashland Theological Seminary, Garrett Evangelical Seminary and CenterQuest. You may reach Brenda through the contact form on her website www.livingstreamsflowingwater.com

    Is intergenerational spiritual formation possible in the 21st century?

    Remember the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child?” Has the notion of village become lost in our contemporary culture? When I look around, I see individuals struggling.  People pour out large amounts of energy striving to make ends meet while keeping stability in the household and completing daily to do lists. Individualism looms as a dominant pattern for obtaining job satisfaction, self-worth, and bolstering a sense of accomplishment and knowledge through crowd-sourcing posted on social media. Often this preferred stance of the “self-made” person drives our personal seeking for God overlooking generational wisdom.

    Intergenerational faith formation has the potential to gift an individualized nation that is divided among race, socio-economic and political lines by creating villages. “Revillaging” community creates opportunity for spiritual kinship to thrive through creativity, storytelling and mentoring. This leads to an incarnational embodied faith that is easily shared between generations and through stages of development.

    Seeing Beyond the Surface: Contemplative listening and receiving

    The foundation to faith-revillaging for community is seeing beyond the surface. This is looking beyond the specifics of age, race, gender and classism to the heart of creation. With expectant hope and certainty that God is dwelling in the other, each age level can experience God’s presence in the other as spiritual kinship is birthed.  The trick is to develop eyes to see and ears to hear God’s presence and voice in the other.  The best method of training for this contemplative gazing is spiritual direction. 

    This contemplative mode of listening and receiving the other in spiritual direction is an historic prayer practice which binds people together at a soul deep level and transforms the outward actions of mission, service and prayer. This mid-wifery process of spiritual direction brings new understandings, experiences and wisdom of God to humanity creating a plethora of intergenerational opportunities for faith forming practices in the village of God’s people.

    Story Telling

    People of all ages can engage in the storytelling.  This is much more than just retelling the biblical story.  Holy listening and storytelling with an intergenerational village provides opportunity for persons to share how God is present, active and transforming life personally. Envision a Grandma (a spiritual mother) surrounded by adults, children, and teens telling her weekly experience of God’s abounding grace. Then Grandma invites another individual forward and the child shares. 

    But the question arises, what if one does not know their own story? Creative arts prayers can assist in eliciting one’s story of faith.

    Creative Arts Prayer

    Creative arts prayer techniques provide great fodder for revillaging a community as generations intermix.  Visio Divina with cartoons, movie clips and pictures or icons can open the way for insightful story conversation.   The benefit of praying in color literally opens a space within the brain for the presence of God to rise to the consciousness of younger and older individuals.  Great joy can be experienced by picking up colored pencils and allowing the beyond words expression of God to fill the sacred circle of a Mandala as community explores the Alpha and Omega of Christ. Meditative Movement with prayer postures, hand dancing and the use of breath with the infilling of the Holy Spirit breaks down the age division among us. With these and more creative arts prayers, we can witness to nonverbal expressions of God’s presence and stand in solidarity with those that are suffering and growing in grace.

    Spiritual Mentors

    Intentional storytelling gives rise to the need of spiritual mentors.  Since spiritual formation is a life-long journey,  through which children, teens, young adults, middle adults and older adults travel. Every age and stage of life can become mentors for others, as well as relate to a mentor in faith for ourselves.

    It takes a village to encourage one another in faith. The multigenerational opportunity of co-creating with God spiritual kinships across cultural divides is limitless. How will you begin? With whom will you share your faith story?  How can you encourage others to break the fear of “professional artist” into accessible movement and praying in color?  I look forward to hearing from you as you seek to cross the great generation divide and revillage your community.



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