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Faith Formation replaces Partners in Education

By Lorna Kropp

The research and report Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi prepared for the national United Church of Christ, “Foundations, Findings and Future: Christian Education and Faith Formation in the UCC,” was delivered in September 2012.

Ben Guess, executive minister for Local Church Ministries, mentioned this work last April at PNC Annual Meeting.

Gale Peterson and Lorna Kropp

Gale Peterson and Lorna Kropp, who have been education consultants since 1999,are shown at a 2010 training.

Recommendations in the 137-page report have resulted in the decision to end the focus on Partners in Education and education consultants who have been available to help local congregations and conferences plan for education programs.

The future will bring an attempt to expand access to current resources and encourage more people in every congregation to look at faith formation or spiritual formation in their own settings. Everyone is invited to share their best practices and to learn from each other.

One insights from the Partners in Education program, as resources were gathered, was that, in addition to the traditional curricula written by church educators and collaborative multi-denominational efforts, the four UCC covenanted ministries’ staff also have written educational materials and small group, retreat, workshop materials that they offer.  These include the Still Speaking series, the Church Vitality series, global ministries and stewardship materials. There was no shortage of resources.

A second insight is the shift from understanding learning in the church setting as age-group, classroom-based learning to holistic learning that is “life long,” active and involves more than intellectual understanding.  It includes worship, social action and community sharing. 

Learning in the church is now understood as faith formation or spiritual formation. Practicing faith involves worship, working for justice, gathering for potlucks, celebrating and playing around events and having deep conversations.

The third reality to impact the decision to end the education consultants and Partners in Education is the reduced financial support to national structures and the need to use financial resources wisely.

Resources for churches to use will still be available from the UCC store, and many more will be accessible online. 

The new bi-weekly “edUCCators epistle” features books, curricula and sale items and more from the UCC, available by signing up on the website and adding “educator” to your profile, or by emailing The eight modules of “Faith Practices” are available now for $300.

In addition to the all-ages curricula—Seasons of the Spirit, Gather Round, Present Word, Our Whole Lives, Caffeine, Embracing Series—the website will include resources produced by local congregations.

The three Partners in Education for the Pacific Northwest Conference have been Gale Peterson of Kirkland UCC, Lorna Kropp of Westminster UCC in Spokane and Donald Schmidt of Admiral UCC in Seattle, and initially JoAnne Conard of Broadview UCC in Seattle.

Moving forward, congregations must note the change and be aware of their life as an opportunity for faith formation at all stages of life—“wherever you are on life’s journey.”

John Roberto in Faith formation for everyone, anytime, anywhere: A lifelong faith formation network for the 21st century said: “Faith formation will look, feel and operate as a network and an ecosystem that assumes learning is a process of active inquiry with the initiative residing within the individual.”

He continues:  “a variety of content, programs, activities and resources should be offered to individuals and groups who want to engage in faith formation. Because people’s own faith paths and needs are diverse, a number of ways to engage are necessary.  A network offers the opportunity for individuals to create their own personal learning pathways.”

For those who wish to follow up, the the full document and executive summary by Lizardy-Hajbi, minister for Christian faith formation research with Congregational Vitality and Discipleship, Local Church Ministries, are available to download at “Foundations, Findings and Future: Christian Education and Faith Formation in the UCC” and “Christian Education Faith Formation—Executive Summary.”

The following are samples of resources listed in the report:

• Darkwood Brew, Omaha, NE, at, is a UCC church that broadcasts a weekly webcast from a coffee house, recently with skype interviews with the UCC Stillspeaking writers group.

• Vibrant Faith Ministries, related with the work of Roberto, provides cutting-edge technology and resources in ministry with families at home. The website of resources called “Vibrant Faith @ Home” at has activities families of all ages.

• Resources for children include Godly Play, Godly Play Foundation at

• A Joyful Path: Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds (Ages 6-10), Center for Progressive Christianity is at

• Youth resources include “re:form, sparkhouse”  at, “Which Way to God? A Christian Look at World Religions, Faith Alive Resources” at, and the Caffeine series for youth.

• Adult resources include “Embracing…” Series, Church Publishing Incorporated at “Embracing an Adult Faith” with Marcus Borg, “Embracing the Prophets in Contemporary Culture” with Walter Brueggemann,Stillspeaking Bible studies, and other short-term, small group resources.

Conferences are encouraged to plan support and training that makes sense for their settings, and grants will be available to add up to $500 to conference resources for events and projects.

For information, call 509-448-2291.

Copyright © December 2012 - Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News


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