Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

  • 31 Aug 2016 12:59 PM | Christine Hides

    This is the third of a series of posts on CEF Communities of Practice (CoPs). Both online and face to face communities are equipped through the member section of this website. Find your community today!

    “Leadership is the most complicated thing you will ever do in your life, why do you think you can do it alone?” Simon Sinek

    I grieve the loss of colleagues who have thrown in the towel and decided to leave professional ministry. Seven colleagues in the last 6 months. Five colleagues in the last 2 weeks. Each one led fruitful, effective ministry. All but two served in multiple local churches. One went through the process and was ordained.  Understanding that some are called for a season and life changes make for priority shifts, I still grieve the loss of their leadership.

    According to an ongoing Lifeway survey, the average term of a children’s pastor is 3.6 years. The #1 catalyst which offers a longer term of service in the professional call into ministry: connection outside your own local church.

    In a conversation several years ago with a preschool director involved in weekday ministry with children, I asked why she didn’t come to the monthly preschool director networking lunch. She replied, “I don’t need anything.” The way I saw it?  She had so much to share! Within 18 months of that conversation, she, too, left professional ministry. I don’t even know if she’s worshiping anywhere or using her gifts within a local church anymore.  Sigh…

    Hebrews 3:12 reads in the NIV “See to it, brothers (and sisters) that none of you (y’all = a statement meant for the group of us) has an unbelieving heart (our tendency to discouragement, unbelieving, needing something more, and disillusionment) that turns away from the living God (because without one another, we drift.)”

    Without one another, we drift. How far we drift depends on the relationships we build face to face, not Facebook to Facebook, or Instagram to Instagram, nor blog to blog. Social media is not enough. Building connection is time consuming, intentional, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. But O the value of sharing table life, a meal, a trauma, losses, disappointments, gains, ideas, celebrations, words of truth and encouragement with one another face to face .  I mean truth like what was shared with me a few years back, “I don’t know why in the world you are letting that situation take up so much space in your head. Let it go, girl, let it go!”  I let it go.

    I challenge each of you reading this to make building professional relationships outside your own house (local church) a priority where throwing in the towel is not even an option. Network with others regularly in face-to-face gatherings. Join professional organizations not for what you can get out of them, but for what you can bring to the table. Make gathering for lunch or breakfast a priority in your continuing education. Linked-in doesn’t count, social networking doesn’t count, face-to-face counts. If there isn’t a gathering in your area, call the church down the road a piece and ask to speak to their children’s ministry lead. Invite him/her to lunch, or tea, or coffee, or breakfast….share some table life. Start one. Go ahead….you can do this!

    DeDe Reilly is a design team member for the 2016 National CEF Conference and  president of the North Georgia CEF team. She serves as Children's Ministry Director & Business Administrator at Wesley Chapel UMC in Marietta, Georgia and represents those who serve in ministry with children at the North Georgia Conference Connectional Table. She is the CEO, CFO, and COO of the Reilly Bed & Breakfast with her husband  of 32 years and a rescued beagle. She blogs about children's ministry at

  • 24 Aug 2016 4:26 PM | Christine Hides

    This is the second post on the value of CEF Communities of Practice (CoP's). Communities are now forming in the member section of this website. Find yours today!

    When I first moved to Portland about 3 years ago, I began to search around the area for colleagues in youth ministry.  I found a group that was meeting once a month in a local coffeehouse and they graciously invited me to join them.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself in to, was it a covenant group?  A social group?   What I found was a great group of passionate youth ministers to meet with.  

    We engaged with each other around the complex issues of youth ministry, in particular how to connect with students in the spiritual but not religious culture of the Pacific Northwest.  We shared stories of success and failure, swapped program ideas, held each other accountable and lifted one another in prayer.  As we started to become more comfortable with each other we decided to find ways that we could work together.  We planned programs, held events together and eventually started to put together information that we could share with youth ministers in our larger Methodist connection.  

    This has been one of the most helpful groups that I have ever been a part of in my ministry career.  Until recently we haven’t known how to identify our group but after learning more about the new direction of CEF we feel comfortable calling ourselves a Community of Practice.  I look forward to continuing our work in the field of youth ministry, sharing our learnings, and finding  ways to take our Community of Practice in new directions.  

