This blog is part of our Faith Formation Roundtables series.
Shana Peachey Boshart, as denominational minister for Faith Formation for Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), nurtures a network of MC USA faith formation leaders to grow faith in people of all ages. Shana has formal training in coaching and spiritual direction and is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). She is a member of Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Elkhart, Indiana.
When I was a child, we lived a three-hour drive from our extended family, and we made that drive often. When my cousin and her family were coming to our house, waiting for them to arrive was nearly unbearable. “I can’t wait!” became a familiar phrase. “The day after tomorrow” took forever to arrive, and time crawled by slowly, minute by minute and hour by hour, before she arrived at my house. And when she arrived — what joy! We could play together for days!
For children, the time passes more slowly than for adults. One year in the life of a six-year-old is one-sixth of his life.
For children living through the current pandemic, life before the pandemic must seem like a distant memory.
The pre-pandemic routines of school, play and church have been replaced by new routines that mostly take place at home.
Many families with young and middler children have been challenged and stressed beyond reasonable limits. Many church leaders have struggled to know how to offer faith formation opportunities or how to equip parents to initiate faith conversations at home. As we adults struggle to know what to do, children are adjusting to a new reality that may or may not include solid faith forming activities. Yet, children are being formed by present circumstances; their faith formation doesn’t wait for more opportune conditions.
Many congregational leaders are finding new practices that do work in the current circumstances. While facilitating coaching cohorts, I’ve heard a children’s ministry leader tell of keeping a stack of new library books in her car and delivering a small stack of books to the families with children, picking them up two weeks later, leaving them in the trunk for a few weeks (to starve any virus), then delivering them to another family. Every stop outside a child’s door opens a conversation with that child and their parents. It gives the leader a chance to look the child and parent in the eyes and ask, “How are you?”
I’ve heard of a children’s minister who creates stations in the fellowship hall and hosts masked families, encouraging them to move through the stations in social-distanced pods. The families stay for a short while, do a few activities together in the familiar space of their faith community, chat with their pastor and wave to other families across the room. This visit to church becomes a weekly touchpoint for faith conversations, safely following COVID-19 protocols. These are things we can do, even now!
One of the best ways to hear ideas and be encouraged is to get together with others facing the same challenges. Join the August 17 Faith Formation Roundtable to share and hear others share what’s working, what’s flopped, what is most challenging and what is most encouraging, as you prepare Sunday School or other faith forming activities for children for this fall. I look forward to being with you on Zoom! You don’t need to register, so there won’t be an email to remind you; copy this link into your calendar for 2:30 p.m. EDT / 11:30 a.m. PDT.
By getting together to share the load, we can give our children faith forming experiences, even now!
Faith Formation Roundtables focus on faith formation in Children’s and Youth Ministries.
Click here to read more about the Faith Formation Roundtables.