I love being a Protestant minister. I believe in the “priesthood of all believers” and I’m deeply committed to my own Presbyterian denomination’s way of doing things “decently and in order.” But now, in the midst of this pandemic, I am increasingly concerned that, as good as we are at some ways of being the church, mainline Protestants have not sufficiently prepared believers to be religious at home.
The key is helping all of us to unplug from our devices so we can plug into the realm of God.
I needed something like Will Strunk’s Elements of Style for spirituality—pithy rules like “use the active voice” or “omit needless words,” to reorient my life the way Strunk’s book has sharpened up my writing. Here’s what I came up with.
In what is surely a gross overgeneralization on my part, I want to assert that the mainline denominations have, for the most part, not taken spiritual formation seriously—for decades. We take social justice seriously. We take pastoral care and worship seriously. But spiritual formation? Not so much.
However, that is changing. In my consulting practice, congregation after congregation is making spiritual formation a strategic priority. Progressive, centrist, and conservative congregations are feeling a call—a mandate even—to help their members grow spiritually, and are using intentional strategies to that end. To me, the change feels Spirit-driven.
In the last 50 years, much of our new understanding of congregational life emerged from the social sciences, while less attention has been given to the spirituality of congregations and their leaders. Social science has contributed a great deal, but some questions remain stubbornly unanswered. Why can some leaders provide principled leadership for decades while others succumb to ethical lapses? Why are some congregations resilient in the face of setbacks while others fail to bounce back?
by David Brubaker
All of us who worship in or work with congregations know that each congregation develops a unique rhythm in its corporate life. These rhythms are organized both around seasons of the year (e.g., “summer is our slow time”) and around significant holy days and sacred texts (e.g., the celebration of Passover, or the lectionary cycle). Such rhythms not only provide a sense of order and meaning, they also create a cycle of creativity and rest that alternatively stimulates new energies and restores tired bodies and souls.
by Susan Beaumont
On airplanes, adults are told to put their masks on before helping others so they will be fully conscious. In churches, adults need to attend to their own spiritual consciousness before they can ably assist children and youth with faith formation.
Unfortunately, the way we structure our staff teams reinforces semi-conscious adult faith formation. We follow time-honored traditions of staffing faith formation in children and youth first. Then we staff the needs of the organization. We give left-over oxygen to our adults. Can we really “train up a child in the way he should go,” when the quality of adult faith formation is so far behind the quality of our children and youth programs? read more