Thriving faith communities come in all shapes, sizes and locations: small clapboard churches in rural areas bursting with children; cathedrals in inner cities justly serving their neighbors; red brick buildings with young adults seeking meaning; churches transforming lives day by day.
Discover best practices
The season of Lent, with many opportunities for reflection and worship, brings renewed interest in Sacrament education. Although understanding the Sacraments is unattainable, intentional study and reflection on Communion and Baptism help participants have a richer, more meaningful experience in the midst of the mystery. Congregations may want to provide Sacrament education to strengthen and deepen the faith of their members.
One tool for beginning conversations about the Sacraments is Gifts of God: The Sacraments DVD and the companion study guide. These free resources were produced by the Presbyterian Reformed Educational Partners (PREP) for educational use in congregations.
Your congregation can watch the video online or download the video and a copy of the study guide from this location.
Gifts of God: The Sacraments
Or order a hard copy of the DVD with the downloadable study guide. You pay only the cost of shipping. Order now
Plan a more in-depth study of Communion using God’s Abundant Table by Cynthia Campbell, a new Witherspoon Press title from Congregational Ministries Publishing. This book, containing key biblical texts for personal reflection and a six-session study guide for adult small groups, is recommended by the 219th General Assembly moderator, Cynthia Bolbach, for the 2011 Lenten study, but the book can be used at any time of the year.
Other resources for Sacrament education and worship planning, including Invitation to Christ for the renewal of the Sacraments in congregations, are available through Theology and Worship.
Make plans this spring to provide Sacrament education for all ages.
Download resources for ministry evaluation
Reformed faith form
Thank you letter
Letter of invitation
An important task for congregations is ministry evaluation. Whether assessing participation in Sunday school or determining overall strength of the congregation, churches thrive when they intentionally ask questions about their ongoing ministries. Where have we been and where are we going? What do we value in our life together? Taking stock is part of planning and dreaming. Evaluation helps churches establish worthy goals.
One focus area for congregational evaluation is the educational ministries of the church. Begin the process by creating a systematic review of the existing courses and classes for each age group. Ask individual members of the Christian education committee to conduct classroom visits. They may begin with the one they attend regularly. Encourage them to participate, to observe, and to listen. Some of the most important insights about the value of any study come from those who are actively engaged in learning.
Ask classroom observers to take notes from their visits. Create a uniform tool for recording important information. The form could include a simple checklist or a set of basic questions. Gather any information that your committee may need to plan for the future. For example consider space needs in relation to the learners. Was the room adequate? Did it seem crowded and uninviting? Another important observation is the number of leaders to students. This is especially important information to consider for children and youth classes.
Committee members may want to ask the leader or teacher for a brief amount of time to talk about the evaluation process and to have a conversation with the class participants. Older children, youth, and adults will appreciate time to express what it means to be students in your church and studying within the community of faith.
Consider creating an online survey through Survey Monkey or other Web tools. Remember to create a set of uniform questions or statements that will glean the information you need to plan. Ask participants to reflect on the strengths of your ministries and consider areas of growth to help them as a disciple of Christ.
Include an opportunity to evaluate curricula that is used during the year. Most publishing companies provide an online or printed form and appreciate feedback. It is important that your education committee evaluate the content that helps meet learning goals more than the flash or the packaging. Use this information to determine resources for the coming year. An evaluation of the materials through the Reformed faith lens is part of this process.
Equally valuable in the year-end evaluation process is an intentional process of “calling” to current leaders and for prospective teachers. Communicate appreciation to this year’s teachers with thank you letters and small tokens. Make plans for a celebration Sunday to recognize leadership. Extend an invitation to all teachers to reflect and discern their ongoing call. Include a covenant card or form to return for the convenience of current teachers. After determining needs for the coming year, create a separate letter of invitation for potential leaders, identified by the committee. Prepare a FAQ sheet about education at your church; follow-up letters with phone calls and personal visits.
Evaluation takes a certain amount of organization and administration. The benefits far outweigh the investment of time. Consider your church’s worthy goals!
Share best practices
Do you have an example of best practice in faith formation that you would be willing to share on this Web site? Please submit your ideas through Educational Ministries.