Faith Formation with Mature Adults

Reposted: 23 Feb 2016 from Key Resources

The following are only a few of the many principles to guide adult faith formation.

Connect to Mature Adult Needs

Adults’ readiness to learn is directly linked to needs—needs related to fulfilling their roles as workers, spouses, parents, Christian disciples, and more; and coping with life changes (divorce, death of a loved one, retirement).

“The content of programs offered in parish ministry for maturing adults rises out of the real situations in which such people live, including moments of transition and daily life” (Johnson, R. P. Parish Ministry for Maturing Adults: Principles, Twenty-Third Publications, 2007, 16). “From the idea of developmental tasks, the concept of ‘teachable moment’ emerges: the idea that one may need to learn something new in order to cope with the tasks of a certain developmental stage” (Dean, G. J. “An Introduction to Development.” Field notes for ABLE Staff, 2007, 11).

All ongoing learning and formation relating to real life needs to help mature adults grow in new understandings and new ways of acting. “Our ministry to maturing adults needs to have utility. Maturing adults asks: How can this improve my life in a concrete way?

They are looking for great ideas, inspiring concepts, motivational insights, and global perspectives, but they want them in ways that make a down-to-earth difference right now.

Because today’s older adults are living longer, are healthy and energetic, ministries with them needs to be viewed as being with and through older adults rather than to older adults. Zanzig reminds us: “Build the faith community ‘from the inside out,’ not from the top down. We will listen, discern, dream, plan, and minister collaboratively, i.e. as a genuine community of disciples with a shared mission.” (Zanzig, T., “Spiritual Transformation: The Heart of Adult Faith Formation,” Lifelong Faith, Fall 2012, 5)

Incorporate Age-Specific & Intergenerational Elements

Ministry for/with maturing adults needs to be both age-specific and multigenerational. Intergenerationality and communities-of-like interest are both needed—the comfort of our own environments as well as the challenge that comes from different ways of thinking and perceiving, deeper experiences of understanding and doing.

“The church is most healthy when it offers diversity. Age diversity is perhaps the most universally recognized diversity in most churches. All the various age groups in the church are intertwined. The ability of one cohort of people in a church to successfully meet the developmental challenges of one stage provides the needed communal context for other cohorts of persons to successfully address their proper and appropriate developmental tasks as well. We are not in isolated developmental boxes; we are all in the same pot. When one ingredient doesn’t or can’t express its unique flavor, then the others cannot express themselves fully either.

Design Holistic, All-Encompassing Programming

Adult faith formation is all-encompassing: “…parish ministry for maturing adults pays attention to three dimensions of growth: spiritual, psychological, and physical” (Johnson, 15). the “content” for adult faith formation for maturing adults needs to be broad, wide, and deep.

We know from research that adult learners will choose the learning activity that best fits their learning needs, preferred modes of learning, and time constraints. In order to accomplish this, faith formation with Baby Boomers needs to provide a variety of content and learning activities, and a variety of models for faith formation that include activities in physical places and virtual spaces.

Realize that one ministry type does not meet all the needs of older adults. Some older adults will enjoy meeting together for a weekly or monthly noon luncheon program, while other older adults would rather be part of a mission team or take part in a community service project.

To help your church discern the needs of maturing adults check out the article “What Are We Providing for Adult Faith Growth?

Opportunities for mature adults need to incorporate various methods:

  • individualized: online opportunities, reading, videos, etc.
  • within home life: conversations, prayer and rituals, etc.
  • in small groups: taking place in various locations (church, restaurants, libraries, homes, etc.)
  • in large groups: retreats, workshops, speakers, etc.
  • throughout the life of the church: worship, service, ministry and leadership
  • within the neighborhood, the community and world: opportunities offered by various civic, religious, educational organizations

These various methods/opportunities remind us of another important principle (which can relieve the worry and workload of s church staff): One congregation doesn’t have to do everything. Be a clearing house and a curator by alerting maturing adults to the vast array of educational, formational, prayer and reflection and service opportunities in the area.


