Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

  • 24 Jul 2017 8:27 PM | Christine Hides

    Rev. Lisa McGehee is an ordained deacon serving Good Shepherd (Richmond) as Associate Minister. Her specialties include Adult Discipleship and Communications.

    Small groups, bible studies and support groups are opportunities to meet people where they are on their faith journey. At Good Shepherd UMC (Richmond) our Discipleship ministry has grown from seasonal studies to multiple groups meeting weekly, including a new grief support group and a Mental Wellness Ministry. What steps can you take to grow a vital Discipleship ministry so that people can develop their relationship with God and live as faithful disciples in the world?

    • 1.       Pray – seek God’s guidance – “without a vision the people will perish” – without God’s vision for Good Shepherd’s Discipleship ministry we would not be able to discern topics, leaders and needs of the congregation and community.
    • 2.       Ministry Team – it takes a village of people to implement and grow a small group and support group ministry – again, pray. Ask God to reveal potential leaders that have a heart for growing in their faith. Who in your congregation has the gifts of encouragement, faith, discipleship and/or leadership? Who has offered to lead a small group or bible study? For support groups, who has expressed a passion for an area of support, i.e. grief, divorce, mental health wellness? Invite them to join you in praying and seeking where God might be nudging them to become involved.
    • 3.       Vision – come together as a ministry team and seek God’s will for your congregation and community. What does faith formation mean to you? How do you define discipleship? What are the needs of your community? For the past two years, Good Shepherd has been in a time of discernment and Strategic Design. Throughout this process we sought God’s vision for all areas of ministry. We prayed together and listened to one another about the ways our lives had been transformed through the ministries of Good Shepherd. We also reviewed data from The Fullnsite Report available through the Conference. This report was one way we discovered the needs of the community. We learned that 33% of our neighbors were seeking support in the areas of addiction, recovery, grief, parenting development, marriage enrichment and mental wellness. Additionally, 34% were seeking prayer and bible study groups. We added these needs to our prayers.
    • 4.       Discernment – equipped with prayer, stories and data, our Becoming (Discipleship) Ministry continued to discern how we could best live into God’s call on our community of faith. This discernment occurred during several meetings in the summer. We went back to the vision for Good Shepherd to be “a place where lives are transformed through grace.” Grace and hope are the foundations for all that we offer at Good Shepherd. We heard that our congregation had embraced Sunday School, small groups and bible studies for all ages but the missing link was topical support groups. Parents of children and youth desired to gather to support one another. Those grieving the loss of loved ones and those who were experiencing mental wellness situations sought faith-based support. From these conversations and prayer, we discerned that for 2016-17 we would offer a grief support group, a divorce support group, develop a Mental Wellness Ministry, and offer parenting support groups for parents. These opportunities would be available for the congregation and the community.
    • 5.       Implementation – we continue to surround these new ministries in prayer. The grief support group began in September with three facilitators and eight participants (with an equal number of congregation members and community participants). An information session was held about the ministry and the three facilitators each shared that because of their own experiences with grief and healing they felt called to the ministry. A group of mental health professionals, school leaders and staff have developed a plan for a Mental Wellness Ministry. A sermon in September kicked-off the ministry which includes an information page on our website ( and partnering with the local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to offer support groups. Our Children and Youth Ministries are partnering with parents to discern support group models that will fit their needs.

    We are excited to see not only the development of these new initiatives but how lives will be transformed through the healing grace of God.

  • 28 Jun 2017 8:42 PM | Christine Hides

    One of my favorite summer reads so far is The Book of Joy, Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams © 2016, Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Few could argue that both spiritual leaders have suffered greatly throughout their lives, but when these octogenarians got together to celebrate their birthdays, they giggled like a couple of kids. The book is drawn from conversations held during a week in Dharmasala.

    Each chapter contains golden nuggets mined from their years of experience. From beginning to end they model the way that people of faith who practice different religions can live together peaceably and joyfully without any type of diminishment. They echoed something that Vaclav Havel said to the U. S. Congress more than 30 years ago:

    The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility. Accessed 6-23-17,

    The two declared that “lasting happiness…resides only in the human mind and heart, and it is here that we hope you will find it.”

