In conjunction with the Stevenson School for Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania and the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, St. Luke’s has begun participation in an exciting initiative designed to rethink the way we do Christian Formation for youth, young adults, and adults. The Reimagine Faith Formation initiative seeks to provide leaders with the vision, practices, approaches, design tools, and programming ideas to bring the new vision to life – to create a new faith forming environment and design 21st century faith formation for the whole community.
Many churches have experienced a dramatic change in the levels of participation in Sunday School and other forms of traditional Christian Formation. These changes are the result, in no small part, of the changes we all experience in the way we communicate, the way we socialize, and the way we relate to the Church. Families are pressured from many sides to have children participate in programs that no longer acknowledge a privileged place for worship and religious education. Many of the supports for Sunday morning programming have disappeared – from the old “Blue Laws” to an increase in athletic league training and competition on non-school days such as Sunday. Add to this the sea change we have seen in the use of social media as a primary means of communication and interaction and we see that the old ways of doing things have become nearly impossible.
John Roberto, program leader, is a noted author and expert in adaptive leadership (“Leading Through Change”). He notes that each congregation confronts unique challenges that arise not only from these wider social movements but also from the unique setting in which each parish finds itself. For example, what might work in a densely populated urban setting may not be helpful for a parish like St. Luke’s that draws its constituency from an entire county, largely rural in nature, but with concentrations of members in the city, its surrounding towns, and boroughs scattered up two fifteen miles away from the parish center. Shifting age demographics and an influx of ethnic and language diversity further add to the challenges that may not have even been “on the radar” as recently as ten or even five years ago.
We have signed up as a parish participant – which means we can have as many individuals participate as are willing – and at a level suited for their circumstances. Through a series of workshops (available online after the event), webinars (in which people can participate from multiple locations), and group and personal coaching, this program provides needed information, inspiration and guidance that may help St. Luke’s solve the riddle that religious education and formation has become in our current setting. By participating in this program, here is what we hope to accomplish:
· Learn about the vision of a new faith forming environment & 21st century learning approaches.
· Deepen our understanding of the life journeys and spiritual/religious needs of people today.
· Design faith formation networks for all ages and generations in our parish community with the design processes and tools, and the practices, approaches and programming suggestions for each audience.
All of this is an element of our VISION 20/20 pastoral plan that will be introduced by Father Zwifka at our Annual Meeting. Meanwhile, Father Zwifka is encouraging all persons interested in helping this initiative move forward to contact him for more information about the program and how they can help in this important work. The first workshop was already held January 21st and will soon be available for on-line viewing. Vestry member Linda Arguedas participated and is able to help answer questions anyone may have about participation. Other events have been scheduled and can provide invaluable information and guidance for our efforts to help youth, young adults, and even more “mature” Christians re-imagine what their faith means in our constantly changing world. The need is great and the solution is urgent. Get involved – get engaged!
You may visit Reimagine Faith Formation’s website here.
You may read more about Saint Luke’s Vision 20/20 here.