Lifelong learning is as popular a phrase in Southwest Florida as anywhere in our country. For the last few years I taught at a University that has an active Center for Lifelong Learning and I have been on staff at a large congregation that provides numerous general education events that fit within the framework of lifelong learning.
This is all well and good, but is not enough for us as those who follow the Way of Jesus. As disciples, we must be intentional in seeking out lifelong spiritual learning opportunities.
Intentional faith formation is one of the five key practices of fruitful congregations. Robert Schnase, the United Methodist Bishop who wrote a book on the topic explains the practice in this way:
Intentional faith development describes the practice of churches that view the ministries of Christian education and formation, small group work, and Bible study as absolutely critical to their mission and that consistently offer opportunities for all ages, interests, and faith experiences to learn in community.
As I read that definition, I suspect many of you who are quite involved in this congregation were trying to determine how we measure up. This past Tuesday a group gathered in my office for the first Topical Tuesday. They shared some of the ways they see us excelling in intentional faith formation, including
- caring and nurturing neighborhood groups,
- prayer groups and friends who pray for one another,
- occasional intergenerational gatherings,
- the most recent confirmation class,
- Bible studies, book studies, and the adult forum.
They also shared some wonderfully enriching experiences from other congregations alongside some hopes for what we might do together here in the future.
Their list is far from complete. It lacks your contribution. We need to hear your stories. We need to listen to your dreams.
Whether you have been here faithfully for many years or are a newcomer, let me assure you that wherever you are on the journey of faith you are most welcome to participate in any and all of our congregation’s enrichment opportunities.
- Share one of your most meaningful faith formation memories from childhood and one from adulthood.
- Which age group do you think your congregation serves best insofar as opportunities for intentional faith formation? Which age group is least well served?