A Reflection on Formation
By the Rev. Joslyn Schaefer, Grace in the Mountains, Waynesville
Less than three years ago, there were no youth programs at Grace. When I was hired as rector, the church decided to make one of its top missional priorities to develop a vibrant ministry to children, youth, and young adults. Now, we approach Christian formation of our young people in three different Sunday School classes.
In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for ages 3-6, Christ is the only teacher. The adult in the room is simply the catechist, the one who guides. We use the term “Catechesis” deliberately, to differentiate the child’s spiritual formation from their academic formation where terms like teacher and classroom are used. In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we invite children to recognize and celebrate their innate connection with God through the image of the Good Shepherd. Cultivating and exploring this connection is the child’s “work.”
Godly Play is for ages 7 - 11, a great time in a child’s life for discovering more about God and our relationship with our creator. Godly Play is based on a Montessori approach and allows the child to explore their faith through a story and play. Teachers guide the children through the stories, follow each with a time of wondering: What part did you like best? What is the most important part? Which part is about you?
Rite 13 is for middle and high schoolers. The teachers of Rite 13 work tirelessly to schedule outings for the group in order to strengthen their bonds with shared activities and learn how they can apply Jesus’ teachings to the real world. This year, they started a compost bin for the church Giving Garden, assisted exuberantly with the Easter Egg Hunt, and led one of the lessons at the Lenten program with insight and laughter. Rite 13 serves as a bridge to help youth transfer into leaders in the church, the community, and beyond.
This summer, in lieu of Sunday School and with the help of our Service Intern Madison Owen, we are test-driving Children’s Chapel, an interactive church experience for kids who are too old for the nursery but too young to fully absorb the lessons and Gospel as taught during the service. Children will spend the first half of the service learning the same teachings on a level closer to their mental capacities and will be encouraged to think more deeply about the Scripture through a song, game, or craft. Children’s Chapel is a safe space for the kids to ask questions, strengthen faith, and have fun.