February 6, 2010

Faith Formation

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:15 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

My wife has been in pain lately. It has lasted long enough that, though a confirmed atheist, she has begun to talk about making a “bargain with God” if only the pain would go away.  Is this faith development or straying from the path?  The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron of the vajrayana tradition tells us to face the places we hurt, face the things that frighten us, and open our heart to them.  I know from personal experience that this can be a very difficult practice.  Am I backsliding, or growing in faith?  How do we talk about faith development in UU congregations?

Sadly I was not able to be present when our Heartland District leaders gave a report on Faith Formation 2020 at our recent UUMA Chapter Retreat. So I went online to find out what the Lifelong Faith organization had to say.

http://www.lifelongfaith.com/faithformation2020.htm

Their “Thirteen Trends and Forces Affecting the Future of Faith Formation in a Changing Church and World” have all sorts of implication for UU congregations. But what was very interesting to me was their “Four Scenarios for the Future of Faith Formation.”

http://www.lifelongfaith.com/assets/docs/FF2020-FourScenarios.pdf

The scenarios really have nothing to do with predicting the future so much as determining how a congregation serves the faith formation needs of differing people.  In adapting this material to UU congregations, in most cases, just replace the word “Christian,” with “UU.”

Most congregations focus on serving the “people in the pews,” that is, on those who are both committed and active members. But how do we deepen the faith of those who think of themselves as UUs but can not be very active in regular church life? How do we serve people who are very spiritual but not interested in organized religion? How do we nurture the faith of those who see the power of the church and want to use it, but are not interested in introspection?

Long restless with the one size fits all approach of most church membership programs I have long used a two axis graph with four quadrants, to help me and others reflect on how we serve people of different needs.  One axis is level of institutional involvement, the other shows level of commitment to values and ideals.  My chart is very like the ‘openness to religion’ and ‘openness to spirituality’ graph of the Four Scenarios of Faith Formation (on page 2 of their pdf.) The point is to choose one of these quadrants and ask, how do we help these people live a more liberal faith?

Just something to think about when trying to help someone in pain.

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2 Comments »

  1. Christine Robinson said,

    Thanks for pointing out this interesting research!

  2. […] she has begun to talk about making a “bargain with God” if only the pain would go away. Is this faith development or straying from the path? The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron of the vajrayana tradition tells us to face the places we hurt, […]


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