Biblical Art Resource: Old & New Project

Old & New Project screenshot







The Old & New Project

This information has been reposted from Virginia Theological Seminary’s Center for Spiritual Resources..

Christians have a complicated history with images. But one thing we know is that some people need them for effective learning. Images invite a different kind of reflection, engage different parts of our brain, help us see and know and experience with a richness that printed or spoken words often cannot.

A good source for beautiful, thought-provoking Biblical art is the Old and New Project:

Old & New Project provides a platform for contemporary graphic artists to exhibit works themed on Biblical stories and passages. It also aims to introduce a new online audience to Biblical art, attempting to replace popular, yet sometimes low-quality, contemporary Biblical artwork with the kind of accessible and honorable work that has historically been associated with the Bible.

Before using this resource, you’ll want to take a look at the project’s core values. Some learners will struggle with the site’s honesty about the “weird, confusing and improper stuff” with which the BIble is so full.

The site has a generous policy about image use on websites and in presentations, so take advantage of this great source for visual storytelling next time you need to help the Bible come alive in a new way.

– See more at:

What to Do When a Noisy Family Comes to Church

Three Common Mistakes in Designing a Church Discipleship Strategy

Reposted on February 8, 2016 By


Every church should embrace the mission of making disciples and implement a strategy to accomplish that mission. Because the mission of a local church is to make disciples, a strategy is how the church is designed to make disciples. If a church’s strategy is not grounded in making disciples, the church has abandoned the mission Christ has given.

Because discipleship is an ongoing process of becoming more and more like Jesus, a church’s strategy should be her discipleship process. In other words, a church’s discipleship process should be synonymous with her strategy. I wrote on designing a discipleship process just a couple of weeks ago.

As church leaders think about their overarching discipleship process, here are three common mistakes:

1. Viewing discipleship as part of your strategy/process

If discipleship is viewed as merely information, then people are likely to view a teaching environment as best suited for discipleship. If discipleship is viewed as merely behavioral modification, then people are likely to view accountability that is focused on what people are doing as the best expression of discipleship. However, if discipleship is viewed as transformation, then the totality of the church’s focus is on making disciples. Surely this includes people learning the Word, but it also includes people being shepherded in community, serving others, living on mission, and worshiping Christ with their lives.

Ultimately discipleship is about transformation, not merely information or behavioral modification. When you design a process for discipleship, view discipleship as the whole process, not merely a component in it.

2. Over-programming early in your discipleship process

A common mistake is when church leaders craft (or borrow) a new mission statement and quickly throw all their existing programs under the new statement. The old just gets baptized with new nomenclature. The problem with the re-categorization approach is that if leaders just place everything they are doing under a new phrase, they have not really designed a process for spiritual transformation. A major consequence is that church leaders will unintentionally stall people early in the articulated discipleship process. Because people only have so much time, over-programming early in a discipleship process prevents people from moving to steps placed deeper in the process.

For example, imagine First Community Church articulates their process as “exalt, equip, and engage.” Their strategy is to move people from large worship environments (exalt) to places of biblical community and instruction (equip) to places of mission engagement (engage). Sounds good so far.

But First Community Church merely re-categorizes all their programming under their new statement. They place Sunday morning worship services and Sunday night worship services under “exalt.” Under “equip,” they place Sunday school, discipleship groups, home prayer groups, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, and a plethora of other things. Each week in their worship services, the leaders compete for time to promote their “equip” programs.

Do you see the problem? If someone actually went to all of the programs promoted, the individual would be at six different things each week. And he or she still has not served nor engaged unbelievers outside the church. Over-programming early in your discipleship process competes with your process. Over-programming hampers the body by complicating the lives of church members to the point that there is no margin for service or mission.

3. Divorcing mission engagement from the discipleship process

If a church’s discipleship process ends with the church, missions and serving those outside of the church have been tragically separated from the church’s strategy. A church’s discipleship process/strategy may sound like, “Come to our church, get connected, and help us do church better.” If the end result of a strategy is a better church, the church has too shallow a view of discipleship. If you believe what William Temple stated, “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members,” then a church’s discipleship strategy must not end with the church. People must be deployed as salt and light in the world.

