REINVENT YOUR FUTURE

A blueprint for forming faith

Before a home is built, an architect is needed to create blueprints that construction workers use to make people's dreams a reality. Blueprints provide the structure and details that move the building process forward and ensure that the end result honors the home buyers' original intentions.  As you consider consider creating a vision and plan for lifelong faith, decide what type of "blueprint" your team needs to guide your efforts and clarify your next steps. The information below reflects the merger of two congregation's abbreviated faith formation blueprints that were developed while working with a Vibrant Faith coach charged with assisting faith formation leaders to create a vision and a plan for helping develop people, programs, and activities that nurture people's faith lives at and beyond the church. 

Our Dream

Our congregation’s deepest desire is to help people live and thrive in the love and grace of God where people experience a life-shaping faith in Jesus Christ through:
  • transformational worship
  • life-giving relationships
  • renewing faith practices
  • meaningful rituals and traditions, and servant opportunities that address the needs of our local and global communities.

The faith forming opportunities we offer reflect an understanding that:
  • Faith is formed in the context of community that include settings at and beyond the congregation.
  • People experience God and express their faith differently based on their life experiences, learning styles, and spiritual types.
  • Faith formation is a lifelong process that is practiced daily.

We believe that everyone has a gift to share, a story to tell, and a next step for growing deeper in faith. We recognize that everyone is a student as well as a teacher and that there is much wisdom to be shared among generations. We affirm that the world we interact with daily is our mission field and view our homes as hospitality centers and mission outposts in our community. Mindful of God’s abundance in our lives, we help people grow in gratitude as they care for people and all of God’s creation through the wise use of their time, talents, and treasures.

Our Plan

For those seeking spiritual growth and a life of discipleship, our congregation has developed a blueprint for engaging people’s heads, hearts, and hands in faith forming activities. Specifically, this plan focuses on three primary pathways for forming faith:
1 | Worship and large group experiences where people are introduced to Jesus, interpret the Christian life, learn Bible stories and biblical concepts, celebrate milestones, and are taught renewing faith practices.

2 | Small groups where people build relationships, connect faith with daily life, and have the opportunity to discover, develop, and deploy their gifts in service to others. Understanding home as church, too, we consider households to be part of our small group ministries.

3 | Independent study, reflection, and dialogue where people can learn what they want, where they want, when they want. Typical experiences include devotions, Bible reading, participating in webinars, online courses, and book discussions, and through listening to sermon podcasts, participating in online lectionary studies, reading and responding to blogs, posting and following tweets, and contributing to Facebook questions and conversations. In addition, this pathway includes mentoring opportunities such as meeting with a spiritual director.

What Really Matters

Three elements have and will continue to profoundly shape how our plan unfolds within our congregation.

1 | PEOPLE matter
Life-giving relationships play a critical role in the faith forming process. The term “familying” is used to describe the relational process the Spirit uses to create and sustain people in life and faith. Faith communities strive to create a web of support where individuals are cared for, encouraged, challenged, and empowered with new possibilities for forming faith every day.
We seek to create settings that make room for others and reflect the importance of being an inclusive, intergenerational community where people commit to following in the way of Christ while encouraging others to do the same.

 2 | Our CONNECTION TO GOD, EACH OTHER, AND OUR COMMUNITY matters
We gather as a community to 1) Connect with God, 2) Connect and care for each other, and 3) Connect with people in our community. Our activities help people 1) be AWARE of God’s presence in their lives, 2) experience BELONGING through grace-filled, life-giving relationships, and 3) CONTRIBUTE to God’s transforming work in the world as they use their gifts and honor their callings in service to others. We strive to engage peoples' heads, hands, and hearts in faith forming experiences that help people to gather, grow, give and go.

 3 | PRACTICES & PLACES matter
We view faith as a verb where our church offers faith forming experiences that include prayer, learning, service, and celebration opportunities that are regularly practiced in:
  1. Our congregation: During worship and large group experiences, people are introduced to Jesus, interpret the Christian life, learn Bible stories and biblical concepts, celebrate milestones, and are taught renewing faith practices.
  2. In people's households: Understanding that the home is church too, spiritual practices are taught within the congregation that can be replicated at home. We view homes are learning laboratories for faith formation and invite members to try on Christian practices in their household settings that reflect the rhythms of their daily life. 
  3. Online: Online platforms serve as connecting points to share life and faith stories, learn spiritual practices, and pray for and encourage one another. They provide opportunities for independent study, reflection, and dialogue. They allow people to learn what they want and when they want.  We view digital space as an important pathway to develop to help people live, love, and lead like Jesus.
  4. On the go: Our churches will continue to partner with community organizations, local congregations, and other learning institutions that expands people's capacities to pray, learn, serve and celebrate. 
The strategies we seek to implement in the upcoming year reflect our core assumptions about forming faith in daily life and where we sense the Spirit is leading us now in creating a culture of vibrant faith.  Plans related to each strategies will be updated to reflect our progress, new learnings, and new approaches. 

