In her book, Eighth Day of Creation, Elizabeth O’Connor reminds us that a “primary purpose of the Church is to help us discover and develop our gifts and, in the face of our fears, to hold us accountable for them so that we can enter into the joy of creating.” These words point toward a key dimension of the work of faith formation – helping people name, discover, and develop gifts for ministry and holding one another accountable for faithfully engaging these gifts in creating a world aligned with God’s vision of justice for the world.
Local faith communities that fully live into this work of lifelong faith formation understand that everything they are and do is essential in helping nurture a deep spirituality and sense of vocation for individuals within their community. Every aspect of their shared life becomes an intentional space for forming faith – worship, ministries of service and justice, building relationships, leadership development, and nurturing spiritual practices at home.
As part of the 2020 Vision initiative, the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ has developed the following strategic goal to support congregations in their ministries to nurture life-long faith development:
During 2017-2018 engage up to 5 congregational leadership teams in a 12-month coaching/mentoring process to develop a comprehensive vision and ministry plan for lifelong spiritual formation in each participant congregation.
This new initiative, “Leading Well: Nurturing Faith Forming Congregations,” will be a collaborative partnership between the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ and Vibrant Faith. Vibrant Faith was the key partner in the conference’s Progressive Youth Ministry Certification Program, which was jointly sponsored for multiple cohort groups.
“Leading Well” will provide an opportunity for congregational leadership teams (clergy, staff, and lay leaders) to come together for two retreats and to connect for monthly peer learning opportunities. These spaces of connection will provide opportunities to learn from the wisdom and experience of the group and share stories of successes and growing edges. The leadership teams will be paired with a Vibrant Faith coach who will work with them throughout the 12-18 months of the program to develop and implement a ministry plan for their congregation.
Along the way, individual leadership teams will be given tools to assess their ministry context, name the ways in which their congregation currently engages in intentional faith formation for all ages, name and celebrate the particular strengths and gifts of the congregation, and develop a ministry plan rooted in their congregation’s areas of strength.
We hope that through this initiative more congregations within the Minnesota Conference will fully embrace their role as communities that nurture lifelong faith by helping folk discover, develop, and engage their truest gifts in the work for justice in the world.
May it be so.
Rev. Kevin Brown
Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth