Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “Children’s Ministry”

Spread the Word with an Elevator Speech

elevator-speechThe 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church begins next week and there are several resolutions that Forma would like the Church to be aware of that impact Christian Formation.

Forma’s Advocacy Committee researched and wrote position papers (approved by the Forma Board of Directors) on the following resolutions.

If you are a Christian educator, youth minister, Episcopal camp or conference center staff person, or Sunday School teacher these resolutions will affect you in one way or another. They will affect every congregation and ministry in the Church. Yes, this is a radical statement, but how we prioritize the importance of Christian Formation is often shown in where we choose to budget our staff, resources, time, and money.

Each of the above resolutions have Forma’s position papers for reading and downloading in order to share with your bishop/s or deputies. If you don’t know who they are, here is the link to all diocesan deputations. They are packing their suitcases now, why not send them an e-mail with your thoughts and a position paper or two to read on the plane? Get your talking points from Jane!

Jane Gober, a Christian educator in Walla Walla, Washington (Diocese of Olympia) and member of the Advocacy teams shares her thoughts at A Blissful Irreverent in Life and Ministry about some of these resolutions.

  •  Safe Serving A073 & A074. Ever think that training to be a certified mixologist was like taking Safe Guarding God’s Children training? Jane has the experience to talk about both. Here are her talking points, but her essay is well worth the read, and will definitely give you some food (and angst) for thought. Safeguarding Virtual Elevator Speech: Approve the updates to prevention of misconduct Model Policies in A073; Approve the updates to the training materials in A074; Make sure that both the Policies and the Training Materials have input of the people on the ground doing this work; Make sure that they both deal with social media/technology and establishing gracious methods to minister with our LGBTQ friends and colleagues.
  • She’ll give you a virtual elevator speech for why we need an online resource center at the church-wide level (A075). Let the Special BE Special (that’s all of us): Approve the creation and curation of a central digital hub of Christian formation and education resources through DFMS/Episcopal Church Website. This action will serve the questions and needs of the local mission of the church in all dioceses, cease needless and wasteful repetition of identical cataloging, empower and share the best resources for the Episcopal Church’s mission of discipleship.
  • Budget Decimation for Lifelong Christian Formation: The draft Budget offered to the 78th General Convention makes significant cuts to the second mark of ministry TEACH. This area of mission is the life-giving nurture for all the areas of mission. Changes need to be made to appropriate healthy funding for both the DFMS office and FORMA. Approve needed funding for: Youth and Young Adult Events such as EYE, the Lifelong Formation office of DFMS, the FORMA grant from some place in the budget other than the Lifelong Formation Office’s budget line.

Follow Forma on Twitter and Facebook during General Convention to learn what’s going on on the ground in Salt Lake City.

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Lifelong Formation: Talking Points

from the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation (Provincial representatives) 

Children’s Ministries and Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning: Talking Points 

The Mission of the Church Is the Mission of Christ: to teach, baptize and nurture new believers. #2 of The Five Marks of Mission

Why are Children’s Ministries and Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning important to the Episcopal Church?

Children’s Ministries provides imaginative, innovative resources for those who work with children and encourages congregations to fully include children in their church communities and in exploring their own ministries.  Through the Children’s Charter, the Episcopal Church is called to love, shelter, protect, and defend children within its own community and in the world.

Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning provides guidance and helps facilitate formation that transforms us as Christians throughout our lives.  Through the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, the church is called to invite, inspire and transform people to a life of learning, growth and service.

This work is the ministry of:

  • Equipping, building up and sending out Christians who can be faithful witnesses, mentors and teachers to children, youth and adults as they are formed in faith.
  • Resourcing underserved communities, such as collectively creating new resources for members of the armed services and their families during deployment, or curriculum for Province 9.
  • Connecting people and resources across the church.
  • Collaborating with other Episcopal ministries, such as the Asian American and Hispanic ministries, to develop faith formation as an integral piece of their trainings and gatherings, such as in the New Community Gathering in 2011.
  • Connecting all generations through integrated partnership and planning with Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries, recognizing that Lifelong Formation occurs across a continuum, not in isolated, age-segregated communities.

What have these program offices accomplished during the last triennium?