    Rev. Jeff Lowery

    United Methodist Deacon

    Portland, OR

  • 16 Aug 2016 7:47 PM | Christine Hides

    This is the first of several posts on the value of CEF Communities of Practice (CoP's). Communities are now forming in the member section of this website. Find yours today!

    CEF membership and involvement in a Community of Practice impacts my life and ministry in significant ways. Over the past 5 years, connecting through CEF has provided me with support, encouragement, challenge, opportunities to partner in ministry, and faithful professional relationships. CEF feeds me! In addition, I have the honor of serving with our area CEF leadership team, exploring new ways to be a CoP, yet maintaining the personal connection as we treasure our time together to recharge, refuel and learn!!! 

    As a Director of Christian Formation & Youth Ministry in a relatively large congregation with a small staff, the demands are many and I often feel isolated tending to the many details of weekly preparation not to mention long range planning. CEF connections offer a way to widen the pool of professionals who offer a plethora of best practices, creative ideas and an outlet to share the many concerns and questions that arise on any given day. I appreciate their deep commitment to the church and Christian Education/Youth Ministry.  I feel inspired by their hard work and faith not to mention a genuine desire to be life-long learners. We offer each other wise counsel and a sense of humor. Together, we generate wonderful ways to develop opportunities for faith formation across the generations. 

    One opportunity (of many!), in particular, started almost 5 years ago pertaining to Confirmation. Several of my colleagues created an exciting retreat for confirmands and teenagers who had already been confirmed, but who could become leaders. The model was simple. The location would be a castle to generate curiosity. We developed our own theme and curriculum that was sparked by a speaker and scripture (Jeremiah 29:11) at the 2012 CEF conference in Green Lake, WI. 

    I treasure CEF, its history, the people dedicated to the vision for Christian Education and prayer, and most of all, best practices for faith formation.

    Catherine Inserra, CEF Member, Deaconess Candidate, and Children &Youth Director at Trinity UMC, Wilmette.

  • 11 Aug 2016 5:00 PM | Christine Hides
    CEF is transforming this blog into a space for Christian educators to share expertise. You are invited!  We envision a growing, dynamic community of people discussing real, relevant faith formation.  First time bloggers are welcome - you do the writing and we’ll get it on the website! We hope you will be a part of this collaborative community which creates, collects, and shares faith formation resources.


    1. 500-700 words written in Microsoft Word or Google Docs on a faith formation topic of your choosing. Possible topics include:

      • Engaging Children in Worship,

      • Working With Volunteers

      • Partnering with Parents

      • Senior Adult Ministry

      • Effective Youth Ministry

      • Ministry in Changing Neighborhoods

      • Ministry with Churches in Transition

      • Special Needs Ministry

      • Social Media in Faith Formation

      • On-line Learning and Faith Formation

      • Working With Multiple Staff

      • Working as the “Lone Ranger”

      • Book Reviews

      • Seasonal activities (Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter…)

      • Original Prayers

    2. Posts and any accompanying images must be original and copyright free.

    3. Include a 2-3 sentence bio with links to your ministry website(s).

    4. We will respond within two weeks to let you know if your piece will be posted on the blog.  We reserve the right not to publish submissions for any reason. The CEF Content Manager and/or members of the Board may suggest edits.

    5. We encourage you to post  links and short excerpts (150 words or less) on your own website but kindly request that you do not publish the full text elsewhere.

    6. Multiple submissions are welcome.

    7. Posts may be submitted as an email attachment to

    8. Questions? Contact our Content Manager at

  • 27 May 2016 9:05 AM | Victoria Rebeck (Administrator)

    There are folks who complain about the noise children make in worship.

    But is sending the children out of the sanctuary the answer? It quiets things down, perhaps. But it also keeps children from learning how to worship, and excludes them from the gathering of the whole people of God.

    Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, came upon a counter-intuitive approach. They pulled out some pews in the front of the sanctuary and replaced them with blankets and toys. They built a "pray-ground" that keeps children engaged and present during worship.

    Contrary to some fears, the noise level of restless children actually subsided after the pray-ground was installed. One year later, those who initially opposed the pray-ground are now its biggest supporters, one pastor said.

