Thinking about faith formation in Mennonite Church USA
by Shana Peachey Boshart
Denominational Minister for Faith Formation, Mennonite Church USA
The Renewed Commitments of our Journey Forward process give us good guidance in how we will focus our faith formation efforts. As together we follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace, and experience transformation, we will be formed more and more into the likeness of Christ, which is our lifelong purpose as disciples of Jesus.
Our Mennonite Church USA staff strategic plan adapts the renewed commitments into goals this way:
- We will equip our members with resources to form them to follow Jesus faithfully regardless of the costs.
- We will empower our members to bear witness to God’s holistic peace and proclaim Christ’s redemption to the world.
- We resource our members in the spiritual disciplines that can transform us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, into a reflection of God’s unending love.
- We will practice intercultural competency, working in a manner that honors the gifts and the Imago Dei in all people.
As the formation minister, my easy-to-memorize interpretation of what that means for how I do my work is this: I will help our congregations and conferences
- form faithful disciples
- witness to God’s peace and redemption
- teach spiritual disciplines
- adapt our behaviors and practices to include everyone
Mennonite Christians believe that through daily obedience to the teachings of Jesus, we are formed in every way into Christlikeness: our character, our understanding, our affections and our actions (soul, mind, heart and strength). This obedience usually takes the form of particular practices. Here are some of the resources from Mennonite Church USA that help you adopt faith-forming practices.
This is a website that I started several years ago in collaboration with other Mennonite Church USA formation leaders. It is designed to be your one-stop hub for Anabaptist-Mennonite faith formation resources. The tabs are organized by age, which is the most common way our congregations organize faith formation ministries. You will find resources for all ages and for intergenerational settings. To find resources organized by practices, start at the “Christian Practices” tab.
Use this website to find curriculum and how-to’s for any age group and most ministry settings in church life. Recommend it to your youth sponsors, Sunday School teachers (for all ages), kids club leaders, VBS leaders, and small group Bible study facilitators. Add a link to this website from your congregation’s web page so your formation leaders will always have quick access to it.
The Gathering Place
This is a landing page within the mennoniteusa.org site where I host webinars for faith formation leaders. This fall, I will co-host three webinars with Michael Danner, Associate Executive Director for Church Vitality, which will be taught by Scott Peterson. The series is called “Putting Jesus on the Ballot: Anabaptism and American Politics.” Scott is the leadership pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Arizona, where he first taught this content in a Sunday School class. He adapted it for a seminar at MennoCon19, and again for this series of webinars for congregational leaders and other people interested in thinking together carefully about how Christians engage government without falling into polarization or partisanship. This is an important topic for congregational leadership teams to be thinking together about right now. Check it out at thegatheringplace.us, and join us on the Tuesday evenings of September 17, October 15, and November 19.
Sunday School curriculum for children: Shine
Wouldn’t it be amazing if your children’s Sunday School curriculum had a Pinterest page of pins for every lesson? And wouldn’t it be great if those pins were videos, songs, books that go with the lesson? What a great resource for teachers! Wouldn’t it be fantastic if every Sunday there was a note to put in the bulletin (or email to parents) that gave families a short guide for reading the Bible and talking about it together? And wouldn’t it be great if that note coordinated with the children’s lesson text?
Shine is that curriculum! How we approach faith formation with children is critical to how they will view faith for the rest of their lives. In Shine, Bible stories are central. Christian community is assumed to be the context for forming faith. The inner spiritual lives of children are nurtured. Shine emphasizes peacemaking as integral to God’s good news. Find it at shinecurriculum.com
Bible Study resources
Bible study and prayer are the root Christian practices from which our formation sprouts, grows and bears fruit. Here are some Bible study resources you need to know about.
The Bible Study page of AnabaptistFaithFormation.org gives you a number of free downloads. On the left side, find one-page downloads you can print and use to lead a small group or Sunday School through a study of any Scripture passage. Print, prepare, tuck in your Bible and you’re ready to go. On the right side are resources for reading and interpreting Scripture from an Anabaptist perspective.
TheBibleProject.com makes free videos and podcasts that present and interpret the Bible as “a unified narrative that leads to Jesus and has profound wisdom for the modern world.” Check out their many series of videos and also their podcast. The videos are great teaching tools for youth and adults, and are compatible with Anabaptist thought.
Deep Faith Conference
I would like to host a gathering for faith formation leaders every year. In 2020, I will partner with Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary to combine the faith formation conference, Deep Faith, with their annual Pastors and Leaders event. Come to AMBS March 2-5 to join other pastors, lay leaders, formation leaders, youth leaders, parents, and educators as we consider Shaping Faith in a Digital Culture. How do we form faith, recognize the gospel and nurture Christian identity, all within a digitally saturated culture? Our special guest will be Karen-Marie Yust, M.Div., Th.D., author of Real Kids, Real Faith and professor of Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Learn more and register at ambs.edu/pastorsandleaders.