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As promised, I’ve uploaded to SlideShare the PowerPoint for the presentation on “Bringing the Faith Formation 2020 Scenarios to Life” that Sue Sinnamon and I did on Thursday at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina. The transfer wasn’t 100% perfect (some of the bullets and numbers are a little screwy), but all of the important information is there. I was also going to give a rundown of what Sue and I covered during the workshop, but the fine folks at the uuworld.org have already done that for me. Fellow blogger Dan Harper (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist) has written up an excellent summary of the workshop and the Faith Formation 2020 initiative entitled “Faith formation in a changing world” as part of the UU World‘s online GA event coverage. I can’t think of anything I’d like to add to Dan’s write up, other than emphasizing the importance of using the Faith Formation 2020 initiative resources as an invitation to try out new things in your congregation. The 20th century (and even 19th century) models of faith formation and religious education that we’ve been using in our programs are desperately in need of an update. The Faith Formation 2020 initiative gives us the insights and the inspiration to make that happen.

By the way, if you’d like a non-wonky copy of the PowerPoint to use in your congregation, just leave me a comment with your email address and I’ll send it you.

On Monday I posted a list of “Top Ten Guidelines for Effective Adult Faith Formation,” adapted from a Loyola Press book entitled Gathering Together. That was only half the story, however. The authors, Jane Regan and Mimi Bitzan, also included their “Top Ten Pitfalls for Adult Faith Formation.” Do any of these sound familiar to you?

1. Lack of hospitality: Much more than the presentation you give or the handouts you create, the way you welcome adult participants is your greatest opportunity for evangelization. Don’t miss it!

2. Fear of commitment: You cannot run a successful program on low provisions. If your parish is making a commitment to adult faith formation, the allocation of parish resources should reflect this commitment.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat…: If you repeat the same program year after year without evaluating or making changes, it is very likely that your program will soon become stale and out of touch with people’s lives.

4. The Lone Ranger approach: One person cannot run a successful program by him- or herself.

5. Missing the wisdom of the community: Beware of speakers who tell you they must have an hour or longer because they cannot cover all that the participants need to know in a time shorter than that. This kind of attitude shows a lack of appreciation for the wisdom of the people.

6. Failure to flow: Each element of a gathering is important, and it is essential to give time and attention to creating and developing each piece.

7. Skipping the discussion time: In the sessions, the conversation is given the same amount of time as the presentation. It is when adults talk with other adults about the significance of the faith for their lives that real growth in faith happens.

8. Dismissing the details: When you plan a gathering with adults, know that the details are important.

9. Volunteer void: Provide ongoing training and support to help your volunteers (facilitators) learn how to respond to the needs of adults.

10. And another thing!: Too often, there is a tendency in parishes to add program after program for adults without thinking about what you really want or where you are headed. Be clear about your vision for adult faith formation in your parish and communicate this vision to others.

Did Regan and Bitzan miss anything? Perhaps. There are a couple of other Adult Faith Formation DON’Ts I’d like to add. Like “Don’t let someone facilitate a class just because they’re interested in a subject and they’ve volunteered to teach…” and “Don’t think that just because you have a Sunday morning forum your congregation has an Adult RE program.” If you’ve got an Adult Faith Formation pet peeve you’d like to share, please post a comment!

For complete details, you can download the the list of Adult Faith Formation Do’s and Don’ts here: Effectiveadultformation-pdf.

