Faith Practices Project Launches
Faith Formation Ministries
Responding to one of the four milestone goals of the CRCNA’s new Ministry Plan: Our Journey 2025, which calls on CRC ministries, churches, and individuals to “cultivate prayer and spiritual disciplines,” Faith Formation Ministries (FFM) plans to engage this goal intentionally and enthusiastically over the next five years.
In fact, FFM’s new Faith Practices Project kicks off in September with the first of monthly suggestions on faith practices that people can embrace over the next year.
“Our goal for all of these efforts is that they will help people of all ages find new and creative ways to develop lifelong faith practices as together we become more and more like Jesus,” said Chris Schoon, director of FFM. “In so doing, we anticipate that we will grow in our love for God and for our neighbors.”
There are dozens of faith practices — developed over centuries — for people to use in their lives to help them grow spiritually and bring them closer to God.
To narrow the scope, in 2020-21 FFM will begin its focus on one practice per month in September with an emphasis on sabbath, the spiritual rhythm of rest — not just on Sundays but in different ways throughout the week.
October’s focus will be on gratitude as a foundation for all of these practices; November’s will be on generosity, which arises from gratitude and thankfulness; and to round out 2020 the emphasis in December will be on hospitality, focusing on welcoming Jesus into our lives and reaching out to and welcoming others, said Sandy Swartzentruber, resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries.
Featuring books, articles, and other resources, links will be provided for each of these topics to help people delve more deeply into the spiritual practices either on their own or in groups or families.
“We are both creating and curating resources to make available the best we have found in and beyond the CRC," said Swartzentruber. "You won't have to go to the ends of the internet to find these resources.”
Once seen as peripheral at best in the CRC, these practices and how they play into overall spiritual development are now taught at seminaries and schools across North America and are practiced individually, in small groups, and in Sunday worship. These developments have also grown the field of spiritual direction, in which people work with a person schooled in these practices to grow in their own spiritual life.
Schoon said FFM will be inviting people to engage these faith practices in various ways. For instance, they will be creating a webpage for each practice to share resources, including
- a “framing article” about the practice.
- ideas for how individuals, groups, families, and congregations can explore the practice. They’ll also develop a “5 Ways to Practice [fill in blank] with Kids” resource in the Dwell at Home 5 Ways series for each practice.
- resources to support church leaders, such as weekly Faith Practice tips for churches to share as they wish (via bulletin, email, social media, etc.), a meme to go with each tip for churches and for FFM to share on social media.
Schoon said there are also ideas and suggestions for
- encouraging FFM team members to blog on the 12 practices over the next year on The Network.
- inviting other Congregational Services ministries to engage these practices in their work.
- crafting questions on the practices to include in future podcast interviews.
- forming experimental online “faith practice learning communities.”
“Our desire is to collaborate and encourage contributions from other ministry areas as we focus on this priority during 2020-21,” said Schoon.
Swartzenruber added: ‘Other CRC ministries have also engaged the spiritual disciplines in various ways already, such as through the Pastors’ Spiritual Vitality Toolkit from Pastor Church Resources and FFM.”
Recognizing that the Our Journey 2025 priority on prayer and spiritual disciplines will serve as a guiding focus for the next five years, from 2021 to 2025, Schoon said, “we’ll build on the resources shared in 2020-21, share resources on additional practices, and begin other initiatives to strengthen faith practices in the CRC.”
Schoon said they are highlighting specific spiritual disciplines in the hope that people become aware of the disciplines they are already using in their lives. That might be patience when you are in traffic; the willingness to really listen when someone is talking to you; and perhaps offering someone a well-placed compliment.
"It's a matter of becoming more attentive to God's presence and activity through these practices so that we can respond to the Spirit's leading in our daily lives," said Schoon.
By slowing down and entering into prayer, meditation, taking the time for silence, carefully reading Scripture, and becoming open to the work of the Holy Spirit, you can start “to realize that spiritual life is about being attentive to what is going on in your life and in your church’s life,” said Swartzentruber.
“Some of these are things we are already doing that we may not recognize as being spiritual disciplines,” said Schoon. “We hope this project helps people to recognize when God might be speaking to them, when the Spirit is shaping them in a particular way.”