It began with an invitation from my long-time friend and colleague, Ms. Debbie Gline Allen, the Consultant for Christian Education and Youth Ministry at the MA Conference, UCC. Come along, she invited, and join me in creating an event I imagine will offer local church leaders for faith formation an opportunity to “summit”! (I’m aware I have used a verb here.)
The idea of a summit intrigued me. Imagine the possibilities! She explained that she envisioned an opportunity to gather those from our local churches who are committed to Christian formation and education. We’ll summit for conversation, learning, mutual support and sharing. She also invited Together as One colleagues, Ms. Kristin Putney, Consultant for Christian Education for the RI Conference, UCC, and my CT colleague, Ms. Debby Kirk, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. We are all enthusiastic collaborators. Let’s do this, we all agreed! We know and experience the benefits of working together and the detriments of isolation. We also know that those engaged in Christian formation leadership can find their work to be isolating. While leaders form bonds within their congregations; healthy relationships of mutual support among peers are essential.
As consultants to congregations for faith formation, we each get a number of calls from congregations asking for guidance, insights, best practices, and and resources to reimagine and vitalize the work of faith formation. Our call is to accompany congregations in making disciples. In preparation, we had a great conversations and a summit plan was formed.
The invitation named the questions our local churches are wrestling with.
Are you struggling to keep your Sunday School program alive?
Are you wondering how to address the needs of today’s youth?
Are you finding that the programs and activities that worked just 5 years ago are not reaching the bar anymore?
Is intergenerational ministry the way of the future for our congregations? (And if not, what is?!)
We filled the room and started a waiting list! Leaders from each of the three states arrived on December 1, 2018 with open hearts and minds. Our opening worship engaged Esther’s story. A time of reflection on the scripture ended with the question, “How will passion, creativity, fidelity and community transform the way forward? (A question we should all be leaning into for such a time as this!)
The day was filled with new ideas to consider, thoughtful and provocative conversations and good humor! A three-part morning plenary focused on relationships, leadership and collaboration, and thinking “outside the box”. Each presentation was followed by a time of conversation in response. Debby Kirk ended the morning by bringing it all together in a meaningful theological and pedagogical reflection.
A hearty lunch and table fellowship was followed by a stimulating and playful activity (introduced to us at the 2018 General Association held in CT in September) which focused on innovation. Finally, a time of World Café style conversations and worship ended our day.
Much of the feedback we’ve received sounds like this, “I met new people that I’ll be in touch with that have new ideas and inspired me today, along with all of the wonderful presenters.” Great Summit! Thank-you!” “I loved the balance…” “Ideas for innovation, especially the idea that churches die when the method becomes the mission-(were my best take-aways).”
I am grateful for good work to do and grateful for creative, faithful colleagues with which to do it. Like those in our audience that day, it was a reminder that amazing things can happen where two or three or 40 are gathered and the Spirit is present! The recent Faith Formation Summit is a shining example of that!
Watch the three websites (CT, MA, and RI) for information about a second offering of the Faith Formation Summit to be held in February at a CT location.
Karen Ziel is the Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership for the CT Conference, UCC.
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.
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