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On Faith Formation

You’ve probably noticed that our Christian Education hour is now called Faith Formation (which I’ll abbreviate here as FF). If you’re like me, and you grew up in a church, you may still sometimes refer to it as Sunday school. Old habits die hard!

But the new name offers a different, and perhaps more relevant, way to think of what happens at First Pres from 9:00 to 10:00 on Sunday mornings.

First, calling it “school” may not have good connotations for everyone—whether younger or older. In a school classroom, we learn to sit still, talk quietly, do pencil work and, of course, take tests—not always easy lessons! But, while all of those skills are important, the learning that happens on Sundays is of a different kind, less about mastering certain material than about learning how we fit into God’s world. And we don’t always sit quietly as we do it!

Second, the term “faith formation” focuses on the spiritual growth that happens as we grow into ever deeper relationship with God. While memorizing specific details from scripture can certainly open doors to greater understanding (What were the exact dimensions of Noah’s ark? How many baskets of bread and fish were left over when Jesus fed the 5,000?), the focus of FF, for any age, is on learning about what those stories tell us about the nature of God’s love, and how it relates to us and our lives. (What does the story of God’s calling Noah tell us about God’s call on our own lives? What does the feeding of the 5,000 tell us about Jesus’s mission to “feed” everyone the gift of Life?)

Third, the word “formation” suggests an ongoing process, one that happens not only in the church on Sunday mornings, but also throughout all of our days, weeks, months, and the rest of our years. In other words…at any time, in any place.

As adults, we can sometimes have a tendency to think, “I did Sunday School. I learned the lessons. I was confirmed. Done and done.”

But if we’re being honest, we know that there’s always more to learn. As our lives unfold, new opportunities to grow our faith come along again and again. A service opportunity, a spiritual retreat, a conversation—these experiences may be God’s invitation to go deeper.

And we are also responsible for our own growth. If we hope to be transformed (as Paul exhorts in Romans 12:2), we will engage in practices that encourage that transformation. Reading the Bible and other spiritual writings. Meditating. Praying. Worshiping. Completing a study, alone or with a small group. Being still, listening for the Spirit. Participating in a Faith Formation class. Finding inspiration—in the created world, in art or music, in relationships with Christian friends or a Spiritual Director. All of these practices—as well as others—can form and re-form our faith throughout our lives.

Many have noted that Jesus taught more often about action than about belief. His ministry was about allowing belief in God to change our actions, not only towards others…but also towards ourselves! The greatest gift we can give to ourselves—and, ultimately, to God and to others—is the gift of intentionally growing our faith. Trusting in the promise that we will continue to develop more deeply the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

That’s quite a list to strive for! I’m certainly not there yet. Are you?

Praying that we will allow God to continue the good work begun in us!


Lou Ann

1 Comment

Sep 30, 2023

Thank you, LuAnn. God Bless.

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