Missional Faith Formation
The first type of missional programming involves expanding and extending the church’s presence through outreach, connection, relationship building, and engagement with people where they live—engaging with people around their life situation (needs, interests, concerns), their quest for meaning and purpose in life, their drive to make a difference in world and in lives of others, and more. This provides a safe environment for people to explore life-centered and spiritual-centered activities.
The second type of missional programming provides pathways for people to consider or reconsider the Christian faith, to encounter Jesus and the Good News, and to live as disciples in a supportive faith community. Missional faith formation guides people as they move from discovery to exploration to commitment. The catechumenal process with its ritual stages and formational content—participation in the life of the faith community, education in Scripture and the Christian tradition, apprenticeship in the Christian life, intimate connection with the liturgy and rituals of the church, moral formation, development of a life of prayer, and engagement in actions of justice and service.
Missional faith formation expands and extends the church’s presence through outreach, connection, relationship building, and engagement with people where they live—moving faith formation out into the community. This involves developing targeted approaches and strategies designed around the particular needs and life situations of the unchurched and dechurched. These approaches and strategies need to be contextual—built around the congregation, community, and the needs of people. For example:
Missional faith formation provides pathways for people to consider or reconsider the Christian faith, to encounter Jesus and the good news, and to live as disciples in a supportive faith community. Missional faith formation guides people as they move from discovery to exploration to commitment. The catechumenal process provides one example of a pathway with its ritual stages and formational content—participation in the life of the faith community, education in Scripture and the Christian tradition, apprenticeship in the Christian life, intimate connection with the liturgy and rituals of the church, moral formation, development of a life of prayer, and engagement in actions of justice and service. Programs like The Alpha Course and Living the Questions cover the basics of Christianity in a multi-session course in a supportive small group environment. These types of programs and processes provide pathways for people to grow toward a life of discipleship and lifelong faith.
Examples of "Pathways" Resources
Resource Center for Catholic Evangelization: 21st Century Catholic Evangelization
Cornerstone Church (San Diego, CA)
Because Sergio De La Mora and his leaders understand the dynamics of both the “ ‘hood and the high rise,” and they are developing a church culture that is empowering what they call the “Samaritan Generation,” Cornerstone Church in San Diego (www.turningthehearts.com/nationalcity) is becoming one of the nation’s best-known churches in reaching second-generation Hispanics.
Fresh Expressions UK
Fresh Expressions USA
A Fresh Expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet part of any church. In many different places, Christians are stepping out in faith and beginning fresh expressions of church: new or different forms of church for a changing culture. Every fresh expression of church is different. Some are in rural areas and others are in the suburbs. Some are in housing projects while others are on college campuses. Some are primarily for youth , children, or young adults just beginning their careers. Others are based in schools and some in homes. Each is a new adventure for the gospel that brings the church closer to people who might not otherwise experience the need for church. While all fresh expressions are different, there are some guiding principles that tie them all together. Fresh expressions are:
The Gathering (Fargo, ND)
The Gathering in Fargo, North Dakota, is a year-old United Methodist congregation that doesn’t have a building to call its own. What it does have, says its pastor in an interview, is a desire to welcome people who don’t feel comfortable in traditional church. (www.gatheringfm.org)
Hyde Park United Methodist Church (Tampa, FL)
Today, Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa is a growing, missional church -- but it wasn’t always that way. Under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Jim Harnish, the congregation has pursued its vision in serving the community. (www.hydeparkumc.org)
Life in Deep Ellum (Dallas, TX)
Life in Deep Ellum is a cultural center built for the artistic, social, economic, and spiritual benefit of Deep Ellum and urban Dallas. Through its four pillars of Art, Music, Commerce, and Community, it strives to promote life and growth in our city through creative initiatives and strategic partnerships. Life in Deep Ellum is about a way of life, cultivating purpose, and guiding people into relationship with God.
Luther's Table (Renton, WA)
Part of a growing movement to find new ways of doing and being church, Luther's Table in Renton, Washington, is a venue that defies description, a cafe/bar/nightclub/hub that just happens to be a church. (www.lutherstable.org)
What is Pub Theology? Open and honest conversation about things that matter. A table at which all perspectives are welcome. The format is simple: beer, conversation, and God. People engage with others of varying religious traditions, philosophical perspectives and life experiences, and share their own wrestlings and thoughts while learning something new along the way. (Pub Theology Directory)
Saint Lydia's - A Dinner Church & Co-Working Space (Brooklyn, NY)
St. Lydia's is a church where life is lived out around the table. A progressive, GLBTQ-affirming congregation in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, they are working together to dispel isolation, reconnect neighbors, and subvert the status quo. "You’re looking for an experience of the holy. One that is strong enough to lean on, deep enough to question, and challenging enough to change you. If you’re not sure what you believe, rest assured that neither are we. We place practice before belief, trusting that the practice of eating, praying, and singing together that moves us deeper into faith. Instead of trying to figure out what we believe, we’re trying to live what we practice"
Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church (Haw River, NC)
At Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church in Haw River, NC, numbers don't matter, as the small rural church becomes a model of a kind of community outreach that many larger churches can only dream of.
Southside Abbey (Chattanooga, TN)
Southside Abbey practices radical welcome. This is no clique; everyone is welcome just as they are. Southside Abbey is a safe place for people bring their hopes, fears, dreams, and questions. Together the community tries to embody the love of Jesus to one another. They strive to welcome the whole person because somewhere along the way someone welcomed each one of us and loved each one of us in the name of Jesus. The least we could do is return the favor.
Thad's Church (Santa Monica, CA)Thad's Church is a movement of missionary people who've made a choice to leave the relative safety of the established church and take the love of Jesus "to the streets". Our calling is to bring this transforming love into people's lives in positive, transformative and practical ways. In church-speak, they are a "mission station," an experimental community of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles.
Theology on Tap
Renew Theology on Tap is an invitation for young adults to learn more about their faith and to share in the Catholic community, and should serve as a springboard for other young adult initiatives. Renew Theology on Tap is structured around a series of events centering on faith topics of interest to young adults. These events can be held in a restaurant, a parish hall, a coffeehouse, even in a bar; places where young adults already are comfortable and feel welcome. These events feature an engaging speaker presenting a theological topic, time for discussion, faith sharing, and community building.