Meeting God in the Prayground

A Resurrection Story!

Please take a look at the Ignite Talk given at the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators event held in Chicago in January by Rev. Karen Ware Jackson. Click the link below.

It’s “the story of a little church making space for God to bring new life out of death.” It gives a little background into how they began embracing cross generational worship, and also WHY this is bringing new life to their church.



Walking with Jesus: Program for Holy Week

Looking for some new ideas for the Lenten church season? This edition of Looking Ahead to (found in the Winter 2015 APCE Advocate) includes ideas you can use or adapt to create a program for Holy Week.


“Walking with Jesus” is a  stations-of-the-cross program designed for Holy Week, especially appropriate for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. The program includes visits to 5 stations set up at different locations around the church. (Some may be outside, depending on weather and church grounds.) Decorations and preparation for the stations are fairly simple.

On the day of the event, you’ll need at least two people to serve as helpers at each station. Send groups of 6-12 people through the walk at a time, beginning at the entrance, and rotate them through the stations every 10 minutes. All ages can participate in this walk.

STATION # 1 – Entrance
The experience begins at the front door  of the church, where the group is given a short introduction about how to proceed. The sidewalk leading to the front doors should be covered with fabric pieces and palm branches (fake or real), setting the scene for walking into Jerusalem.
Introduction – Tonight we invite you to experience the final days of Jesus’ time here on earth. We invite you to walk from station to station in the steps of the disciples. So come now—let’s begin our journey. Let’s follow Jesus on the road to the cross.
STATION #2 – Hand Washing
In the church foyer or entryway set up a hand-washing station. Helpers in this station will wash and dry the hands of individuals as they pass by, while sharing the story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet from Eugene Peterson’sThe Message; John 13: 1-20. It works well to have one person hold the bowl while the other dries hands with the towel.
Send group to the STATION # 3 – The Upper Room
This room should be set up with a low table and foods from the Seder meal. Invite the group to sit on the floor around the table, and to taste and/or smell the foods (Zeroah– lamb bone, beytza-egg, maror-bitter herb,haroset-apple mixture, karpas-parsley or celery, matzot–unleavened bread, grape juice) as the Scripture is read: Luke 22: 7-23.

For help in preparing these food for your event, check out one of these sites:

Send group on to STATION #4 – Garden of Gethsemane (preferably outside, near a tree or garden)
Share the Scripture, Mark 14:32-50, and invite the visitors to imagine they are in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. What do they see? What do they hear? What are the disciples feeling? What is Jesus experiencing? What are they feeling?

Send group to cross for STATION # 5 – Golgotha (outside in sight of a cross)
With the cross in sight, share the Scripture, Luke 23:33-49. Ask the group to be completely silent for a minute or two, thinking about what Jesus did for them. Invite them to look at the cross, to think deeply about what it means for each one of us.

Return groups to the Sanctuary for their final Station
If you are waiting for other groups to join you, invite those waiting to share their experiences. What did you find most meaningful on your journey? What surprised you? What touched your heart? What new thing did you discover?
Conclude with words like these:

We walked with him through his final week, step by step, stop by stop. We know that this was not an ordinary walk. We know this is not an ordinary week. We’ve experienced how Jesus might have spent his final days. And we know he suffered all of this for us.

But unlike the disciples, who also walked in his footsteps, we know what’s coming! We know that Easter is almost here—and that Jesus is stronger than evil and death! So leave today remembering the walk but also with hearts filled with the joy of knowing Easter is just around the corner.

Developed by Sandy Safford for FAITHSENSE Consultants for Educational Ministries, LLP

A Brief Statement of Faith: Confirmation, Worship, New Member Resource

Check out this Worship, Confirmation, New Member Video Resource posted on YouTube.
Take a look at this YouTube video that shares the PC(USA) A Brief Statement of Faith (Jesus and Holy Spirit sections), alongside Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.” A large portion of the pictures come from the 2012 Boston Globe Year in Pictures.

The notation indicates it was used at a conference or worship in Montreat Conference Center.