The following is an excerpt from our book Faith Formation 2.0.
Traditionally, churches have focused on ministry programs as the primary way of ministering to people. Typically, these ministry programs are geared towards age-specific audiences. It seems to work generally when children are younger. However, as research has shown, as people get older, these ministry programs seem less and less effective.
The diagram above demonstrates that a church can still have a great influence in people’s lives as they transition from youth to being older. In order to continue that influence, the means of achieving it needs to shift. On the left are the individual relationships (i.e. Sharing Life and a person’s individual leadership development opportunities). On the right are ministry programs and in particular the transitions between them. All things being equal, a church can have a significant impact on a young person’s life throughout all stages. Those collective ministry programs will likely be most significant in a child’s faith development. The individual relationships, while important, will not yet be as impactful due to the nature of the adult-child relationship. However, notice as a child gets older, the ministry programs’ impact begins to decrease. This is not to suggest that they aren’t useful. But their overall impact will not be as significant. Inversely, those individual developments (both in Sharing Life relationships and in their own leadership development opportunities) will have a larger bearing on that individual.
A few observations to note here
- Ministry programs are still worth doing and play a critical role despite the changing emphasis over time. Opportunities for collective learning and growth should be encouraged.
- Individual relationships are worth fostering at an early age. Adults can’t automatically assume all teens want to enter a mentoring relationships when they turn 14 years old. However, by building that relationship at an early age, the level of trust needed has already been growing.
- Church leaders need to ensure there are sufficient energies in both areas to foster a faith-sustaining environment.