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CHRISTIAN FORMATION

Christian Formation - Part of St. Mark Venice 1846 by John RuskenBy Ben Menghini
Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministry

Greetings First Presbyterians,

October has been a busy time around the church with programs new and old. In November I will already have been at the church as the Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministry for four months, although sometimes it feels like I just started yesterday. Blakeley and I have enjoyed familiarizing ourselves with this church and the people in it as we have also become acquainted with Green Bay and De Pere.

This month the Christian Education committee has embarked on an ambitious but necessary task: updating our CE Goals for the first time in 10 years. For perspective, the last set of CE Goals were adopted in May of 2008, the same week that I was graduating from high school! In a decade a church can experience a lot of change, both in its own culture and in the culture it is ministering to.

For the CE committee, we want to set goals that reflect these changes and that help us adapt to a new world with a timeless message. In this way, we can also lay the path for the future, so that our congregation can continue as faithful servants into the future.

An extensive study of mainline churches in the US attempted to uncover the heart of what makes a congregation healthy and thriving. Among the top factors for flourishing congregations were a warm atmosphere and core values that the congregation can articulate. Perhaps surprisingly to some, one of the greatest factors, perhaps the most effectual, was a broadly educational environment. In blossoming congregations, members were challenged to think, engage with ideas, learn, and to share their ideas with others. Even more, they were challenged to live out their ideals. What also makes this educational element important is that these churches do not just engage thinking in the pulpit and Sunday school, but make it central to church life.

“The Reformers envisaged a disciple community in which all members, not only the clergy and theological professionals, wrestled with the meaning of what they believed,” says Douglas John Hall in Thinking The Faith. “‘The true genius of Protestantism is to make extraordinary spiritual demands on very ordinary people.’ This has never been truer than it has become in our own time and place.”

So we are challenged to ask: what do we even mean when we talk about Christian education? Christian education is not just about learning facts, memorizing bible verses or book orders; it is more involved than meeting once a month for a focused study. Christian education is about formation, the shaping of Christian character to conform to our story: the story of Jesus Christ and his church. Becoming a peculiar type of person, what we call a Christian, means going deeper than the mind and reaching the heart, and changing not just our ideas but also our desires.

Philosopher James K.A. Smith, in his book Desiring The Kingdom, says that “being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly—who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love.”

For our congregation, this means that Christian education is something that we all do. Every committee has a part to play in our educational environment. To this point, our Session has asked each committee, as they consider their goals for 2019, to put particular focus on how they may serve children, youth, and family. The way that we live together, how we sing and worship together, and eat and play together, the stories we tell and the memories we share, are what constitute the kind of people that we are. Those are the activities that shape our character. They are the liturgies of our everyday life.

Together we will consider what kind of people we should be, what kind of people we are becoming, and what practices we value. We should consider how we may draw from the rich history of our congregation and forge a path forward that is a faithful witness of God’s love in Green Bay in 2019.

In Christ’s peace,

Ben Menghini

(Image is Part of St. Mark Venice 1846 by John Rusken)

Last Published: October 29, 2018 10:03 PM