This post is first in a series based on John Roberto’s new book, “Reimagining Faith Formation in the 21st Century,” which will be available in May from LifelongFaith.com.
Among the most important tasks for 21st century faith formation is to create a new faith formation ecosystem for the continuing mission of making disciples and forming faith across the whole life span. What is an ecosystem? “An ecosystem is a system formed by the interaction of a community of living organisms with each other and their environment” (Dictionary.com). It is any system or network of interconnecting and interacting parts. As an example of interconnecting and interacting parts, think about Apple’s “ecosystem” of hardware and software integration—how you can move seamlessly across Apple devices (computers, phones, and tablets) using the same applications and accessing your content.
For well over 100 years in the United States, Christian churches had a highly integrated religious ecosystem. It was comprised of multigenerational family faith practice and religious transmission at home; strong congregational community relationships; church life, especially participation in Sunday worship; weekly Sunday School for children and youth (and in many cases adults); and separate church groups for youth, men, and women. Many Christian traditions relied heavily on the ethnic faith traditions of their people to transmit faith from generation to generation both at home and at church. All of this was surrounded by an American culture that explicitly or implicitly supported the Christian value system and Christian practices.
This ecosystem has eroded over the past several decades because of all the changes in the culture and society, the family, technology and communication, and more. The environment has changed, and the relationship between congregational faith formation and its environment has changed. We need a new faith formation ecosystem that reflects this changed context.We need a new faith formation ecosystem that reflects and responds to the changes in our world.… Click To Tweet
The new faith formation ecosystem must be faithful to our mission of making disciples and lifelong faith growth, and, at the same time, responsive to the challenges of the 21st century and the religious and spiritual needs of people today. I believe that this new ecosystem incorporates five essential, interconnected components:
- intergenerational faith formation in the congregation
- family faith formation at home
- age group and generational faith formation in a variety of physical places and online spaces
- missional faith formation to the spiritual but not religious and the unaffiliated
- online and digital faith formation
Over the next five articles I will explore each component and how a congregation can begin creating this new faith forming ecosystem. I believe our future depends on creating this new ecosystem in every congregation!