Much of yesterday’s “21st Century Faith Formation” session with John Roberto focused on moving from a “Curriculum Approach” to a “Network of Lifelong Learning Approach” to faith formation. But before we delved too deeply into that subject, we took a detour through the world of classical music with Benjamin Zander’s excellent TED talk “on music and passion.” The purpose of the detour was to present another “attitude shift” faith formation leaders need to make in order to bring the Faith Formation 2020 initiative to life in their congregations. The big take away for me was this (from my notes):

Zander said something about the way some folks approach promoting classical music. They say 3% of the population appreciates classical music. What can we do to make that 4%? The attitude shift is behaving as if EVERYONE could love classical music. How would we behave if we believed that! The same applies to how we promote what we do in our congregations regarding faith formation.

This attitude shift is in addition to the Stockdale Paradox shift I mentioned in yesterday’s post. That first shift helps us keep on moving forward, even if the news is a bit depressing (like organized religion becoming extinct, etc.). This second shift helps us expand our vision to include offering faith formation to folks we may never have considered as wanting what we have to offer. Why limit ourselves to that sliver of the NPR listening audience who might also be interested in progressive religion? Maybe there are some people listening to the Sugar Shop on the local community radio station who might get excited about what we have to offer. Our Universalist forebears thought their message was pretty much irresistible. Why don’t we?

So, a Lifelong Faith Formation Network. I’ve written about the basics of this concept before (see Always Open, Always Faithy), and the specifics really haven’t changed since then. What was new for me today was using Clay Shirkey’s notion of Cognitive  Surplus to help gather the content for a congregation’s Lifelong Faith Formation Network. John suggests forming task forces to search the web for resources (both online and hard copy) that you, the Faith Formation Leader, then curate. He goes onto describe the process of curation as: Research, Aggregate & Evaluate, Deliver, Communicate & Connect. (I went into more detail about this recently as well. See Becoming a Faith Formation Curator.)

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out what discipleship in the 21st century looks like. Of all the words that are a hard sell for Unitarian Universalists, “discipleship” may be one of the hardest. I’m constantly trying to figure out what a UU version of it might look like. Ultimately, what it seems to boil down to is how one practices one’s faith in the world, which would make “practitioner” a suitable word. But that doesn’t seem to have quite the same umph (a theological term) as “disciple,” and “practitionership” isn’t even a word. Sometimes I think that “faithful citizen of the Beloved Community” is on the right track, but it’s a mouthful, and a bit squishy at that. So if anyone has any thoughts on what a Unitarian Universalist version of discipleship might look like (and be called), let me know. (Take a look at Craig Roshaven’s People of the Way for some more ideas.)