Tuesday, January 17, 2017

EDUCATION: Writing Your Faith Journey

I love the idea of writing a faith journey. Most people seem to want children or teens to do this, but I have to start out with a reminder that young children have trouble with this kind of thing. They 1) don't reflect well, and 2) don't have much to reflect on. Even when you're in confirmation at 14, there's not a lot to reflect on. Consider the life of a regular 14 year old confirmation student up to that point: Baptism, hopefully taken to Sunday School regularly, they probably don't recognize life events that affect their faith, and are just beginning to be able to analyze and synthesize cognitively, If they have people in their lives who have played a role in their faith development, they may not be able to verbalize why. They just haven't the maturity and experience to draw on. That's why I do a different project for middle school students. I have them create a faith journey poster. It's not as daunting a task as a paper, not to mention that they're just learning to write papers in middle school. However, if you want them to write a paper at that stage they need a lot of guidance. I've posted on this before and created some resources to help with this.

One of my other issues is that we have kids do these projects at the young age of 14 and then never push them to think about it again. If you want to have high school students think about their faith, challenge them with the same project, but expect a little more from them.

If you really want to challenge, encourage, and uplift the adults in your congregation, create an adult class where they think about these things and write their faith journies. You can start by talking about the faith journies of some people in the Bible. Moses and Abraham would have some great stories to tell. David had quite a faith journey as did Paul. If you go through the process below with the Biblical examples it'll be easier for them to go through it with theirs so they don't include too much or too little. They can include baptism certificates, wedding licenses, photos of friends or family members, or anything that helps them express their journey. Here are some questions to help them get started and a resource.
  • What are your faith milestones? These might be somebody in your family getting sick or dying, a time when you were going through personal struggles, loss of job, divorce, drug addiction/recovery, etc. For some people they may just be a stage of life such as going from elementary school to middle school or from high school to college. There may have been particular experiences in college or after that changed the way you think, feel, or perceive faith or religion.
  • Is there anything in your family history that may have affected your faith journey? For example, my mother’s family did not go to church and after my grandmother died, the lady who married my grandpa was Lutheran and insisted the girls be baptized and go to church.
  • Do you have any certificates that play an important role in your faith journey? These might include baptism or confirmation certificates or experiences, wedding licenses or funeral remembrances. How did they affect your faith?
  • What people in your life have had an impact on your faith?  This could be a pastor, youth leader, parent, family friend, or even a childhood friend. It may also be somebody who affected your life negatively. Who was this person and how did s/he affect your faith?
  • What books or other readings have had an impact on your faith? What did they say that made you consider your faith differently?
  • What stories/accounts from the Bible have inspired you the most and why?
  • What Bible character has a story most like my own? How are they similar?
  • Have you gone through any challenging times or celebrations that may have brought you closer to or drove you away from Christ?
  • What parts of your faith journey are evident in your life today?
  • Where has the journey taken you so far? Describe your faith as it is today.
  • What one word or phrase describes your faith journey and why? Looking at all these things in your life. Is there a pattern?
  • What Bible verse best desribes your faith and why? You may want to look at a topical Bible or concordance for help.

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