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The Faith Formation Network: What is it?
By Rev. Emily Carson
One of the ways the Southeastern Minnesota Synod develops leaders and equips congregations is through the Faith Formation Network. The Faith Formation Network is a group of individuals who support the spiritual development of children, youth, and families. Through its monthly gatherings, social media platforms, and annual retreat, the network aims to provide educational opportunities for people of various levels of volunteer and professional experience to become more equipped faith formation leaders. More information about the network and their monthly gathering calendar is available online at http://semnsynod.org/cyf.
The network began back in the 1990s when youth directors would gather periodically to connect and plan synod-wide events for young people. While the group has changed names several times over the last twenty years, the core mission has continued: to create a supportive space for those whose calling is to nurture the faith development of children, youth, and families. Network activities are planned and facilitated by members of the Faith Formation Table. The table was formed in 2016 for the purpose of supporting the synod’s mission of developing leaders and equipping congregations.
Anna Wencl serves as Family Faith Formation Ministry Director at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Mankato, and she participates in the Faith Formation Network. About the network’s overall goals, Wencl shared, “We provide spaces both in person and online to share ideas, challenges, and dreams for the faith development of our children, youth and families…Our community provides a safe space to challenge each other to think about the possibilities for ministry in a changing world.”
The important role of volunteers and staff in empowering and supporting children, youth, and families is crucial. As network member Julie Klock, Children & Family Faith Formation leader at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Northfield described, “Children, youth, and family (CYF) professionals advocate for families within the church. We support families, and we build support systems between families and the church.” The leadership of faith formation volunteers and staff is a powerful force in connecting individuals and families to the life-giving relationships that exist within their local communities and congregations. The synod’s Faith Formation Network exists to provide support and encouragement for all who are called to this important work.
The monthly network gatherings are open to everyone. They take place in a different congregation in the synod each month and run from 11AM-1:30PM. Participants bring their own lunch and begin with a time of open conversation. The monthly gatherings are a time for connecting with others in the field and also a time to learn. The topic for each gathering changes monthly, so attendees can expect something new every time they attend. Wencl shared “Whatever your experience, you’re welcome in our network.”
Two other ways you can connect with the network are (1) through their Facebook group and (2) through their weekly resource posted in the synod’s digital newsletter, RCWeekly. The name of the network’s Facebook group is Southeastern Minnesota Synod Family Ministry. To add your name to the RCWeekly mailing list, please visit http://bitly.com/semnsynodsignup. Members of the synod’s Faith Formation Network rejoice in opportunities to welcome new participants. Please share this issue of The Bridge with anyone who might like to take part in this important ministry of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod.