In an earlier post I shared how we are using the Here We Stand confirmation ministry curriculum to help us teach the Bible to our 7th and 8th graders. Yet the hour-long, traditional Sunday School class session – informally dubbed "Learning Faith" – is only one of two core program components of our ministry. The other core program component, "Living Faith," is a Sunday evening gathering with a more hands-on, book-free approach to faith formation.
To be honest, these Living Faith sessions were born not out of a sense that our kids needed to learn something – though there is always more to learn! – but rather out of a sense that our kids needed a chance to come together in a less formal setting to build relationships with each other, with the church, and through these, with God. An hour on Sunday morning in a traditional learning environment was not condusive to forming relationships and creating community. Hence, the Living Faith sessions – a fellowship event with a meal and a hands-on learning opportunity – were born.
We have fifteen Living Faith sessions during the year, divided into three units of five consecutive Sunday evening sessions each. Each unit has a theme and objective:
- Fall unit theme: Worship Leadership
Goal: That 7th and 8th graders feel competent and valued as worship leaders (readers, assistant ministers, ushers, communion preparers).
- Winter unit theme: Serving Others
Goal: That 7th and 8th graders embrace service toward others as central to Christian identity and calling; and, that they plan and carry out a service project.
- Spring unit theme: Spiritual Practices
Objective: That 7th and 8th graders develop a competency and a comfort level with practices that can nurture their faith and relationship with God.
For this first unit of Worship Leadership, I'm not drawing from any curricular materials but am simply introducing each worship leadership ministry (sometimes by inviting congregational leaders to attend and introduce their ministries), and then giving the kids a chance to practice it. To help set up a session on serving as lectors, for example, we watched a few minutes of a Dead Poets Society clip in which Mr. Keating speaks passionately about poetry as containing rich words of life, full of meaning for us and for the world. In last evening's session, two ladies who each week prepare the altar, elements, and vessels for the sacrament of Holy Communion, took the kids into the sacristy and walked them through their Sunday morning tasks. In the coming weeks, these kids will sign up, two by two, to assist these ladies with the task of preparing communion.
The schedule for these evening programs is as follows:
5:00 – Gathering, and introduction to theme
5:30 – Dinner (and dinner clean-up)
6:00 – Hands-on activity/training/practice
6:45 – Prayer
7:00 – Go home!
A different confirmation ministry family has signed up to provide dinner each evening. We use doodle.com for sign-ups and for Living Faith RSVPs, so that the dinner families know how many people they can expect to have to feed.
Our confirmation class has 14 kids on the roster, though past experience tells me that Sunday morning attendance will hover around 8-10. At our first two evening sessions we've had attendance of 8 and 9.
The real success of this program – if I can speak of success after only two weeks – is that relationships are being created. Kids are genuinely getting to know each other, and they look forward to spending time with each other. There is laughter and lively conversation around the dinner tables. It has been a pure joy.