24 x 7 x 365 Faith Formation? Exploring the impacts of social media from an 'old school' perspective.
An MCC 2011 Reflection by Laurie Neill, MDIV Senior concentrating in Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary
The reality that John Roberto brought to light for me at the 2011 Missional Church Consultation was that it is not only possible, but beneficial, for the church to provide faith formation for anyone, anytime, anywhere, 24x7x365. While I know that our youth (and adults) are connected to each other on many different levels and circles (often at the same time), I never really envisioned ministry as something that would be provided at that same level of complexity. So how do you provide faith formation on that level (for anyone, anytime, anywhere, 24x7x365)?
What I learned after hearing Roberto speak and having conversations with fellow attendees is that a new approach to faith formation is a must if we have any hope at all of keeping “the church” alive. In fact, what I took from conversations is that we have to re-think how we ‘do church’ entirely. We are called not only to “get people to church,” but rather to “reach people where they are at.” I was just reminded of one of the consequences of the loss of Christendom when my son’s girlfriend, Kelsey, and I were talking the other night. The high school is putting on a play called, “Children of Eden.” She questioned me about the significance of the apple and the serpent. I asked her if she had ever heard the creation story and she said she never even went to church until just a few years ago. She has never been to Sunday school and is not confirmed. I was a little taken aback but was thankful for the reminder that not all people have the religious education I assume they have. I can’t teach confirmation with the assumption that kids have even basic knowledge of the Bible or biblical concepts. But there are kids who were raised in the church who do have that knowledge. And these kids are all lumped together in my class. So the linear curriculum we use in confirmation and Sunday School is no longer efficient (and maybe never was but it was all we had).
So what I heard Roberto saying is that our role is to become more of a “faith formation curator.” He went on to talk about the concept of leveraging technology (social media, websites, smart phones, etc.) The practical side of all of this is a mystery to me. I don’t know how to design a website. My kids laugh at my cell phone and how old it is. How am I supposed to be a curator of faith formation using technology? A classmate (who is a lot younger than me, by the way) told me that I don’t have to necessarily know the technical end of things, but instead become an “equipper.” Ideally, I could find someone else to handle the technical side of things, but I would be a leader who helped to direct and create a model for equipping families with information that meets people where they are at. It is not about re-inventing the wheel, but taking advantage of all of the good information and resources that are out there and putting them to use. I have written in my notes to serve as a reminder during this adjustment that “it’s not about technology, but about new delivery methods.”