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.”