Why Christian Formation is Important
by Cynthia Coe
Growth is at the crux of the ministry of Christian Formation. As parishes reach out to new members, these newcomers will want to learn about the Christian faith and the Episcopal tradition. It is hoped that these newcomers will become vital parts of the community and will eventually take on roles of ministry and leadership themselves. The ministry of Christian Formation, thus, serves as a crucial link between evangelism and all other ministries in the church.
All of us need nurturing in the Christian faith, whether we might be babies still dripping with Baptismal water, children of current members, teenagers with no church home, newcomers to the community, or those struggling with faith issues presently attending church. The ministry of Christian formation seeks to nourish those seeking faith, help answer difficult questions, help members of the Body of Christ find true community, and lead us all into becoming disciples of Christ and ministers of the Church.
This important ministry is by no means undertaken solely by the clergy or paid Christian education staff. When children or adults are baptized, the priest asks, “will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” It is not a small cadre of Sunday School teachers who run to the font and yell, “I will;” the entire parish responds, “we will.” Christian formation is the task of every member of the parish and happens in a variety of ways. Intentional classes and programs are very important in making dedicated space and time for Christian education and for providing a well balanced curriculum and leadership. After taking part in these experiences, it is hoped that parish members will then go out and be formative, nurturing disciples in other ministries in the parish and in the community.
A Christian Formation ministry might also serve as a model of discipleship and ministry for the rest of the parish. The very best way to “teach” something is to model and demonstrate it. If important work in lay leadership, energy, enthusiasm, and both personal growth and community growth are shown in the ministry of Christian formation, other ministries of the parish will surely take note and might be inspired to revitalize as well.