PLANNING FOR CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND FORMATION

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1 SERVING THE NEEDS OF LEADERS IN CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND FORMATION PLANNING FOR CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND FORMATION S unday school happens. Vacation Bible school happens. The Christmas pageant happens. Lenten Fair happens. And on it goes. We can get so caught up in the day-to-day details that suddenly time has passed without a deliberate effort to ensure that Christian formation is happening. Planning is essential and must be done thoughtfully and wisely. GETTING READY TO PLAN Begin anytime. But you may want to think about planning for a year. That may be the calendar year, from January through December, or it may be a school year, such as from August to July. At the least, plan about three or four months in advance. Decisions About Who Helps to Plan You may be tempted to initiate planning by yourself, but this kind of planning misses the wealth of knowledge that is available when others join the process. The work of the whole is more than the work of the individual parts. Do you know who the leaders of the Christian education and formation ministries are in your congregation? Use the chart, What Is Your Situation (below) to help you recall some of the members of your congregation who have a strong commitment to the Christian education and formation ministries of the church. These people are potential partners and allies who can support and encourage opportunities and relationships that deepen their own faith and the faith of others. Perhaps they are leaders of Christian education and formation ministries who need to join you in reading this book. There is a variety of groupings of people who can help shape the planning for Christian education in your congregation. Consider these potential partners: Leaders of Christian education and formation in your church. In small-membership congregations, leaders may include everyone involved in some aspect of Christian education and formation ministry. In larger congregations, leaders may include representatives from Sunday school classes, age-level councils, midweek groups, fellowship groups, and other small-group ministries. Staff and selected leaders from various congregational ministries who can represent the whole church s programming of ministries and will also help to prevent double booking on the church calendar. Small groups of people meeting to talk together about questions such as Where is faith being developed? How does Christian education in our congregation help people know God and learn biblical truths? What helps people experience the love of Jesus? What other important issues do the members of our church need to discuss? These conversations not only build relationships, they develop commitment, energy, and consensus. Settings to Consider Christian education and formation happens in Sunday school, but not only there. In one way or another, Christian education and formation is a component of everything that happens as a part of the congregation s ministry including worship, fellowship groups, community dinners, and committee meetings. There are, however, some ministries that are the direct responsibility of Christian education and formation leaders, although the particular responsibilities will depend on your congregation s organizational structure. In your planning process, consider a variety of settings in which Christian formation could take place. 1

2 Include different times of day and days of the week. Think about other locations away from your church facility or in an area of the church different from the one where Sunday school usually meets. Consider the needs of the participants and the requirements of the curriculum. Then be creative with the possibilities for settings. Take a Sunday school class to the home of a homebound member. Do vacation Bible school at a nearby park or at a farm. Hold a brown-bag Bible study at an office building or a community center. Planning for People Think carefully about the people you are planning for and about their deepest needs. Think (or learn) about their developmental, physical, spiritual, and social needs. (See the chart, Planning for People. ) Traditionally we have planned for people by dividing into specific age groupings or grades in school or life-stage groupings. This plan works well, but it is not the only way. Consider across-age groups, teams of two or three families, groups of families of varied ages, or intergenerational classes. You may wonder, How can we do all this? Where will the time and energy come from to do all these great things? Clearly, you may have to choose and pare down to work within your capacities, so what criteria can you use to set priorities? Think about the needs and gifts of people in your congregation or community who are differently-abled. Plan for their inclusion to the fullest extent possible. As necessary, provide partners in learning to provide respite or support for family members. Remember those who are unable to attend Christian education events. For homebound members, use today s technology to include them in learning experiences or take the class to them. For those who travel frequently or who have regular family obligations, provide travel kits containing curriculum, a choice of learning activities to do, or a regular means for keeping in touch. MAKING THE PLANS Make your plans, keeping in mind all you know about your unique setting and the Christian education and formation needs of your congregation. First spend time in prayer. Then begin brainstorming all the possibilities to consider, from the we-have-always-done-this to it-might-be-worth-a-try ideas. Put the list on newsprint or a dry-erase board so everyone can see it. When everything is listed Move all the must do items (Promotion Sunday, Christmas program, teacher training). to a Planning Worksheet (below). It will be helpful for each person to have his or her own copy of the worksheet. Ask everyone to put an X by anything left on the list that they personally would like to help lead or organize and an O by anything they would like to attend or see occur. Tally the X s and O s, and move the items with the most marks to the Planning Worksheet. Continue with the Worth a try items until there is a general consensus that it is time to quit adding to the Planning Worksheet. Setting Priorities As the Planning Worksheet grows, you may begin to wonder, How can we do all this? Where will the time and energy come from to do all these great things? Clearly, you may have to choose and pare down to work within your capacities, so what criteria can you use to set priorities? How will you decide? It is our job as planners of Christian education and formation to teach the fundamentals of the faith, to provide a safe place to learn and to experience Christian community, to provide opportunities for skill building (praying, serving, Bible study, worshiping, celebrating the sacraments, Christian conferencing) and knowledge building (Bible, United Methodist history, rituals, and hymns and songs), and to have fun. In addition, as planners of Christian 2

