Why Are We Still Doing This? Moving From Fragmented Formation to Engaged Discipleship: Part II
June 16, 2016—If we want people to feel like they are the church and live their lives in the way of Jesus in an everyday reflective manner, we need to reach and teach and form them in that place! Theology has to happen in our contested spaces, not in clean quiet rooms away from the world.
- If the church takes busy people and gives them more to do, we are creating stress and fatigue. There is literally nothing to learn here.
- If we bring people into a sterile environment that looks nothing like their lives, there is nothing to be remembered here.
- If we have no concept of how to layer formation from one story onto another in the narrative of God’s people, we are limited to superficial roots.
- If we have ignored the sensory palate of existence, we are a one-note band.
- And if we stay sitting we will continue to relegate ourselves to the sidelines of life, off-stage when the important conversation goes down.
So how do we change? I have some ideas we have used to get the creative juices flowing, and I share them hoping you make them even better ideas.
Sermon series. Some people love them, and some hate them, and dwindling regularity of attendance may seem an impediment to building on a week-by-week theme. Please: don’t lower the bar. We cannot achieve what we do not aim for! Sermon series are a tool and should be used with care and moderation-just like a lectionary. But I love their ability to layer new information on top of old in a repetitive but new way. It’s a far better formational method then solitary episodes. Period. Even when I’m fully on the lectionary I’m always thinking: how does this connect the reader with the larger story we are trying to incarnate in the world around us—daily?
Social Media. Was there ever a greater gift for “teaching in the environment in which we live” than social networking? And with the power of video sharing, we can put a visual experience before people wherever they are and whenever they choose to view it. It’s not just messaging in the right place and the right way; it also sparks a repetition of the information, layering new memory on old for better encoding, in the world in which we wish to remember it and live it!
Sermon teasers. I got this idea from a NEXT conference and the folks at 90 Second Sermon. I always felt there were more steps to video posting than I could easily handle doing given my current weekly schedule. Then I saw my friend Kathryn Zucker Johnston posting them, playful and homegrown looking. I decided we could do it, but our way. (In fact, I get the best response from videos that don’t look professional.) All of the sudden I’m a year in and we have pushed a video every week in the middle of the week. They don’t get big viewership, but they are reaching people we often don’t see on Sunday, keeping them connected. Layering, repetition, daily life experience, AND extending our community beyond the walls to those with less ability to be gathered within them.
On the Move. This Advent we decided to get people moving. We did a congregation-wide virtual walk to Bethlehem from Boise, Idaho. Over 100 people contributed, and we walked, biked, swam, stair-stepped, and even snow-shoed the 6,857 miles. It was awesome to see folk get into it. I even had a 92-year-old member doing laps with her walker around her assisted living facility! And all the while we knew that as we walked, we journeyed alongside magi and shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and God who emptied God’s self and was born a child among us.
I’ve hit my word limit and you are done with me because there are no visuals; you’re tired, have a lot to get done, and are stressed. An idea! What if one Sunday the sermon was an invitation to take a nap? Don’t feel shame at sleeping through the sermon. It turns out it might just be the Sabbath we all need and the one we will ALL remember.
What ways are you changing up the status quo to disciple on the road, in the school, at work, and at play? How are you tearing down the dividing walls between sanctuary and God’s good creation?
About Andrew Kukla, MDiv ’03: I am the proud father of four wonderful children, loving husband to Caroline, brother to three mostly wonderful sisters, and son of two parents that gifted me with a foundation of love and freedom.
I also am a Presbyterian pastor and former philosophy major with a love of too many words (written with many grammatical errors and parenthetic thoughts), Soren Kierkegaard, and reflections on living a life of discipleship that is open to all the challenges, ups and downs, brokenness and grace, of a chaotic and wonderful life founded upon the love of God for all of creation.
The opinions expressed within this post are only my own and not those of the places I serve. In fact unless you are reading this right when I post it – they may not even be my opinions anymore. Faith isn’t static, and certainly not my limited understanding of it – that is why I call my blog “Wrestling with Discipleship” and it has yielded me no few limps as well.
The Center for Lifelong Learning offers an abundance of courses and events for pastors and lay-persons seeking vibrant learning and cohort opportunities specifically created to build and enhance skills in Christian education and formation, church leadership, spiritual formation and spiritual direction. Our courses are designed for people at all stages of their ministry. Check out our current classes HERE.
Image detail from Lucas by Chuck Close