by Sharon Ely Pearson

Sunday School happens. Vacation Bible School happens. The youth mission trip happens. The Christmas pageant happens. The Lenten Retreat happens. And on it goes. We can get so caught up in the day-to-day details that suddenly time has passed without a deliberate effort to ensure that Christian formation is happening.

Planning is an important step. Some people have a gift for planning, while others do not. That is why planning shouldn't be an individual activity when it comes to planning for Christian education and formation programs. Planning can occur at anytime; allow time to plan at least three or four months in advance so that you are not rushed and all implications can be considered.

There are a variety of roles that individuals take in planning programs. Make a list of those who are in designated roles: clergy, staff persons with oversight of Christian education and formation ministries (including those for children, youth, young adults and adults), education committee members, others who have non-teaching responsibilities (such as snack providers, chaperones), and teachers of all education offerings. Also make a list of those who are in informal roles: parents, mentors, grandparents, caregivers.

A variety of groupings of the above individuals can occur to help shape the planning for Christian education in your congregation. And remember, Christian formation involves all that we do, so that we need to make sure worship, outreach, service, fellowship, and mission are also included when we think of educational offerings. In small-membership congregations, leaders may include representatives from Sunday School classes, midweek groups, and fellowship groups. Provide an opportunity for each of their voices to be heard. Talk together about questions such as: 

  • Where is faith being developed?
  • How does Christian education in our congregation help people to know God and learn the biblical story?
  • What helps people experience the love of Jesus?
  • What other important issues do members of our church need to discuss?

These conversations not only build relationships, they develop commitment, energy, and consensus. Keeping in mind all you know about your unique setting and the Christian education and formation needs of your congregation, make your plans. With your group of planners, first spend time in prayer for this important process. Then begin brainstorming all the possibilities to consider, from the "we-have-always-done-this" to "it-might-be-worth-a-try" ideas. Use newsprint or a dry-erase board to brainstorm. Set priorities and find champions for each idea chosen to move forward with in the coming year.

Sometimes if feels as though the calendar drives our lives. Whether we have a calendar program in Outlook, Blackberry, or a paper journal, the calendar is important for planning work. Start with a blank calendar, perhaps one that already has the Sunday lections and seasons of the church year already on it (find one on this page). Get calendars from your school system to find out when school vacations are. Note other events that will impact your year. Begin to map out the dates to come . . . your planning has begun!

Looking for a church wide calendar to keep track of all events, notifications, supplies, and room usage? Check out ritetime, part of the riteseries from Church Publishing.

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