Pick My Brain – Faith Forward!

     by Marlene Bogard, Minister of Christian Formation

I just returned from the best week of camp ever!  Faith Forward (faith-forward.net) was held in downtown Nashville with 300 folks who care deeply about imaginative faith formation with children and youth.  About 30 of us were Mennonite, including the main sponsor, Shine! (shinecurriculum.com). After gleaning through my notes from fifteen phenomenal authors, preachers, presenters, I came up with a few hearty quotes, and paired them with some possible applications.  I  believe that these kind of faith-shaping ideas will move us forward to more creative, intentional and Anabaptist ways of being Christ’s church.

“Children are not always asking for answers.  They might be needing a story.” ( Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)

We need:   Religious language that is clear and concrete, but also rich in metaphor. It should be critical in a way that encourages continuing conversation.

“Turn away from youth ministry as problem-solving with functional solutions.  Turn all attention to concrete, lived experience.”  (Andrew Root).

Do:  Mentor, model and make it real!

“In all ministry, be fully human and fully present.” (Mike King)

Remember:  Each person is precious and loved by God and has potential far beyond our understanding.

“Worship is God’s playground.” (Anne Streaty Wimberly)

What?  Could it be that if we add more wonder and imagination to our services, God will become more real to us?

“Sacred spaces are all around us.”  (Lilly Lewin)

Pray:  For the last five people who texted you!

“Preach narrative, not doctrine.” (Phyllis Tickle)

How?  One pastor, upon blessing his youth group before a service trip, said,” Come home with stories to share.  Don’t tell us how hot and tired you were, tell us what changed in your life, who you met and how you saw God in them.”

“Knowing and remembering God is different than believing in God.” (Mark Yaconelli)

How? Recall a moment in your life that was sacred…and spend some time remembering the colors, smells, sounds, movement.  How does this sacred memory reflect God’s love and presence in your life?  How can you continue to draw water from this well?

“The heart of inter-generational congregational life is to be found in the telling of stories.” (Holly Allen)

Ask:  When do you hear the stories of children and youth in your congregation?  When do they hear yours?

“If you want to launch a revolution, there is no better place to start than with children.”  Brian McLaren

How?  Teach them spiritual practices! They will be shaped by experiences with God, not just knowing about God.

And finally, I experienced pride.  Shine! was a presenting partner, and one of the sponsors was Mennonite Church Canada.  Throughout the conference, I and the 30 Mennonite leaders were reminded that we as Anabaptist Christians really do have some great theology and practice.  We value story, (God’s and ours)  community and discipleship.  For some of the other denominations represented, these ideas may have seemed new.  At a potluck in my hotel lobby, (yes, we did it!) I encouraged my Mennonite friends to no longer be the quiet in the land.  I asked, “Do you hear what is being said at these sessions?  So much already sounds familiar, like our theology, our way of thinking about peace, about faith formation, about practicing discipleship.  We need to ditch our humility pronto!”  Just wondering…what might happen next?

P.S.  We have books and DVD’s of almost all the presenters quoted above.  Nourish thyself!