    Now if no children are present on a given Sunday, adults mention how they miss the presence of the children.

    Children are invited into leadership roles in worship as well.

    Sometimes, the ideas that push us into the unknown can lead us into our preferred future!

    Read about Grace Church's experience with its "pray-ground."


  • 09 May 2016 11:04 AM | Tim Gossett (Administrator)

    Christians Engaged in Faith Formation (CEF) is seeking a creative, organized, and social media-savvy individual for a new position of Content Manager. This is a contract position.

    General Description

    The CEF Content Manager’s role is to assist the Board of Directors with the growth of CEF as an organization through the sharing and development of content useful to both members and potential members. If membership and engagement increases as a result of the work of the CEF Content Manager, we will know the position has been of benefit to the organization.


    • Create a monthly social media calendar.
    • Use web-based tools for scheduling and planning.
    • Search for appropriate content to share from social media, Communities of Practice, guest contributors, etc.
    • Create appropriate content, such as memes.
    • Serve as the hub for others to send content to.
    • Prepare and post content on CEF social media accounts, our blog, and our weekly email.
    • Assist with maintaining the CEF website (especially the primary blog.)
    • Assist with support needs for Community of Practice leaders.
    • Assist with the creation of special content we create, such as ebooks.

    Skills Required

    • Bachelor’s degree.
    • Training in theology and faith formation.
    • Strong familiarity with facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
    • Good people and writing skills.
    • Ability to manage time and work independently.

    Job Details

    • $25/hour, up to 10 hours per week
    • Contract term; 25 weeks (renewable)
    • No office space provided. This is a work-at-home position.
    • Accountability: Reports to the Content Marketing Team of the CEF Board of Directors.

    How to Apply

    Please send a resume plus a cover letter describing your interest, background and experience as well as your connection with CEF.

    Include name and contact information for three references.

    Deadline: May 27 with a start date as soon as possible in June.

    Send all materials electronically (PDF format preferred) to: Sharon Barkmeier,

  • 04 May 2016 10:56 AM | Scott Hughes (Administrator)

    Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Engaging Adults Workshop produced by the fine folks at Vibrant Faith. I was drawn to this workshop by one of the founders, Leif Kehrwald, who pointedly asks, “We are a nine- or ten-decade culture, so why does the church focus most of its faith formation efforts on just the first two decades?”

    Vibrant Faith’s focus on adult ministry not only fits my portfolio, but it also seems unique to most of the other conferences on my radar.

    The daylong Engaging Adults Workshop (9 am-3:30 pm) is not comprehensive, but it does not aim to be. Vibrant Faith recognizes that many churches are stuck in an education model instead of a formational model of ministry. Vibrant Faith is seeking to partner with churches to explain the need for a shift and to help make that shift seamless.

    The Vibrant Faith staff come from a number of denominations: Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic. There is much to be gained from the insights of Vibrant Faith, even though its staff are not distinctly Wesleyan or Methodist. 

    Although I had heard much of the content previously at John Roberto’s Lifelong Faith Symposium, I still found the workshop beneficial.

    Over the course of the day, we named our vision for adult faith formation, took time to articulate the characteristics of a maturing Christian adult, and explored emerging models of ministry with adults. To address the needs of adults across the lifespan, adulthood was divided into four seasons: young adults, midlife adults, mature adults, and older adults. We discussed each of these seasons with regard to adults’ needs, their gifts, and ways to engage adults in ministry. Our facilitator gave specific examples of how some local churches were being creative in their ministry to these specific seasons of adulthood.  

    One idea that was new to me was the concept of “just-in-time” learning. Adults go through various experiences during the many decades of adulthood. “Just-in-time” learning focuses on meeting each adult at his or her place of need.

    The workshop also contrasted a traditional church educational approach that focuses on the classroom, curriculum, and the church hall with a networked approach that emphasizes formation, life experiences, 50+ years of adulthood, on and off campus, and so on.

    There were some real gems of wisdom that I took away from the day. Three quotes from Dr. Nancy Going, Executive Director of Vibrant Faith, and facilitator of the event, were especially meaningful:

    • “We often do adult ministry as if all adults are in the same season of life.”
    • “We have focused on curriculum ad nauseam, as if the curriculum will do the transformation.”
    • “There is a big difference in asking people to be in relationship than being in charge of a program.”