Last month I got some heavy retweeting action over on Twitter because of a mildly snarky comment I made to David Pogue about Microsoft buying Skype. He even mentioned it in his Pogue’s Post (The Future of Skype): “When I pleaded with my followers to find something positive to say about the deal, @psdlund racked his brains and came up with: ‘At least it wasn’t Cisco.'” Not quite the fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol predicted each of us would have, but not too shabby. However, since I’m in the faith formation biz and not in the being-snarky-about-software-giants biz, I’d rather be known for tweeting something significant about, you know, faith formation. And I’m happy to say that’s exactly what’s happened with another tweet of mine, something I said during the #uu2020 TweetChat the Rev. Naomi King and I organized for last Thursday night. (BTW, if you’re wondering about all this tweeting and retweeting and TweetChat stuff, ask me about it in the comment section and I’ll fill you in.) During the TweetChat, I mentioned something that I’m running the risk of becoming dogmatic about:

Oh, what the heck. Let’s go ahead and be dogmatic. From now on, I’d like for this to be known as the Lund Doctrine: Congregations must pay as much attention to their virtual space as they do to their physical place.

I’ve been spending a lot of time researching just what it means for a congregation to pay attention to their virtual space. There’s a lot of room for faith formation leaders (ministers, DREs, congregational life directors, membership coordinators, etc.) to learn and grow here, and sharing what I’ve learned is a big part of what I do with my online presence. Still, we mustn’t forget about the other side of the equation: the face-to-face faith formation experiences we offer in our physical places. Which brings me to a wonderful document I found via uukaty at tumblr.com. Katy pointed me (and all of her other twitter followers) to a terrific resource for adult faith formation called “Toward Effective Adult Faith Formation,” a four-page PDF adapted from Gathering Together, by Jane Regan and Mimi Bitzan.

When it comes to adult faith formation, these are exactly the things we need to be doing in order to “pay attention” to our physical place. They help make coming to church on a Tuesday night for a faith formation experience what it should be: a positive experience. Check ’em out:

  1. The most important question we must always ask, “So what?”
  2. Lose the lecture.
  3. Make a commitment.
  4. Faith formation is a team sport.
  5. Language: Get real.
  6. Connect with the Church’s liturgical year.
  7. Creativity is essential.
  8. Dessert is not optional.
  9. Timing is everything.
  10. Have fun!

For complete details, you can download the the list of Do’s (and Don’ts) here: Effectiveadultformation-pdf.

I have to confess that I’ve never actually read Paul Tillich. I know that he’s the theologian who came up with the notion of God as the “ground of being.” And I also know that his ashes are interred in the Paul Tillich Park in New Harmony, Indiana (my home state). But I’ve never cracked open The Courage to Be or Dynamics of Faith or a single volume of his major three-volume work Systematic Theology. But that’s not going to keep me from quoting him. “All things and all men,” he says, “call on us with small or loud voices. They want us to listen, they want us to understand their intrinsic claims, their justice of being…. But we can give it to them only through the love that listens.” The love that listens. I like that. More on Listening in this small group ministry session based on resources from SpiritualityandPractice.com.

Chalice/Candle Lighting

Opening Words:

For listening is the act of entering the skin of the other and wearing it for a time as if it were our own. Listening is the gateway to understanding.
— David Spangler in Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent

Check-in/Sharing

Topic:

A Teaching Story from A Field Guide to the Soul: A Down-to-Earth Handbook of Spiritual Practice by James Thornton

Spiritual teacher James Thornton describes being at a retreat where he learned to be truly present to another person. He calls this practice deep listening.

For some years before the retreat, I was aware that the way I listened to other people was not what I wanted it to be. Though people regarded me as a good listener, I did not feel that I was. I felt unable to give the person who was speaking to me my undivided attention. While listening, I was working on my response. . . .

I was terribly tired of this way of speaking with others but had no real idea of how to go beyond it and become more spontaneous. The answer came at that picnic. When my friend spoke, I found myself staring into his eyes and just listening, as I had listened to the birds the entire week. Just listening. No thoughts of my own, just hearing the thoughts of my friend. There was a moment of panic. I thought, ‘He’s going to stop speaking any second now, and I’ve prepared nothing! I will have nothing ready to say!’

I let the panic go. I decided to see what would happen if I gave no thought at all to a response and just kept listening to my friend. As it happened, when he stopped speaking, I started speaking. I had no idea of what I would say, but I said something he accepted well enough.

From deep listening had come spontaneity, and it has stayed that way ever since.

