There is change happening in the church. Maybe it’s a new awareness…perhaps it’s a new reformation…I’m not sure what to call it. But something is different. There are new conversations taking place. There are new questions being asked. When I enter into conversations with those who do ministry alongside young people and their families, the first question I hear is no longer “what should I do at youth group on Sunday?” or “How do I do fundraising?”
The questions that I hearing now are more along the lines of:
- “I’m wondering where God is calling us to go?”
- “We’re trying to figure out what’s working?”
- “How do we understand God’s mission in this place?”
- “What is faith formation?”
While these may not seem like they should be new questions, in the world of faith-formation with the young, they kind of are. The primary concern used to be with technique…strategy…programs. The assumption was that faith language was not foreign to young people. My sense is that the landscape has shifted and that folks are now taking a 10,000 foot view, and are wondering much more fundamental questions. This because the world in which we live is changing, and the landscape the church occupies is so radically different than it was even 10 years ago. The old assumptions clearly don’t apply anymore.
These are the issues the Extravaganza tackled this year (Form: Faith Formation in a Missional Age). These are the issues that the Practice Discipleship Initiative are tackling. These are the issues that are being talked about on the Network’s Facebook group, in the webinars and other resources from Vibrant Faith Ministries and our other partners. This is what the SYMBOL Network (Synod staff people who work in children’s or youth ministry) is talking about. Outdoor ministries is looking for new directions. Our seminaries are stepping directly into the path of these conversations and are offering much research and wisdom. And our churchwide organization is figuring out how to re-invent itself, that it might serve well in this new, missional age.
Are any one of these things either the “cause” or the “cure” for figuring this out? No.
But my sense is that really for the first time in a long time, all of these different organizations are beginning to “paddle in the same direction” in terms of figuring this stuff out.
Some people look at the indicators of these changes in our culture and speak of the end of the church. I don’t think so. I have a much more hopeful view. I don’t believe God is done with the church yet. Though it doesn’t come naturally to the institutional church, I believe that we will change. I believe we will adapt to a shifting world. And I think the key for these changes lies right in our own sandbox. It is, I think, the world of faith formation with the young that is going to lead the change. The culture we inhabit together realizes that the old must pass away. We cannot be afraid to continue asking the questions and seeking God’s call for our ministry. As faith formation reinvents itself, I believe the rest of the church will follow. Really I do.
I believe that someday we’re all going to be able to say “we were there when…” and describe how God’s Holy Spirit moved within the world and within the church.
I am hopeful and excited for the future. And I am grateful to God for what God is up to, and for this community in which questions can be asked, and new directions discovered. Thanks to you, for being a part of it!
Networked in Christ,