In the 21st century, faith formation involves planning a journey of lifelong discipleship with opportunities of experiencing, learning, and practicing the Christian faith as we look to follow Jesus.
Historically, congregations have invested many hours of time and financial resources in programs focused on the first two decades of a person’s life. However, these days we are a nine or ten decade culture. The journey of adulthood is at least sixty years long and made up of many different ‘seasons’ of life. To meet the faith formation needs of each of these seasons, it may be helpful to develop an approach to faith formation that places the person, rather than the congregation, at the centre.
Ideally, this faith-formation journey will integrate all age groups and provide whole-community experiences and learning. The events are opportunities to learn about the church-year seasons and the Christian faith, as well as supporting the needs, interests, and spiritual growth of every age group. It’s holistic - it’s about nurturing the way of the head, the heart, and the hands – experiencing, learning, and practicing the Christian faith.
When planning this holistic pathway, it is important to begin by thinking about the distinct needs of each of these age groups.
YOUNG ADULTS - Young adults are exploring their identity, particularly in relationships and work. These young people are venturing in and out of adult tasks and responsibilities—still requiring the support of their parents or mentors.
MIDLIFE ADULTS - Midlife adults find meaning and identity in the key relationships of their lives, family and close friends. Midlife adults often care for others, usually children and in some cases their parents. They are mastering their life skills—often dedicating long hours to their chosen profession.
MATURE ADULTS - Mature adults are those who may be dwelling on second career options or early retirement. Mature adults are establishing new relational patterns with loved ones as they become ‘empty nesters’ or grieve the death of their parents.
AGEING ADULTS - Ageing adults remain vital and actively engaged, despite mental and physical decline. They remain hopeful in spite of experiences of loss and grief and continue to hunger for God and grow spiritually and can share their deep faith in profound ways if given the opportunity.
A great starting point is acknowledging the different needs of each season of life and committing to mark and celebrate faith milestones or rites of passage.
Every ending, beginning, transition, and moment in life is an opportunity to actively claim God’s grace and blessing for our lives and celebrate with those in our lives.
As leaders in congregations, it is up to us to help others understand and recognise how God is present in everyday life. How we go about doing that and the tools we use is part of the challenge we face. However, let us not overlook the impact these events can have on building a connected faith community.
“A faith milestone is a marker along life’s journey that says, ‘This is something important and God is here, too.’ It is a faith formation practice for both home and congregation that helps all generations recognise God’s presence in everyday life.” | Dr David Anderson
One way Grow Ministries can assist is through our Growing Faith Moments and Faith Trail ministry resources. The encouragement provided in Psalm 71:16-18 gives us a framework and the basis for this ministry. It reminds us to tell the story of God’s marvellous deeds to the next generation.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds. Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. | Psalm 71:16-18
Growing Faith Moments acknowledge the interweaving of faith and life moments through the Four Key Faith Practices framework. Some of these include; birth, death, retirement, receiving a driver’s licence, marriage, new job.
Getting started is as simple as having a conversation about what ‘moments’ or ‘milestones’ you could celebrate in your context. What does faith development look like in your community, from birth to death from beginning school to retirement and beyond?
Turn these conversations into ideas, then into small events, then into part of who you are as a congregation.
Other questions worth considering are:
- How are we providing learning and growing opportunities for each season of life?
- Are we providing a holistic pathway of lifelong faith through church-year seasons? Do we include Christian traditions, prayer and spiritual practices, Bible studies and service opportunities?
- Could we schedule events at various times and use different formats? (e.g. providing on-line opportunities for those who find it difficult to leave home, due to childcare commitments or distance). This will be helpful to meet the different needs of each age group or life ‘season’.