These offices have actively sought out partnerships with other Church Center ministries to do this work.  Here are some of the things that have been done together:

  • Children’s Program at General Convention.
  • Development of materials around the Doctrine of Discovery, together with Native American Ministries
  • Development of faith formation materials for use by military families before, during and after deployment, together with the Office of Federal Chaplaincies
  • Gatherings such as the New Community Gathering, together with Asian American, Black, Latino, and Native Ministries.
  • Developing resources and trainings for congregations engaged in ministries with Older Adults.
  • Promoting Children’s Advocacy through the distribution of The Seed of God materials, with Global Ministries.
  • Christian Formation trainings together with the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Diocese of Taiwan.
  • Working together with the Diversity Group as they trained Master Trainers to do their work through the lens of Faith Formation.
  • Building the Continuum Summit work with Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers.

What are the plans for the future?

Moving into the future, this office is needed to continue this work:

  • Identifying gaps in service – needs that are beyond the scope of a single diocese or province.
  • Continuing to work collaboratively to enable formation at every level of ministry in the Episcopal church and through our many networks and focus areas, such as  pending program development with the office of  Economic and Environmental Affairs.
  • Ensuring the continued “seamless” model of program delivery across all age and generational boundaries.
  • Connecting places that have identified needs with best practices discovered elsewhere in the church through observation and relationship that develop as this work continues.
  • Re-energizing our focus on Children’s Advocacy needs and possibilities.
  • Offering church-wide gatherings for the purposes of equipping formation ministers at all levels of the community.

The proposed budget suggests the functions of this ministry should “re-focus work to within dioceses.”  Will this work?

It has been proposed that the work of Formation ministries is best done on a provincial, diocesan or parish level.  The hard reality is that 40% of dioceses have no current staffing for formation ministries.  Less than 10% of dioceses have resource centers.  Perhaps some of this work could be done on this level, but most of the dioceses are not ready to receive this charge.  If this is the direction in which we wish to move as a denomination, we need a fully funded transition period of 3-6 years, in which this opportunity is taken on in an intentional and thoughtful manner.  It is a matter of justice to do otherwise, knowing that only a small percentage of U.S. congregations have faith formation staff at all.  There will continue to be a need, however, from a denominational perspective, for formation staff who can work from a “macro” level to look for the gaps – the very real ministry needs that are beyond the scope of a diocese or even a province to manage. 

  • Mary Ann Kolakowski, Province 1, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Province 2, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Mary Lou Crifasi, Province 3, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Jenny Beaumont, Province 4, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Rev. Mary Perrin, Province 5, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Rev. Kathy Monson-Lutes, Province 6, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Cynthia Spencer, Province 8, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation

Download these Talking Points to share with your deputies and bishops.

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Seeds for New Life

by Genelda Woggon

Two seven year old girls miles, worlds and cultures apart bonded together through mutual delight in The Seed of God booklets brought to Bogata, Colombia by a family from Asheville, NC on a family vacation with a mission purpose in mind. Young souls nurtured in the giving and receiving of gifts.  Gifts to be enjoyed and explored together as potentially lasting friendships are formed. Friendships with each other and mutual friendships with the Good Shepherd whose story they read, each in their own language but on the same page. Being “on the same page” is but one step closer to building relationships for understanding that is foundational to world peace.

This is but one story of how these bi-lingual books are being used by the staff at the Episcopal Church Center in their partnership with private funding brings new life and joy to both those who give and those who receive.

Through the generosity of St Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation, Inc. in Salisbury, North Carolina, a Foreign Mission grant was made available to the Episcopal Church Center for the distribution of the English/Spanish edition of The Seed of God books to be used primarily with mission work in the dioceses of Province IX and other foreign mission places where the opportunity arises.  The fact that the books are best delivered by hand creates further opportunities for partnerships.

Certainly most of the books are distributed evenly to each of the dioceses by ECC staff, especially as Ruth Ann Collins, Staff Officer from the Office of Life Long Christian Formation visits these dioceses, attends regional gatherings and gives workshops at Christian Formation gatherings.  Other books are transported beyond Province IX by a variety of people from local Episcopal churches. This opens up greater possibilities of partnerships as the books become transported by folks traveling with their Companion Diocese, taking family vacations for Spanish Language immersion, or involved with a humanitarian type mission project.

Publishing by the Center for Children and Theology, these charming little booklets (in English and Spanish) are also being used with adults as well as with children.  The simple language and beautiful illustrations offers the Gospel in a nutshell as they invite hungry hearts to enter into the Good Shepherd’s love.

