"Everyone wants a committed group of people rallied around a common vision, advocating for and supporting Christian formation in their parish. So how do you get there?"
Why a Committee? Support and Feedback
Church congregations with healthy Christian formation ministries need more than one or two dynamic staff members. They need a healthy support system. There are many ways to cultivate a strong system of support for Christian formation at your parish. One option is to ask a small group of committed individuals to form a “Christian Education Committee” for the parish. Larger parishes might need a separate committee for children’s ministry, youth ministry, and adult formation.
Many churches have already identified this group of folks, but struggle to figure out the next step. Everyone wants a committed group of people rallied around a common vision, advocating for and supporting Christian formation in their parish. So how do you get there?
- Provide a clear written description of the commitment for group members. Include how often you will meet, and how much time
- Plan your content. Don't just show up and see what everyone wants to talk about. Consider reading a book together, or print out a chapter of a book for everyone to discuss. Check out our suggested 2 books perfect for formation committees.
Create an Email Feedback System
Christian education director, Sue Van Oss at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Duluth, uses an email feedback system. This allows her to get quick and helpful feedback about Christian formation from a group of 15-20 people.
"Our online version works this way: We have an Online Christian Formation Advisory Group. I send out 3 questions to each member of the group – one email per month. Here are the questions:
- A past/evaluation question (how did the Lent Festival go for your family?)
- A present question (what do you think about the kid zone area during coffee hour?)
- A future/planning question (what ideas do you have for our Harry Potter lock-in?)
"People respond via email just to me; which I think allows them to more freely share their thoughts, rather than responding in a group setting. I gather all the comments and make them available.
"The response rate varies. I have some people who reply every month, some not so much. Some people reply with short answers, and some give long, detailed responses. That's the beauty of it. How many people in this group? At the beginning of the year, I offer the opportunity to all parents to be part of the group for the year, and about 15-20 people agree to join."
Whether you have an in-person group, an online feedback system, or a combination of the two – a Christian education committee provides essential support and feedback. The formation ministry of the congregation – and the staff who oversee it – will be all the better for it.
Special thanks to Sarah Bentley Allred for contributing to this article. Sarah is a rising senior at Virginia Theological Seminary. She has overseen Christian formation programs at churches in North Carolina and Virginia.