Imagining Our Next Steps
“School! Yuck! It is Sunday!” Since coming to Northbrook I have heard multiple children give this reply when asked if they would like to join us for Sunday school. To be fair, these are children who haven’t been to our classes before. They don’t know that what we do here looks very different than school.
The improvements we’ve made to our classes this year build upon the foundation laid by my predecessors. Like them, I continue to implement best faith formation practices and research into our ministry. We are doing some things very well. There are also things we need to reevaluate because we are serious about nurturing the faith of our children, youth and families.
I am suggesting that we rebrand and refocus for next fall. I’ve already had some meaningful discussions with leaders on our youth and children’s ministry teams. I am looking for a few more people who are curious, creative, and excited to join me in imagining how we can improve what is working and incorporate new strategies that better match our church’s vision. The group will meet three times between the end of April and June. Here are a few things we will be considering:
- School models have often relied on learning facts and rote memorization. Faith, on the other hand, is multi-sensory, creative, and about a relationship with God. How can we offer more opportunities to experience God through prayer, worship, communion, Bible study and service to others?
- School models rely on regular attendance in a physical classroom. How can we enhance learning opportunities outside of our walls (online, in the community, and at home) while being mindful of our attendance patterns and the importance of gathering as a community?
- School models have historically relied on the teacher as expert and treat students as empty vessels to fill up with information. Thankfully this is changing. Now we seek to nurture meaningful connections between what we know and what we experience. We want faith to help us to live our everyday lives. Collaboration and relationship nurture these kinds of connections.
- School implies age-based groupings and a graduation date. How do our ministries reflect the value we place on inter-generational relationships and the lifelong journey of faith?
I hope that we are able to convene a group of adults and youth in all ages and stages of life to work together to envision new ways to nurture faith. We’ll be using the excellent and brief online course, Family Faith Formation, to guide our discussion. The first thing I propose we do is to ditch the word “school.”