Pick My Brain – Restoring the Saltiness

     by Marlene Bogard, Minister of Christian Formation

Sometimes we need to go back to the basics.  In recent conversations with several pastors, I was struck by how they perceived their flock’s lack of prowess regarding Christian Formation.  Traditional classes were thinning, spiritual practices seemed rare, language for articulating Christian faith was sketchy.   As a way of moving them ahead,  I coached them:  Keep it simple, keep it basic, use language your congregants can understand, connect ideas and theology to real-time experiences, provide small and achievable goals. In short – go back to the basics.
It is common knowledge that we are in a Post-Christian, Post-Biblically-Literate Culture.  Could we as Mennonite congregations also be in a holding pattern with regards to our Christian Faith Development?
Hold on, my friends, there is hope!  There are proven techniques, there are loads of resources, there are peer groups, there are events, all designed to catapult us out of our doldrums.  And, there is the Holy Spirit, who is our constant encourager.
First a couple of excerpts from my presentation “Let’s Talk about the Future of Sunday School,” from 2011.
How to Disciple and Form Faith:
1.  Engage people in action that helps them learn new territory in a new way.
   a.  Our senses are heightened when we are stretched .
   b.  Connecting a new learning with real life experience is essential.
   c.  When we are emotionally engaged with a topic, we remember it forever!
2.  Offer an environment of genuine love and respect among all.
  a.  A place of emotional safety means that all are free to reflect on the meaning of the shared experience for themselves, as well as listen to how others might be growing.
3. Use methods such as open-ended questions to encourage folks to express what they are learning, observing and feeling.
4.  Prepare spiritual leaders who are grounded in scripture, and equipped with experiential learning methods.
Now for some resource suggestions – in DVD and print: (Click on blue link to go to our on-line catalog at www.mennowdc.org

  Zondervan, 2011.
From the beginning, the first disciples were invited to follow Jesus. How do we embrace the kingdom way of life? Presenters: Scot McKnight, Mike Metzger, Tim Keller, Jon Tyson. Session 1: Did Jesus preach the Gospel?; Session 2: Living the Gospel in Culture; Session 3: The Both/And of the Gospel; Session 4: The Transformative Kingdom; Session 5: Culture-Shaping Project and Debrief.
by Finger, Reta Halteman.  MennoMedia, 2013.
Combines brilliantly designed interactive learning with first-rate historical scholarship to provide a group simulation experience. Any resemblance to life among twenty-first century believers is purely intentional.
by Arthur, Sarah. Upper Room, 2007.
Arthur casts a new paradigm for postmodern youth ministry in which imagination and story take center stage. Explores the role of imagination and narrative in spiritual formation, reframing the youth pastor as the “resident bard” and both scripture and the church as “narratable” worlds into which youth are invited .NOTE:  this is great stuff for ALL ages, not just youth!

by Brown, Sharon Garlough. InterVarsity Press, 2013. 
Follow the stories of four women as they are drawn into a spiritual formation journey at a retreat center.This FICTION book is packed with christian formation stories, language and connected to “real-time” experiences.  See #1 above!
And here are some websites:
www.yearofthebiblenetwork.org – your go-to source for digging deeper into Scripture.
http://www.buildfaith.org/ – an online Christian education community with consistently wonderful blogs
www.faithformationlearningexchange.net/  – the most comprehensive, research based amazing site out there!
And now some events:  (All info is on our website: www.mennowdc.org)
Year of the Bible Launch – 8 hours of Back to the Basics!  2 pm Aug 1 – noon Aug. 2
Shaped by the Story – WDC Annual Assembly – 2 pm Aug. 2 – 9 pm Aug. 3
The Art of Bible Storying featuring Michael Novelli – Sept. 15

“You are the Salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost it’s flavor, how can it be restored?”  Mt. 5: 13.