As leaders, we have incredible opportunity in the midst of the pandemic to lead differently. We have been given the privilege to reimagine how we disciple children, youth, and families. Our patterns of worship can be shifted. It appears that many people in our congregation may be open to new shifts.
And yet, we have fallen into the trap of trying to get back to what we used to do. So we centre our gatherings back around the message. We fail to provide meaningful community. We strive to provide two or three gatherings when we used to only do one so that we can socially distance. We are looking to reclaim our territories we held before the pandemic.
We seem to be missing out on the opportunity to wonder where God is leading us. Michel Foucault, in a 1978 lecture, spoke about God’s identity as a shepherd. He comments how “the shepherd’s power is not exercised over a territory but over the flock in its movement from one place to another … The Greek god is a territorial god, but the Hebrew God is the God moving from place to place, the God who wanders.”
Over the last five months, I’ve been wondering where God is leading us. As we face a once-a-century pandemic (hopefully!), where is God wandering?
Here are some of my questions:
For the last several decades, we have professionalized the faith formation of children and youth. Could God be reminding us that faith formation happens best in the family?
For the last several decades, we have sent children out of our sanctuaries, telling ourselves that they learn best in age-appropriate gatherings. But have we silenced their voices, robbing ourselves of the wonder and joy they bring into our gatherings? Have we reduced faith formation to an educational model?
What if, in the midst of social distancing, we brought children back into the sanctuaries? What if, instead of simply giving them a clipboard and causing already-stressed-parents more stress to keep their children quiet, we welcomed the voices of children? What if we shifted our preaching model, and tried out new models that involve children and encourage their participation?
What if we embraced the cyclical nature of our faith? What if we reclaimed the words of Psalm 78 and committed to generations passing faith onto the next generations?
Church leaders, this is our time to try new things. The decisions we make now will influence faith formation for decades to come. Are we content with how things have been, or are we willing to experiment, to fail, and learn new methods? Great writers and researchers, like Drs. Kara Powell and Chap Clark suggest that adults and children should be experiencing worship together.
Are we committed to seeing our children and students embrace the way of Jesus? Are we going to hold onto our territories, or will we see where God is leading us? This is the time to experiment with our models of discipleship, reminding ourselves that the most important thing is not to provide religious gatherings, but to make disciples.
What one new thing are you hoping to try this fall as you continue to make disciples? How else do you see God leading us into new wanderings as the pandemic continues?