Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

  • 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

  • 14 Jan 2016 11:44 AM | Anonymous

    While many churches focus on children’s and youth ministry or the design of “relevant” worship services in order to grow, John Roberto’s The Seasons of Adult Faith Formation asserts that adult faith formation has become the weakest area in many churches. Roberto attempts to give a holistic vision for the formation of adults in their various seasons of life and to make the case for churches to focus attention on the process of discipleship. This book will be beneficial for Christian Education committees and practitioners (both new and seasoned) who are looking for more in-depth reasons and motivations that inform adult learning, as well as holistic thought about designing adult faith formation experiences.

    Roberto highlights what makes adult learning unique and the motivations that factor into adult learning. Roberto is keen on “personalizing and customizing” learning environment to include IRL (In Real Life) and digital spaces to meet the needs of each individual adult learner. He pushes us toward thinking smaller instead of reaching a “mass audience.” He is correct to move us away from being content or program centered in faith formation. This book includes information about generational and seasonal development and identifies the need for ministering to adults during times of life transitions. 

    Roberto’s suggests a model of faith formation that includes a network of relationships through various platforms: online, real life, mentored, and communal. Seasons of Adult Faith Formation divides adulthood into four seasons: Young Adulthood, Midlife Adulthood, Mature Adulthood, and Older Adulthood. Different authors contribute to the chapters on the various seasons and give insight into the contributions and unique aspects to these intentionally nebulous categories. There are other helpful chapters by John Roberto, Tom Zanzig, and Ed Gordon that give the theory behind Roberto’s vision and make connections to practical application. Additionally, Roberto includes charts for processing his and other authors’ insights.

    If you are simply looking for a how-to manual, this may not be what you need. While certainly not aiming to be a theoretical work, there is a lot of helpful background research and theory about adult learning included. While I am a fan of Roberto and don’t hesitate in recommending this book, I do have my own unease about his model. It seems to leave the Christian educator too narrowly in the role of curator. I also question whether Roberto’s methodology could slip into a consumerist-oriented model for faith formation even with trained mentors. Yet this book has much to offer those who are looking to revamp their adult education or are starting from the beginning. 

    John Roberto's Book is available on and Cokesbury. To support CEF through Amazon Smile, simply go to, enter your Amazon information and search "Christian Educators Fellowship" when prompted to input who you would to support.

  • 12 Jan 2016 12:49 PM | Anonymous

    CEF has been in great discussion about communities of practice.  From this came a decision to focus our upcoming conference on developing communities, not just as an organization, but in such a way that we can return from conference and equip our own communities, both for CEF and local ministry settings. Out of our discussion came the phrase “join the conversation.” 

    Studies are showing that our country is becoming more polarized.  In this process, we are losing the ability to be in conversation with one another.  It seems that no one is listening.  We have forgotten how.  I get frustrated for the future as people seem less willing to listen to one another.  During discussions about communities of practice, CEF Board member and recently retired Discipleship Ministries staff member Carol Krau shared a book that spoke to this very issue.

    So I share with you Margaret Wheatley’s Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009).  The phrase “join the conversation” influenced the flow of the 2016 CEF Conference and what we will offer in the way of workshops and time for conversation.  We know this conference will look a bit different.  This has been intentional from the start. 

    As we prepare to gather in Nashville in October, I will be sharing periodic insights gleaned from this resource.  It is especially relevant for those engaged in faith formation as we are often placed in positions to guide a variety of conversations. In her chapter on the practice of conversation, Wheatley offers this wisdom that speaks to the goals for CEF 2016. 