3 education and formation, it is our task to provide the best teachers, small-group leaders, and administrators possible. Make a list of the important elements for effective Christian education in your congregation. What is the vision of the church and this ministry? What are the essential values? After making the list of what is important, filter all of the ideas and plans through the lens of your vision and values. Those that accomplish the vision or conform to your values, keep for further consideration. Those that don t further your mission, set aside. Even with this filtering, you will need to set further priorities for what can be done when and by whom. Then, using what remains on the active Planning Worksheet, set your priorities. Individually review the priority given on the Planning Worksheet for each event. Work together to develop a consensus on the priority for each event. Then delete those events, classes, or groups that were consistently given low priority. Spend most of your time focusing on the planning of the high priority events. Consider the Calendar Sometimes it feels as though the calendar drives our lives. As much as we would like to throw it out the window, the calendar is important in our planning work. You should pay close attention to two calendars in particular. One is the Official United Methodist Program Calendar available through United Methodist Communications. This calendar has a variety of helps for planning for ministry: lectionary references, Christian holidays, United Methodist special days and offerings, and information on contacting general church agencies. Another calendar is the one used by your church for planning your local church events, meetings, classes, and so forth. If you do not already know, find out where this official calendar is located in your church. Find out how dates are added to the church calendar and how information moves from this calendar to the church newsletter and bulletin. Who is the custodian of the calendar? Even in small congregations it is important to track dates and planned events. Now, with the church calendar and the United Methodist Program Calendar in hand, begin blocking dates and events on a clean sheet of newsprint or dry-erase board. Watch for conflicts. Pay attention to discussion that may lead to an event increasing (or decreasing) in priority. Take responsibility to make certain that dates and times of your events, meetings, and classes are on the church calendar and clarify any potential conflicts. Flexibility is now key. The best of plans may go awry. Current situations may bring about the need for developing other plans. But at least now you have a plan to work from, and that can be the basis for detailed planning. The Official United Methodist Program Calendar is available through UMCom ( ) and at Cokesbury ( ) or This pamphlet is prepared by the Faith Formation and Discipleship Groups at the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church and may be reprinted for use in the local church 2010 GBOD. For more information about the needs and requirements in specific ministry areas, see the leadership series Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, which includes Christian Education Children s Ministries Youth Ministries Adult Ministries Family Ministries Small Group Ministry Go to or call Please also visit our website 3

4 POTENTIAL PLANNING PARTNERS Modify the lists to reflect your setting. Designated Roles Write the names of people who hold these positions. Add or change roles as appropriate. Pastor Staff person with oversight of Christian education and formation ministries Education committee members Informal Roles Write the names of people who have passion for the church and for the faith growth of others. Parents who demonstrate vital faith by their presence and spiritual practices Professionals who are not currently in formal positions (designate if active or retired) Sunday School Superintendent Others who have non-teaching responsibilities for classes and small groups Informal mentors, parents, and grandparents who make special efforts to bring children and youth to educational opportunities Teachers of all Christian education offerings Older adults of deep faith, including homebound members Other formal designated leaders Other informal leaders 2010 GBOD. This page may be reproduced for use in the local church. 4

5 PLANNING FOR PEOPLE Write the names of the people for whom you plan in the blanks provided. Include children, youth, and adults, regardless of whether they come regularly. Include families who like to attend events and programs together. Check the ministry opportunities already available for each one. Then look at those places where there are blanks. You may need to plan for new ministry options. Names Bible Study Opportunities Developing a Prayer Life Mission Outreach Life Issues Discipleship Accountability Stewardship Education Developing Relationships Worship Education Leadership Training 2010 GBOD. This page may be reproduced for use in the local church. 5

6 PLANNING WORKSHEET Possible Date(s) Event, Class, or Group Subject or Theme Potential Location Primary Audience Priority (low, medium, high) Responsible Person or Team 2010 GBOD. This page may be reproduced for use in the local church. 6

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