If the budget of the Office of Christian Formation and Vocations is removed, how will such partnerships continue and these types of connections be made?  

Genelda Woggon is the author of The Seed of God and lives with her husband, a retired priest, in Asheville, North Carolina. She is a trained catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Resolutions Passed: Children

The following are resolutions passed at recent General Conventions that focus on The Episcopal Church’s call for ministry to, with and for children. It should be noted that according to budget allocations, children are considered those from 0 – 12 years of age.

2000-D045: Affirm and Urge Consideration of the Centrality of Children to the Ministry of the Church 

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention affirm that children are central to the mission of the Episcopal Church and ask each committee, commission, and program of the Episcopal Church, as it plans for the future, to consider how its ministry will positively impact the lives of children in the church and in the world, how it will be impacted by children, and how it will encourage children’s full participation in the worship and mission of the church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention affirm and lift up “A Children’s Charter for the Church” as a continuing vision of The Episcopal Church’s ministry in nurturing children, ministering to and advocating on behalf of children, and supporting children in their ministries, remembering that “it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV); and be it further

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention ask each diocese to continue to build awareness and increase implementation of “A Children’s Charter for the Church,” and live out its vision locally.

The original resolution regarding the Children’s Charter was adopted in 1997 – Resolution B005 

2003-A077: Develop Strategies for Ministries with Children, Youth and Young Adults

Resolved, That the 74th General Convention adopt a vision as part of the 20/20 initiative that there shall be effective, well-organized ministries with children, youth, and young adults in every congregation where appropriate; and there shall be campus ministries in all colleges and universities where appropriate; and be it further . . . (read more of this resolution here)

2006-D059: Provide Child Care Facilities at General Conventions

Resolved, That the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangement be directed to make age appropriate care and educational programs available for children birth to age twelve available for the duration of the 76th General Convention and all future General Conventions; and be it further

Resolved, That all dioceses and provinces be encouraged to provide similar services for conventions and synod meetings.

2009-D085: Considering the Transformative Stories of Child Ministry

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention applaud the work of the Children’s Charter for the Church and calls for the next phase of the work of the Children’s Charter for the Church by requesting the Center for Evangelism and Congregational Life, lift up the stories of the ministry of the child in order to educate and transform the Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $40,000 for the implementation of the resolution during the 2010-2012 triennium; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention request the Center for Evangelism and Congregational Life report to the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education before the 77th General Convention on the status of the continued implementation of the Children’s Charter for the Church.

Garden Variety Christian Formation

by Cynthia Coe

Two Stabs at a Model of Formation – Good Try, But They Miss the Mark

Two very different models of formation have appeared on my laptop or tablet lately.  Both had good points to make, but neither seemed to me a complete model of what formation in the 21st century needs to look like.  Derek Olsen, in an Episcopal Café article, suggests that the resources needed are already available from a plethora of sources and simply need to be vetted, perhaps by a volunteer.  Diana Butler Bass, in her excellent book Christianity After Religion, proposes mentoring relationships, whereby formation would take place one-on-one.

I am all in favor of online resources – I write them frequently.  But these resources are simply tools of formation.  Someone has to come up with the content, and content might be terrific; it might not be.  Simply vetting the content will not make what we need for formation magically appear on the screen.  One-on-one tutoring and mentoring is extremely useful, but collaborative learning and working and listening within groups is, I think, as much or perhaps more valuable.  Thus, neither of these proposals provides direction for the ministry of formation or address current challenges and opportunities in this important work.

Formation as Gardening

Mature Christians don’t just happen; somebody has to nurture them, tend to them, help keep them watered, and then even help figure out what to do with the fruits of the harvest. Spiritual formation is akin to cultivation of our gardens – planting seeds, waiting patiently for sprouts to appear, keeping young plants well watered and fertilized, then watching in awe as the harvest feeds others.

Formation is cultivation of the human soul.  Formation is growth.  Formation is cultivation of our congregations towards the full stature of Christ to provide abundant life for all.

So . . . how does our garden grow? Read more…

Implications to Formation if Funding Goes Away

The Episcopal Church Proposed Budget for 2013-2015 has proposed a 90% cut to the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team which includes the offices for Youth, Young Adults, Campus Ministry, and Lifelong Christian Formation, including Children’s Ministries.  To help the Church understand the real implications of what this budget means, we have looked through the Formation and Vocation Reports to Executive Council over the last 2.5 years, and pulled together the lists below.  While it does not represent each minute detail, it does represent the immense and broad work that these offices do each triennium.  We invite you to take some time to look closely at each bullet point and consider if that piece of the budget goes away, what will it mean for the children, youth, campus ministries, and young adults throughout the church.