    “Most of what we do in communities and organizations focuses us on our individual needs.  We attend a conference or meeting for our own purposes, for ‘what can I get out of this.’ Conversation is different.  Although we each benefit individually from good conversation, we also discover that we were never as separate as we thought.  Good conversation connects us at a deeper level.  As we share our different human experiences, we rediscover a sense of unity.  We remember we are part of a greater whole.  And as an added joy, we also discover our collective wisdom.  We suddenly see how wise we can be together.” (p. 32)

    This is part of what we will be about at CEF 2016!  And here are some behaviors to practice as we prepare for this process and to encourage you in your conversations (from p. 33)…

    • ·         Acknowledge each other as equals
    • ·         Try to stay curious about each other
    • ·         Recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners
    • ·         Slow down so we have time to think and reflect
    • ·         Remember that conversation is the natural way humans think together
    • ·         Expect it to be messy at times

    In preparation for CEF 2016, I invite you to comment on the success and trials of practicing the lost art of conversation and to share your thoughts about this resource. #jointheconversation 

  • 07 Jan 2016 10:06 AM | Anonymous

    The Children’s Ministry team at my church tries to think outside the “usual” box as often as it can. Last year, they joined the Prayer Ministry team to plan, prepare for and oversee an intergenerational Lenten experience, something they called Generations of Prayer. Each Wednesday evening, all were invited to begin the event with a soup supper, during which one of the pastors would share a scriptural passage and study on prayer that included a table-top activity to match their study, usually aimed at children. Various activities were lined up each evening to appeal to different ages, though most people despite their age wanted to do everything offered!

    The idea was for people to experience prayer in a wide variety of ways: creating something to take home to help in personal devotions, leaving something to share with the gathered faith community throughout the week and especially on Sunday mornings, and growing in their relationship with God. Weekly activities included designing individual prayer bracelets, making a personal Lenten prayer center to take home and use (candle, devotional, journal), weaving a fabric wall hanging for the congregation to tuck in personal prayer offerings/requests (which the Prayer Team used to pray with each week), cutting out fabric and writing on prayer flags to hang over the entrance to the church’s sanctuary, designing and writing prayers to shut ins. We offered persons the opportunity to write a prayer in sand, writing prayers to share on posters, dropping pebbles into a shell bowl of water, taking away a prayer they most needed that day, creating prayer books of images to use in meditation, sitting in a quiet nook with a prayer shawl, lighting a candle for someone/something, creating icons using various faces of Christ.

    Our mission project for the season of Lent was the challenge from our senior pastor to take a small, ceramic piggy bank (available in the foyer of the church) and decorate it. Then use it throughout the season of Lent and return it on Easter, decorated and filled with “change” going to No More Malaria. They were our Pigs on a Mission and never did a congregation have more fun! (They continue to this day, inspiring their owners to remember and pray for others, and collecting offerings for whatever the present challenge.)

  • 02 Jan 2016 5:41 PM | Anonymous

    Each year I choose a “word for the year.” This year the word is peace. How we need it – in every aspect of our lives – from the intrapersonal to the universal! As I pondered the word peace and how it is needed everywhere, I thought of all the words associated with Advent. I think that the Advent words are good words for the whole year.

    We light candles for peace, hope, joy and love. Our world is in great need of every one. In the center of the advent wreath is the Christ candle. Christ is the light of the world. As each week of advent leads to lighting the Christ candle, which stands in the middle of the circle so too does the Light of Christs lead us into what is often a dark world. The advent wreath is a circle. It has no beginning nor end and reminds us that the Alpha and Omega has no beginning nor end, not begotten by anyone.

    The great theologian Georgia Harkness wrote the hymn, “Hope of the World.” Take time to read the words. We have reason to hope for peace and work for peace and justice. We sing “Joy to the World,” but do we sing it from our hearts? There’s a good little video on youtube that may inspire you: It’s good for children of all ages. “What the World Needs Now is Love” sang Deion Warwick. Yes, the world certainly needs love, but will we have it without peace in our hearts? In our relationships? In our families, communities, nation, and world?

    Do you have a word for the year? What is it? Why did you choose it? Let’s chat. I pray that peace will be with you every day of this year.

    Patty Meyers  


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