    Their conversation ranged from scientific research to faith to human experience, from the reality of suffering and the obstacles to joy to chortles of glee amid a world full of fear.  In the final section of the book they name “the eight pillars of joy”: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.” The book also includes “joy practices.”

    It’s a delightful, thought-provoking read. I recommend it.


    Patty Meyers

    CEF Board President

  • 31 May 2017 8:05 PM | Christine Hides

    Help us get the word out about Curious.Church happening in 2018!  Our Save the Spot promotion is still available through this Registration Link.

    Workshop Proposals are being accepted through June 7, 2017. We welcome yours!

    Please share these flyers at your Annual Conference and beyond:

    CEF flyer.docx

    Curious Church Annual Conference flyer.pdf

  • 01 May 2017 5:51 PM | Christine Hides

    Angelina Goldwell is the DRE for the First UMC of Olympia ( . She received her Masters of Divinity from the Claremont School of Theology in 2012. She has nearly a decade of experience doing ministry with all ages and is particularly focused on intergenerational ministries. She's also shared an "An All Ages Lent" on our site.

    Download the session outline

    Intentionally scheduling all-ages or intergenerational events are crucial for strengthening the bonds of the church family. Church is one of the few spaces where different ages can intermingle with the explicit goals of growing in relationship and learning from one another. Intergenerational events also model for children and youth that faith formation is a lifelong process because they are able to witness adults engaged in learning. For the adults, I believe it’s important to provide them with opportunities for creative learning. Adult faith formation sometimes gets boxed into an endless series of book/video studies. Intergenerational discipleship time together is an extension of worshipping together. When planning an intergenerational event I believe it is important that what happens at the event echoes and reinforces what happens in the worship setting by using a parallel flow, containing parallel thematic elements, etc. Here you will find a session outline for an All Ages event to take place during a Discipleship/Sunday school hour. 

  • 01 May 2017 5:37 PM | Christine Hides

    Congratulations, you’ve just unlocked a “secret” benefit to membership in Christians Engaged in Faith Formation – being listed on our blog roll! The best thing about being a member of CEF is becoming part of a community of people passionate about Christian faith formation. Below is a list of our member websites and blogs that we encourage you to check out. We read through our member blogs and share the best of the articles with our 3000+ social media followers. If you don’t have a blog of your own, we’d love for you to submit to the CEF Blog: Forming Faith.

    Do you want to be listed below? There are two quick steps:

    1.       Be sure your membership profile is updated with your site address by logging in to

    2.       Send an email to letting our content manager know about your website.

    CEF Member Blog/Website Roll:

    Dr. Gladys Childs,

    Rev. Laura Darling,

    Bradley Fiscus,

    Melanie Gordon,

    Mrs. Delia Halverson,

     Suzanne Harris,

    Dena Kitchens,

    Rev Jeff Lowery,

    Minister Denise Marshall,

    Mrs Anita Millar,

    Dr. William Randolph,

    DeDe Reilly,

    Mrs Kim Reindl,

    Daniel Schlorff,

    Hanna Schock,

    Rev Cindy Serio,

    Rev Lynne Smith,

    Christine V. Hides,

    Please remember: Christians Engaged in Faith Formation (CEF) is a membership organization. This list is provided as a service to our members to further connections. The list is not an endorsement by CEF of any opinion, view, or product promoted on these websites. 

  • 17 Apr 2017 12:37 PM | Christine Hides

    Debbie Kolacki is a Certified Christian Educator and Certified Lay Servant in the United Methodist Church. She is also an online instructor for BeADisciple. Her blogs include FaithGeeks and Practical Resources for Churches. She is the Senior Consultant for PRC -- Practical Resources for Churches where she works with people in all areas of ministry and leads webinars, workshops, and retreats.

    If you’re involved with children and Sunday school, then you’ve probably heard people lamenting that things have changed, and not for the better. Those days when there was barely enough room in classrooms while waiting for the new Sunday school wing to be built are over. Instead many Sunday schools find that they’re contemplating multi-graded or one room classrooms due to a continuing decline in attendance.

