Tuesday, February 24, 2015

We had a lively discussion at our last CEF gathering exploring the book The Class Meeting by Kevin Watson. Here is my summation of our discussion regarding types of small classes/small groups.

Kevin Watson distinguishes three types of classes: Affinity Groups, Information-driven groups, Transformation-driven groups. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each at our last CEF meeting. We did note however, that some groups could contain elements of each. We even discussed that some things can be both a strength and limitation. For example, while vulnerability great, it also opens the door to damaging gossip. See if you would add anything to our list:
Affinity Groups
Ø  Strengths
o   Building relationships
o   Invitational or entry point
o   Can build trust
o   Usually only a short time commitment
Ø  Limitations
o   Only surface level engagement
o   Often appear to be a closed group
o   Often discontinuity within the group participants
Informational-driven Groups
Ø  Strengths
o   Structure
o   Control
o   Easier to communicate specifics about the group
o   Scheduled
o   Learn foundational theological language and tools
o   Long-standing
o   Build a level of trust and comfort (some community)
Ø  Limitations
o   Can be closed off
o   Not always aiming for life application
o   Doesn’t not always become challenging enough
o   Often personality driven
o   Often lecture oriented
o   Focus is often on the intellectual
Transformational-driven Groups
Ø  Strengths
o   Focus on Transformation
o   This focus can spread to other groups
o   Facilitates an encounter with Christ
o   Fosters deeper trust, intimacy, and community
o   Ability to foster vulnerability
Ø  Limitations
o   Requires trained, skilled teachers
o   Takes a while to develop depth
o   Could foster Gossip

Do you see some other strengths or limitations we did not mention? 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Balance and Tension: Old and New

Looking back at my experiences at the National CEF Conference, I am struck by the tension between the old and the new. The organization itself is living out that tension – changing the name from Christian Educators Fellowship to Christians Engaging in Faith Formation and moving the structure from Chapters to Communities of Practice.

The workshops and conference activities also reflected the tension between the old and the new. Melanie Gordon and Michael Gordon explored ways to welcome children back into corporate worship. Rosemary Brown included the age old practice of storytelling in her Bible studies. While other workshops explored designing ministries with internet startup techniques and using modern marketing techniques to promote ministries.
On the last day news of the next conference was announced. We will be returning to Nashville with a new format to be announced later.

Clearly, some are struggling with change, while others are ready to jump into new ways without looking back. What is needed is a balance – keeping old practices that are still effective while being open to new ideas which can add new life to ministries.

Dena Kitchens

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

CEF 2014 Conference Observations

This was my first CEF Conference and it was wonderful.  I met Senior Pastors, students, and lay leaders from all over the country.  I even met two people who know people from my current church.  One has been a long time friend of my current pastor.  The other is the niece of a long time member of my current church.  I also met a student leader from Minneapolis who took the MegaBus down to the conference. I met a Lay leader from Connecticut who did virtually everything in her church and we talked about the need to delegate.  This was her tenth straight conference.
The prayer kits were a nice touch and something that can easily be implemented in a church if not already available.
The workshops either emphasized the importance of things that we are currently doing at my church or gave new ideas for providing Christian Education.  For example:
The pre-conference workshop on Christian Educator Preparation reaffirmed the need for curriculum review and offering an introductory course on the Bible for adults each year.
The Techno Savvy Educator provided a myriad of free resources for incorporating technology and the internet into church Bible study course offerings.  This is an area that we need to develop in my church in order to reach young adults and techno-savvy middle-age and older adults.
Teaching the Way Jesus Taught talked about how the time in which Jesus lived and taught influences the way we teach today.
Adaptive Leadership provided new insights into how Moses and Aaron changed their leadership styles as necessary during the Exodus.  This showed leaders today that your leadership style needs to change to match the situation at hand, to achieve new goals.
Professional Certification provided information on how leadership can be obtained simultaneously with certification courses.  Certification provides Biblical and theological training, knowledge of the structure of the United Methodist Church and its resources, skill development, among other information, such as why be certified.
The Lord’s Prayer with movement was new and different.  Movement can be used to enhance your worship experience.
Violence:  A Christian Perspective centered on bullying, a situation that affects the church and that the church needs to take steps to address.
In his opening Conference address, keynote speaker Rev. Dr. James Harnish talked about, among other things, what it looks like to be a Methodist.  He encouraged attendees to re-kindle, stir up the gift that God gave you, wake up the fire-breathing beast within you, to think about Methodist doctrine versus discipline and try versus train for something according to the words of the founder of Methodism.
Rev. Rosemary kept you interested in her talks.  During one talk she gave the Characteristics of a Christian.  One characteristic was love.  She encouraged us to never miss an opportunity to say “I love you,” not to make someone uncomfortable, but to show genuine, real love.
Rev. Jessica LaGrone gave new insight about doing devotionals. Stop using a middle man for your devotionals and go straight to God’s Word.  She encouraged us to study the Word not to be an expert but to share it with others.
Rev. Dr. Mai-Anh Le Tran was an academician who could relate to a broad-based audience.  She talked about violence in today’s world, in particular the Michael Brown case in St. Louis.  She asked and answered the question “What does it mean to have faith in a violent world?”
The closing night entertainment was off the chain.  The light display and the coordination of Sheltered Reality were phenomenal. It was good to have youth involved in the Conference.  Musicians Jeff Wood and Richland Creek were also excellent choices for musical entertainment.

Bobbie West