Questions: Take a moment to assess how you listen: Who I Always Listen To. Who I Rarely Listen To. Who Listens To Me. Who I Want to Listen To Me. Practice listening deeply as each member of the group shares their insights into how they listen.

Check-out/Likes and Wishes

Closing Words: God speaks to us every day only we don’t know how to listen.
— Mahatma Gandhi quoted in In the Middle of This Road We Call Life by James W. Jones

To Practice This Thought: Be aware of how you listen to people; be conscious of just listening without thinking about what you might say in response.

Group Session Plan based on resources on Listening from www.spiritualityandpractice.com.

For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Listening.

For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.

The last day of the “21st Century Faith Formation” class I was taking at Luther Seminary focused on innovation, as in coming up with innovative ways to reach out to groups unserved and underserved by a particular congregation (e.g., emerging adults, single parents, post-confirmation youth). We got into small groups and did some mind mapping and came up with a few good ideas for reaching out to these groups. John Roberto gave a pretty thorough overview about how to use this approach, and I hope to share it with you soon. Right now, however, I’d like to offer my take on how to begin bringing the Faith Formation 2020 to life in your congregation.

First, I start with the 16 strategies John has developed to address the needs and spiritual tasks of people within the four scenarios:

  1. Faith Formation through the Life of the Whole Church
  2. Faith Formation using Digital Media and Web Technologies
  3. Family Faith Formation
  4. Intergenerational Faith Formation
  5. Generational Faith Formation
  6. Milestones Faith Formation
  7. Faith Formation in Christian Practices
  8. Transforming the World: Engagement in and Formation for Service and Mission
  9. Spiritual Formation
  10. Multi-Ethnic Faith Formation
  11. Faith Formation for Spiritual Seekers
  12. Apprenticeships in Discipleship
  13. Pathways to Vibrant Faith and Active Engagement
  14. Faith Formation in Third Place Settings
  15. Empowering the Community to Share their Faith
  16. Interfaith Education and Dialogue

The fourth chapter of Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation goes into a lot of detail for each of these strategies (and you can download a PDF of that chapter here). The part that really excites me, however, is where John takes those sixteen strategies and distributes them among the four scenarios.

You’ll notice that I’ve highlighted most of the strategies in different colors. My theory is that if a congregation really wants to be strategic about how they use these strategies, they’d start with the ones that will have the most impact on all four scenarios. Above, I’ve highlighted in red the four strategies that can be found in each of the scenarios:

  • Faith Formation using Digital Media and Web Technologies
  • Milestones Faith Formation
  • Faith Formation in Christian Practices
  • Transforming the World: Engagement in and Formation for Service and Mission

If I were a faith formation leader in a congregation, and I wanted to immediately begin to make some changes that would address the needs and spiritual tasks of people in all four scenarios, this is were I would begin. I’d beef up the use of digital media and web technologies; start honoring the milestones of individuals, couples, and families in the congregation; assist those same people in meaningful engagement with time-honored religious practices; and offer multiple opportunities for individuals, couples, and families to participate in activities that transform the world.

Next, I’d look to the strategies that appear in three of the four scenarios (highlighted in blue):

  • Family Faith Formation
  • Spiritual Formation
  • Multi-Ethnic Faith Formation
What does our congregation currently offer in these areas? Are there ways to quickly and easily increase those offerings? (Hint: Digital Media and Web Technologies.) Are we doing a particularly poor job in any of these areas? (Probably. How many Unitarian Universalist congregations are known for their stellar Multi-Ethnic Faith Formation programs?) You get the idea.
This isn’t a replacement for the kind of hard (and rewarding) work congregations need to do in order to address specific underserved and unserved groups within one or more of the scenarios, but it is a way to start making some strategic decisions about the direction of a congregation’s faith formation program. Who knows what might happen when you begin exploring different ways of doing things? For example, take a look at following TED Talk by Salman Khan: “Let’s use video to reinvent education.”

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