    What’s a Christian Educator to do? Many are pondering this question and venturing into new territory. Some see the lack of young people in the church as the result of children who never learned to worship with the rest of the congregation. Silo ministries which separate the generations must end and worship must become welcoming of all ages. Others may be experimenting with a different way or a different time for faith formation and emphasizing the importance of the family in their children’s faith formation.

    PRC – Practical Resources for Churches is an ecumenical resource center for churches and has been offering webinars in all areas of ministry since 2011. There is no charge for these webinars which are supported by denominational organizations and private donors. Last year PRC decided to offer a series of webinars called Alternative Sunday School Webinars. These would include churches which were offering alternatives to Sunday school as well as alternative ways of doing Sunday school. They are recorded and can be viewed by visiting the Recorded Webinars page of PRC’s website.

    The first of these webinars was broadcast on September 22, 2016 and was titled Curriculum + Service + Spiritual Practice. It was led by Marissa Letscher, Director of Children & Family Ministry at First Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She talked about how the church decided to no longer have Sunday school and worship at the same time. They created a new Sunday morning program for children focused on learning, service, and spiritual reflection and gave the children the opportunity to worship with the rest of the congregation. 

    On October 20, 2016, Katie Rode Carided, Director of Family Ministry for St. John’s Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas, led a webinar entitled It Takes a Village. She talked about The Village, a whole community Christian education concept which encourages families to take Christian Education back into the home and ministers to all, even those who don’t regularly attend church.

    Bonnie Deroski, Director of Child and Family Life at Grace Christian Church in Tinton Falls, NJ, led the next webinar in our Alternative Sunday School series called Vivid Worship, which was broadcast on November 10, 2016. Vivid Worship is a monthly opportunity for edu-worship across generations.

    Our next Alternative Sunday school webinar was on January 19, 2017 and was about the Messy Church program at First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA. It was led by Anais Hussian, director of Christian education. Messy Church is an all-ages, worldwide, fun way of being church for people who may not typically attend or feel comfortable in a traditional church setting.

    On February 16, 2017, Sarah McCaslin, organizing pastor of Waffle Church, an all-ages service of St. Lydia’s in Gowanus, Brooklyn, led a webinar called A Taste of Waffle Church which talked about their all ages-service which encourages the participation and leadership of children in worship.

    PRC is in the process of planning our next season of webinars which will run from July through December 2017. On August 22, Rich Melheim, author of Let’s Kill Sunday School (before it kills the church), will lead a webinar with the same name. We hope to add two additional Alternative Sunday school webinars. We expect to be listing our upcoming webinars sometime in May; you can check them out on the Webinars page of PRC’s website or add your name to our email list by contacting us at  

  • 03 Apr 2017 7:49 PM | Christine Hides

    Rev. Lynne Smith is a Deacon in Full Connection in the North Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. She serves as the Minister of Education of North Georgia Family Counseling Centers and works with churches to create ministries that influence family wellbeing. For more information about the Life Compass and Faithful Family Life Curriculum go to

    The church is the one place in our culture with the ability to address the entire family throughout the developmental life cycle. Think about it. We perform marriages. We baptize infants. We give Bibles to 2 year-olds and 3rd graders. We mentor adolescents through Confirmation as they learn about their faith and choose to accept the vows of membership for themselves. We stand with Seniors as they graduate from High School and send care packages while they’re away at college. We celebrate retirements, visit those in the hospital, and grieve our losses. Every major developmental milestone is recognized by the church in some way.  So what are you doing to equip your congregation to navigate these milestones in a healthy way?

                Maybe take a moment to reflect on your own experience. Personally, I knew everything there was to know about raising children…until I actually had children. When my firstborn turned two, I’m pretty sure I purchased every book on the market about how to raise a strong-willed child. It didn’t take long before I realized that she hadn’t read any of those books. When there was a workshop at church on parenting, I went. Turns out, she didn’t study that material either. 