Formation and Vocation Office: General

  • Partnering and Collaborating with Forma (formerly NAECED)
  • General Convention Youth, Young Adult, and Children’s programming and presence
  • Formation and Vocation Newsletters and resources
  • Building the Continuum Summit work with Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers
  • Collaboration on resources such as the work done with Doctrine of Discovery
  • Joint Network meetings to discuss and collaborate with one another across the age ranges: Children, Youth, Young Adults, Adults and Older Adult ministries
  • Social Media presence
  • Blogs and Web presence
  • Ecumenical Partnerships
  • Newsletters and Communication from the Denominational Staff about formation, resources, events, people, etc.
  • Support and Networking with Diocese and Provinces
  • Episcopal Generations initiative to bridge the gaps to work toward evangelism and mission as the Body of Christ

Youth

  • Ministry on behalf of young people and the Episcopal Church grounded in the Five Marks of Mission in order to keep moving forward with intentionality in mission through outreach and evangelism.
  • Building relationships, connecting and resourcing with those responsible for Youth Ministry and Lifelong Christian Formation and Vocation
  • Meeting with Youth Ministry networks at the Provincial and Diocesan levels, and with affiliated organizations such as Forma (formerly the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors – NAECED) and our seminaries working on continuing education for Lifelong Christian Formation volunteers and professionals
  • Episcopal Youth Event
    • mentoring leadership with youth on EYE Mission Planning Team
    • giving church wide exposure to youth who may not have experienced richness of our diversity in their local faith community context
    • developing follow-up resources from keynotes and workshops
    • establishing personal connections for future mission and ministry
    • Doing something big together to make an impact in the church and in the world (gifts to ERD, Haiti, UTO & Habitat for Humanity)

Read more…

Ministry with Children in The Episcopal Church

St. Thomas Episcopal Church
College Station, Texas

A story of faith, passion and wonder ….

by Robyn Szoke

In February of this year, C. Kirk Hadaway, the Staff Officer for Congregational Research and Diocesan and Congregational Ministries, presented some statistics to Executive Council. From 2004 to 2010, Church School enrollment in Episcopal congregations has declined by 33 percent. The number of child baptisms in Episcopal congregations has declined by 36 percent. Moreover, the Episcopal Church’s average Sunday attendance has fallen by 17 percent, while membership declined by 13 percent.

To begin to respond to these changes, it might be helpful to remember the hopes, the dreams, and the passion that the Episcopal Church had for children’s ministry and formation and, indeed, lifelong formation between 1985 and 2009.  Those years were an amazing time. They were alive with vision, ideas, and a commitment to the cultivation of formation – particularly children’s formation and formation within the household.

Looking back, it seems that the theology of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer helped to launch a grassroots mission movement for advocacy with and ministry to (and for and by) children. By 1990, this mission movement had really taken hold. That year, the Episcopal Church Center’s Office of Children’s Ministries began to gather children’s ministry specialists from around the nation. Their mission was to engage in deeper conversations about how best to serve children, including how best to fully include them in our worship communities and the prophetic notion of listening and hearing their voice.

The result of these conversations was that the Office of Children’s Ministries, along with 22 dioceses from all of the Episcopal Church’s provinces, developed and published a most amazing document: the Children’s Charter for the Episcopal Church. (In Spanish) Adopted by General Convention resolution 1997-B005, it provided a model – a standard of excellence – and accountability for congregational, diocesan, and provincial leadership.

Fueled by the publication of the Children’s Charter, the mission movement flourished. Design teams were created. Through the wisdom and hard work of provincial formation leaders, events were held, Charting a Course for Children in the Church which led to strengthening partnerships with the National Council of Churches and the Children’s Defense Fund. Through these teams and partnerships, we were able to hold events, gatherings, and conferences to advocate for children. In addition, a wonderful mission magazine was developed. Called Treasure Magazine, it was designed so that children ages 6 to 9 could read and learn about mission throughout the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.  At the same time the youth ministry office and young adult ministry office was also flourishing. Read more…

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