STRATEGY 1:  Form Faith through WORSHIP

Weekly worship settings are designed to usher people into God’s presence and to experience the sacred in their lives. Through music, liturgy, and the sacraments, it’s our desire to create spiritually rich experiences where people grow in faith, celebrate what God has done and continues to do in people’s lives, and help people interpret the Christian life. Using the narrative lectionary, we view worship as one of the prime opportunities for people to experience the Good News, learn about the stories and people found in the Bible, and to translate these stories into a faith that relates to daily life. We will use worship and large group experiences as vehicles for teaching people faith practices that can be replicated at and beyond the congregation. These practices include praying, reading and reflecting on scripture, having faith- related caring conversations, and introducing meaningful rituals and traditions. These experiences will include “take home” activities that can be used in homes, cars, workplaces, and community settings.  Woven into these practice will be opportunities for people to share their life and faith stories with each other, along with stories about ways that practice faith in their daily lives. Throughout this year, we will be emphasizing:

1 | Caring Conversations
  • Have people share responses to a question during the Sharing of the Peace.
  • Challenge members to “Take the Caring Conversation Challenge” during October. Highlight helpful resources to encourage Caring Conversations twice a month.
  • Have people share what they do to engage in Caring Conversations regularly.
  • Have young people teach a Caring Conversation practices during onsite and online events.

2 | Devotional Practices
  • Highlight Taking Faith Home questions and prayers to be used during the week. 
  • Invite members to listen and discuss the sermon at home/in the car via podcasts.
  • Invite people to respond to blog postings related to the sermon theme.

3 | Servant Opportunities
  • Offer the Forming Faith in Daily Life Preaching & Teaching series Highlight
  • Share stories of members involved in ministry and deploying their gifts.
  • Provide ideas and opportunities for “Sharing God’s Love this Week.”

4 | Meaningful Rituals & Traditions
  • Celebrate (and teach the significance of) Baptism & Anniversary of Baptism Milestones.
  • Celebrate (and teach the significance of) faith and life milestones.
  • Celebrate (and teach the significance of) Commissioning Stephens’s Ministers, servant groups, local and global missionaries, etc.
  • Celebrate (and teach the significance of) Civic holidays including Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, etc.
  • Celebrate the completion of study/training courses (Keryma, Stephen Ministry, Peer Ministry).

STRATEGY 2:  Form Faith through SMALL GROUPS

Small groups provide intimate settings for building significant relationships, affirming each other’s gifts, and expressing one’s faith. Our desire is to help small group leaders find ways to make their settings intentional faith forming, transformational experiences. During worship, meetings, choir practices, and servant events, we will demonstrate ways to Four Key (pray, learn, serve & celebrate) small group and household activities.

1 |Pray
  • Introduce Lectio and Visio Divina experiences into small group settings.
  • Introduce Examen devotional practices.
  • Introduce apps people can use such as Centering Prayer, etc.
  • Highlight Youtube videos families/groups can watch and discuss such as the Bible Project.
  • Provide a listing of common table prayers to members that also include ones that members often use. 
  • Provide a suggested reading/listening plan based on the stories in the Spark Bible.
  • Provide families with prayer celebrations and concerns to reflect on at home.

2 |  Learn
Learning about one's faith will show up in a variety of ways and will often reflect sermon/worship themes.  We will also provide resources to help me learn about each other, their gifts, backgrounds, etc. To deepen friendships with each other we will:
  •  Embed Caring Conversation activities in leadership meetings, family celebrations, and other small group settings. 
  • Provide "on the go" resources that can be used in the car, etc.
  • Post links to resources groups and families can use that can be done in 5-7 minutes.

3 | Serve
We will highlight stories and resources that help people find ways to serve their friends and family members, their neighbors, and the local community. In addition, we will:
  • Highlight ways to serve through the celebration of milestones.
  • Help households explore their individual and collective callings.
  • Provide a list of quarterly servant opportunities that members can participate in that are short-term, and can accommodate most member's busy schedules.

4 | Celebrate
  • Provide new members with the book, For Everything a Season.
  • Highlight ways to make upcoming church and civic events meaningful, memorable moments.
  • Offer suggestions and resources for households celebrating specific milestones and transitions in one's life.

STRATEGY 3:  Form Faith ASYNCHRONOUSLY

Recognizing that people are at different stages in faith, have different needs, and may have time constraints that limit their involvement in congregational learning opportunities, our desire is to help people become aware of the many fine resources available online, through our congregation, and through the local faith communities to support one’s ongoing efforts to grow in faith. We will update our website and will offer recommended links and resources that are available 24/7 to support people in their faith journey. We will encourage members to participate in our virtual communities found through blogs, Facebook groups, Instagram and apps that people can access via their phones and tablets. More specifically, we will:
  • Actively the promote engagement and dialogue with the pastor's weekly blog posts.
  • Invite people to read the Daily Text and to receive daily email devotions.
  • Create a 90-day posting schedule for the Facebook page.
  • Recruit a member to manage (post, comment, and invite) the Facebook page.
  • Share stories twice a month during worship about ways they are learning asynchronously (most of these stories will be pre-recorded video clips 2-3 minutes long).
  • Provide opportunities for members to meet with a Certified Spiritual Director to increase awareness of God and discern where God might be leading you now and in the future.
  • Invite people to share (online or via index card) during worship offering time, where they've served others in the past week. 

REFLECTIONS  |  QUESTIONS

Blueprints for lifelong faith are always a work in progress. Our plans for forming faith will change to reflect what's working and most helpful, and to reflect the always changing ministry landscape. As you reflect on the sample blueprint in this blog, think about your congregation's plans for forming faith at all ages and life stages:
  •  How clear is your vision for helping people grow spiritually?
  • What do you want people to know, do, value, and experience through the activities and resources you offer?
  • How often, how well, do you communicate this vision to members and friends of your faith community?
  • How has this vision for lifelong faith changed in the last 5-10 years due to technology, people's life styles, and societal changes?
  • If you were to create a faith formation blueprint for your church, what would it look like?
  • Which ideas or portions from this blueprint would you include in your own blueprint?
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