    Vibrant Faith is holding Engaging Adult workshops all across the country, so I recommend finding one in your area. As part of their attempt to help churches make the shift toward a formational model of ministry, Vibrant Faith is also inviting those wanting a more intense learning experience into a two-year academy called Vibrant Faith University. This program is targeted beyond adults, as it aims to explore the faith formation of an entire congregation.

    Vibrant Faith’s Engage Adults workshop is not only a great way to network with others who focus on adult ministry, but it also provides intentional time for reflection on your own local church’s ministry with adults.

    Scott Hughes - Director of Adult Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries

  • 11 Apr 2016 1:02 PM | Victoria Rebeck (Administrator)

    "It really frustrates me when people say, 'Kids can't help,'" says a boy at Silver Spring (Maryland) United Methodist Church

    This church has developed a "mission mania" program explicitly to nurture in children a discipleship that entails caring for neighbors, especially neighbors in need. Children have taken the lead in this.

    One boy learned that people in the city needed shoes. When he suggested that he lead the church in collecting shoes, the pastor recommended that they wait. He responded, "People can't wait"--convincing the pastor to let him start the drive right away.

    Discipleship is both love of God and love of neighbor. Watch this inspiring video about how children are leading mission at Silver Spring UMC. 

    And share it with the faith-formation leaders in your church . . . it might give them ideas!

  • 08 Apr 2016 10:23 AM | Scott Hughes (Administrator)

    I hear a lot of talk about discipleship. I hear it from pastors. I read books about it. It’s part of the mission statement of the United Methodist Church. Heck, I am employed by Discipleship Ministries. Yet for all the talk about discipleship, rarely do I encounter clarity about what discipleship actually is or how congregations can actually become discipling communities. So you can understand both my curiosity and my hesitancy at reading Thomas Hawkins’ Apprenticed to Jesus: Discipleship Practices for Growing Christians. Would this be another vague book regarding discipleship with overly simplistic stages and systems for disciple making?

    Instead of sticking with the more traditional (and often ubiquitous) word “discipleship,” Thomas asserts “apprentice” is a better translation for the biblical idea of discipleship. For Hawkins, this is true primarily in being apprenticed to Jesus, but also in being apprenticed within a discipling community. Hawkins seeks to shift us beyond learning solely for information toward learning in an apprenticeship model, where we learn by observing and doing.

    I wish, however, that Hawkins would have stuck with what I took to be his thesis at the end of the first chapter when he states, “Jesus calls a community of disciples who will do what he did - heal, announce, and teach.” I felt a bit let down that he didn’t pursue Jesus’ apprentices as those who heal, announce, and teach. Instead, Hawkins structures the book around the discipleship attributes of apprentice, witness, and freedom.

     By focusing on an apprenticeship model over a knowledge-based understanding of discipleship, Hawkins not only shows the weakness of Sunday school models of discipleship, but also cautions against small groups as the simplistic, trendy solution. About the still prevalent Sunday school model, Hawkins is correct to point out that it “relies on individualistic and consumerist assumptions about adult learning” (113). Hawkins then notes how some small groups are not much different from Sunday school because they too can be based on modern educational pedagogies (101 style classes), have vague goals, and fall into the same cultural assumptions as Sunday school.

    Hawkins describes discipleship as a journey with four stages: inquiry, call, growth, and maturity. He uses a couple of different images, most notably that of the journey from seed to harvest, to get at the process of discipleship. He also shows how discipleship corresponds to the more traditional Wesleyan terminology of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. While his attempt is more than a nod to Wesley, my guess is many will wish he had covered this in more depth. 

    Thankfully, Hawkins’ book is not vague or overly simplified. He gives helpful images, explains his understanding of discipleship, spells out what growth as a disciple looks like. Additionally, he provides valuable illustrations, charts, and structures for church leaders’ reflection.

