Formation in the 21st Century
What does it mean to be a loving and witnessing community of faith in the 21st century? What trends and tools are emerging? Where do you and your congregation want to go?
The 2017 Christian Formation Conference at Kanuga explores avenues that facilitate faith formation in an era of change. Keynoter John Roberto, a vibrant and passionate public speaker, has spent his entire life devoted to the subject. Celebrating, serving, learning and praying with others, he shares progressive measures of strengthening and nurturing growth in the spiritual lives of individuals and congregations within our communities. Register now, and join us June 12 – 16, 2017.
Roberto is the president of LifelongFaith, an association he began to help congregations and leaders develop programming and tools to connect people from every generation and culture. With 47 years’ experience in the field, he is more than an expert on Christian formation, he is an innovator. His research examines current issues, trends and technology to assist others in reaching and connecting with individuals and communities of faith.
An ecosystem of Formation
In addition to speaking and holding workshops at many national conferences, John Roberto is an author. His most recent book, Families at the Center of Faith Formation, discusses the ecosystem within a family unit and how it is one of the most crucial opportunities to influence people spiritually. He also studies cross-generational ministry and the focus of this year’s Christian Formation Conference – reimagining the church in the digital world.
Despite diminishing attendance at events such as Lenten workshops, Roberto believes our current technology offers tools and the ability to reach more people in an enhanced way. We are all experiencing the same issues—parishes, mosques, synagogues—and there are promising pathways to addressing these difficulties . . . digital platforms and websites.
“The bottom line in this ecosystem is adaptive change. We must be more intentional about all of these environments and strengthen connections within our communities. From supporting families at home and in their neighborhoods to engaging in missional outreach, finding ways to relate and connect with the no longer active and rethinking how we address these issues will create opportunities for real change.”
Roberto contemplates the internet and mobile revolutions, as these forums allow for “portable, personal and participatory information.” Approximately half of the world’s seven billion residents own smartphones – a staggering statistic he shares with his audiences. The statistics are not relayed to overwhelm these leaders, but to make them realize the “need to adapt when a classic strategy isn’t working anymore. Time is the most precious commodity these days. Organizers should not spend their time sustaining programs that don’t work. Redirect that energy and replace those activities with something new that will address more current needs.”
In order to transmit a tradition and form lifelong growth, there are challenges even with our new resources. “We need to educate children and teens in digital literacy. Every era of the Church has used the technology of the day – 500 years ago it was the printing press. Today it’s the internet. It’s only been about 10 years that we’ve widespread WiFi, but we can’t be fearful of what’s new. Printing presses didn’t only print Bibles.”
Making the connection
Formation within the Episcopal Church is outlined in this charter which states that God invites, inspires and transforms all people. So how do we unite in light of the changes to come? John Roberto observes that people are finding others in online communities every day.
“Churches need to be present there. If we don’t engage people where they already are, we can’t expect them to meet us where we are—in church. We only have a small slice of people’s time and attention, so we must make this time truly special and unique by giving digital users a caring community to embrace them, online and in person. We must actively form these connections. Multi-platform outreach is essential, and content must be fresh and alive.”
Roberto ends by expressing how individuals will benefit from attending the 2017 Christian Formation Conference: “Participants will determine what is worth their time. It will help us initiate trusting, caring conversations that we can carry over to invite people to experience the Gospel. At the conference, we’ll have extended time to develop a sense of vision and transform conversation into practice.”