    Fast-forward a few years to the start of high school, fourteen years old. My daughter was excited about everything. I was afraid of everything. In case you’re wondering, that’s not a good combination. Fear says “no” a lot. And when you say “no” to a strong-willed teenager, a lot… I’ll let you imagine what that might be like. This time, I was incredibly fortunate that the church wasn’t just offering a workshop of best practices, rather the church created a small group experience that explored why the teenage brain is excited about everything, and studied what is happening in my brain when I’m constantly afraid. This group also offered a safe environment in which to explore the origin of my fear so that I could move toward an attitude of courage to face the fear, and not act out of it.  I learned skills, proven by scientific research, to reduce reactivity and nurture connectivity. I learned how to establish healthy boundaries and how to clearly state those boundaries in ways that affirm and value the others in my home. Most of all I discovered that if one person learns healthy skills in a family system, the whole system becomes healthier.

                My daughter is an amazing person, as are her siblings. They are uniquely who God created them to be. I’m so grateful that the church saw fit to teach me the skills of healthy relationships, frameworks to help me understand developmental transitions, and methods to help me navigate the journey so that I have the skills to enjoy and appreciate the amazing people that they are. For me, this is and has been a spiritual journey, and I would be thrilled if all churches could become places in their communities where families could come to learn the skills of healthy relationships simply because it’s what we do – not because there’s a problem.

                The ability to do this work begins with awareness. In the Faithful Family Life Curriculum , awareness is part of the centering practice. It’s impossible to transform something if I don’t know about it in the first place. When I can focus my attention in the present moment without judgment, I can:

    • orient to the energy of God’s love at work in the world and choose how to participate in that energy;
    • safely explore and understand my thoughts, sensations, and feelings so that I respond to others with truth and love;
    • connect past memories to present behavior through story and sacrament;
    • value learning, and recognize that what I know (and what I do) is different from who I am.

    From this centered place, I can point my Life Compass to the reality of my life, and access skills, frameworks, and methods that connect me to my family, my church, my community, and the greater world with love, joy, kindness, and compassion. So can you. And together we can create a place where families can learn the skills of healthy relationships because that’s what love does.

  • 17 Mar 2017 3:19 PM | Christine Hides

    Members of the CEF Communities of Practice group on Ministries in Transition spent their conference sessions discussing change in the church. These are their top recommendations:

    Transitions, by William Bridges

    Whether it is chosen or thrust upon you, change brings both opportunities and turmoil. Since first published 25 years ago, Transitions has helped hundreds of thousands of readers cope with these issues by providing an elegantly simple yet profoundly insightful roadmap of the transition process.”

    Running through the Thistles: Terminating a Ministerial Relationship with the Parish ,  by Alban Institute books

     “Can how you leave a church affect your feelings about leaving or create baggage you take to your new congregation? Gain insight into termination styles and how they affect both you and your parishioners. Using real-life illustrations, Oswald guides you through Alban Institute research findings to help you prepare for a departure.

    I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, by Paul Nixon

    God has called all leaders--lay and clergy--to lead healthy, GROWING congregations. In this best-selling, highly- readable book, church-growth expert Paul Nixon outlines six critical choices every congregation must make

    Christianity for the Rest of Us, by Diana Butler Bass

    For decades the accepted wisdom has been that America's mainline Protestant churches are in decline, eclipsed by evangelical mega-churches. Church and religion expert Diana Butler Bass wondered if this was true, and this book is the result of her extensive, three-year study of centrist and progressive churches across the country.

    Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect the Earth’s Climate, edited by Mallory McDuff

    From evangelicals to Episcopalians, people of faith are mobilizing to confront climate change. This unique anthology brings together stories from all over North America of contemporary church leaders, parishioners, and religious activists who are working to define a new environmental movement, where honoring the Creator means protecting the planet.

  • 08 Mar 2017 2:06 PM | Christine Hides

    I recently read What We Need is Here, Practicing the Heart of Christian Spirituality by L. Roger Owens, published by Upper Room Books.  Owens is an elder in The United Methodist Church who teaches at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

    The book is written in first person anecdotal format, which makes it an engaging easy read. While driving along I-40 in North Carolina one day he heard a voice say, “Let me be your Teacher…I have already given you everything you need.” I chuckled as I share Owens’ love of books, always looking for the next best way to deepen my relationship with God and share that with my students.