    In the end, Hawkins spells out discipleship in a Wesleyan way better than most. I am often skittish when it comes to making charts and stages regarding the divine/human relationship that forms discipleship. Hawkins acknowledges this as well: “It is important to remember that the flow of phases and practices of discipleship formation is neither linear nor sequential” (106). Hawkins is able to blend biblical resources, research, and practical advice and charts useful for church leaders. He combines describing the process of discipleship (where the book excels), a process for churches to help implement discipleship, and assessment of discipleship in a readable format. For readability, practical wisdom, and some Wesleyan emphasis, Apprenticed to Jesus can be a helpful start in strategizing for discipleship making.

  • 18 Jan 2016 3:53 PM | Anonymous

    This Post is originally from DeDe Reilly, CEF 2016 design team member. 
    Click Here to Read Her Blog

    I am collaborative by nature. Trainings and conferences relative to ministry have great value and are worth every penny. But what if your pennies are few and your calendar is even slimmer? What if you are freaked out by crowds or not knowing someone one?  Here are just a few of the reasons I build in margin to make conferences and trainings a priority if I am going to be involved in professional ministry:

    1. I meet the most amazing people. At the last Children’s Pastors Conference, I sat behind a woman who, after the workshop was over, was ranting on her phone about the previous Sunday’s attempt at family worship at  her church. She was lit up! Since we were looking at the same thing at my church, I blatantly lingered to listen and then engaged in a 30-minute conversation about her experiences: what worked, what evidently didn’t work, and the surprises she didn’t anticipate. “Why network and collaborate with others?  Even on my worst day, I could be someone’s best hope.” – Craig Johnson
    2. I see what’s coming in culture. At past conferences we have watched uncut, full length movies that would be coming out 9 months later, played with Sunday school curriculum as a focus group, and engaged in conversations across the table as a think-tank over challenges, and struggles.  “Moses was 80+ years old when he walked up and down a 6,000 ft mountain repeatedly to bring others to the summit. The whole Bible is filled with COME and GO.  We come to the Lord, but then forget to go back into the chaos to escort others into the Kingdom.  We forget that God has more than just my chapter in His hands.” – Beth Guckenberger
    3. I glean from those who are in the trenches. It does something to a weary, bruised soul to see other sojourners joining in the fight for a Kingdom of God that is real for little people. For most of us, we don’t just attend church events, we have either planned them or come with keys in hand. So it’s lovely to ‘just come and be served.’ We need a regular something that feeds our Spirit and encourages us in our calling. If it’s a conference out of town and for an extended period of time, several of us will go a day or so early to catch up and glean from one another our challenges, and celebrations over the last year. We laugh, we take notes from each other, and we enjoy table life.  “In the spiritual life, we need mentors to point us back to Jesus when we get confused about who we are or where we are going.” – Jessica LaGrone
    4. Face-to-Face builds community and relationships. Even if it’s just a day away, I am a better, more confident servant for Christ when I come home. I could probably sit in my pajamas and search the internet for blogs and Pinterest to build a program. I mean, do we really need any new friends? (said with a lot of sarcasm). God wants to build ME into the best teacher and student…a disciple…in my work, my calling, my family, my life.  His abundant love has ruined me for the mediocre. After spending time in the company of others who share my passions, I am ready to take on the world. “God’s spiritual comfort often comes in the physical company of another person.” – Jessica LaGrone

    Someone says, “Join the conversation” and I am all in. If I can do it outside my normal surroundings, I am better prepared to be fully present and focused. Because budgets are involved and planning is part of the process, make choices far in advance. Taking advantage of early registration is also being a good steward. Where will I go next year?

    I’ll be attending the North Georgia Conference’s  Done In a Day in January because these are my denominational and local peeps in five locations on the same half-a-Saturday; and the 2016 National CEF Conference in October because it builds Communities of Practice with Christians engaged in faith formation around the world.  I will also spend a week in June at Emory’s Candler School of Theology to begin a certification program provided by the National Institute of Church Finance and Administration (NICFA), a program of the National Association of Church Business Administrators (NACBA) because there’s more to ministry than glitter and putting nasty stuff in my hair.

    Attending conferences and trainings are like drinking from a fire hose, so I make sure to send a local postcard to my Staff-Parish Relations Committee thanking them for investing in me and our ministry with children.

    Where will you go? If you are wigged out about going somewhere by yourself, join me. I am always looking for new friends. I’ll bring the tea.

    Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

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