by Kathy Neufeld Dunn, Associate Conference Minister (Kansas-Based)

John Roberto is the founder of a nonprofit called Lifelong Faith.  He and his staff have consistently reached out to a variety of US churches in different denominations to learn about and share what vital faith formation looks and sounds like in the 21st C. In a recent article, Roberto challenged me to imagine the role of Christian Educator or leader of faith formation in new ways for our children and grandchildren.  Roberto is careful to note that Sunday School is still important for some generations, and that must be respected. But this isn’t the case for everyone.

Young adults, youth, and kids spend so much time online that we need to lead in creative, Christ-like ways from the perspective of where people are at.   He is passionate about faith formation and calls us to open our minds and hearts to how our young people are learning and growing today.  So much learning takes place on the internet, Roberto believes faithful congregations or groups of congregations will need to have a “Learning Architect, a Digital Designer, and a Curator of excellent resources.”

A Learning Architect will be that person or persons who recognize places where people in your congregation are spending time anyway.  This leader will deliver faith formation programming that suits our different daily contexts, for instance faith formation for the home, the workplace, the coffee shop, online communities, and more.  I haven’t heard much buzz yet about context-centered faith formation resources in WDC.  Maybe some of our congregations are using or developing these, but I have not heard much about this, other than a couple churches trying to gather community people at a local movie theater and having a “talk back” and “linking the film to faith” session afterward.

A Digital Designer is easier to understand.  This person or persons designs and posts content on a variety of digital platforms from a church website to Facebook to Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms yet to emerge.  Roberto calls this the possibility of “24/7 faith formation.”  Some of our younger congregations and church plants in WDC are already doing this, and leading the way for the rest of us.

Most of us know that we can look up almost anything on the internet today. This includes faith formation resources.  Not all videos, Sunday School lessons, or prayer apps are created equal.  The third faith formation position that Roberto imagines is a Curator of excellent resources. Thankfully we have a good start on this on our Anabaptist Faith Formation website, and also Shana Peachey Boshart and others review each resource through a Jesus-centered, community-oriented, peace-loving lens before it is posted. In other words, we have our Curator for excellent resources already.  Maybe in this way, we are ahead of the curve.

Whether you agree with Roberto’s ideas for 21st C faith formation leadership or not, I hope they are a jumping off point for helping you and your own congregation’s faith formation group think and pray and dream together into the future.

Resource:  Roberto, John, “Guide for Developing Lifelong Faith,”  Vibrant Faith, July 2019.