    In the process of his rediscovery of what God has given he identified seven “givens” of Christian spirituality. They aren’t new; they are things that we know so this book is a gentle reminder that we should:

    • Read the Gospels
    • Pray the Psalms
    • Sit in silence with God
    • Find Jesus in Church
    • Meet Jesus in Holy Communion
    • Receive and respond to Jesus with our bodies, minds and spirits
    • Spend time with the poor

    Owens is right. We have everything we need. We need to practice what we preach and teach. 

  • 08 Mar 2017 1:17 PM | Christine Hides

    Laura Hollinger Antonelli, an ordained minister in the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, serves as the Director of Student Ministries of First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn. She has previously served in a campus chapel setting, in a non-profit with Interfaith Youth Core, and in Religious Education at a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Though she has a love of ministering to God’s beloved of all ages, she takes particular delight in working with children and youth. 

    Children bring the baskets.At First United Methodist Church of Glen Ellyn, we had been discussing ways to more fully engage children in worship. When our Pastor planned a vacation for late January, we decided that was a great time to hold an Intergenerational Worship Service. Our concept was to use storytelling, rather than the preaching of a sermon, as the anchor point of the service.

    In my prior work at a Unitarian Universalist church, I had been accustomed to longer Time of All Ages messages and seasonal intergenerational worship services so my thoughts went to compelling stories that would still have some Biblical anchor. Rabbi Sandy Sasso’s books fit well in that they are beautifully written, are based on Judeo-Christian themes, and appeal to young and old alike. We decided to use Rabbi Sandy Sasso’s A Prayer for the Earth: The Story of Naamah: Noah’s Wife.

    We described the service as follows:

    A Prayer for the Earth: An Intergenerational Worship Service based on the story of Noah's Ark and the storybook A Prayer for the Earth: The Story of Naamah, Noah's Wife by Rabbi Sandy Sasso. The order of worship we used is available in the members section of the CEF website.

    Here are some tips we found helpful to keep in mind while planning this intergenerational worship service.

    • Plan ahead to prepare the order of worship, to invite people of all ages to participate in leadership roles, and to secure needed props. I was running around the days before the service gathering or buying the needed props. If I had planned further ahead, it would have helped to delegate some of this responsibility to our Children’s Ministry Team.
    • Use a story instead of a sermon. I served as the storyteller since I had some experience with this and could “tell” the story (rather than “read” it).
    • Read or tell scripture using a child-friendly Bible version. We used The Lion Storyteller Bible. There are some suggestions and discussion regarding child-friendly Bibles on the UMC Discipleship Ministries website.
    • Engage all ages in leadership opportunities. We invited youth to serve as prayer leaders and ushers, and children to help greet families as they arrived at church.
    • Embed interactive components into the service. We had visual images on the screen to accompany the themes of the story. I had youth lead groups of children up with props for the story (baskets of flowers, baskets of fruit, etc). I had also ‘hidden’ props(pieces of a plastic rainbow; ideally we would have had a Montessori-style wooden stacking rainbow but it ran too pricey) in the pews with a note asking children to bring the pieces up when I asked for them
    • Include some kind of call to action in the service. We passed out seed packets during the Offering. We also posted a graffiti wall in our coffee-hour hall; at the end of the service, we invited the congregation to write or draw one commitment they would make to care for the Earth. Unfortunately very few people participated in this component. Perhaps if we would have posted the graffiti wall immediately outside the sanctuary, we may have had more participation.
    • Use the opportunity to start a new ministry. We had a congregant who was interested in forming a children’s handbell choir so we started rehearsals in time for the new group to play for the intergenerational service. They debuted Jesus Loves Me at the intergenerational service and will play again on Mother’s Day.

    Overall, the intergenerational worship service was a fun, energizing experience for the congregation. They gave a standing ovation to our new children’s handbell choir and we’ve heard many comments requesting a similar service in the future.

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