Faith Formation

Faith formation in christianity

Six Tasks of Faith Formation

Jesus formed his disciples by making known to them the various dimensions of the Kingdom of God…. Christ’s method of formation was accomplished by diverse yet inter-related tasks. His example is the most fruitful inspiration for effective catechesis today because it is integral to formation in the Christian faith.

Faith must be known , celebrated, lived and expressed in prayer. So catechesis comprises six fundamental tasks, each of which is related to an aspect of faith in Christ….

Faith formation* promotes knowledge of the faith.

The initial proclamation of the Gospel introduces hearers to Christ for the first time and invites conversion to him.
By the action of the Holy Spirit, such an encounter engenders in the hearers a desire to know about Christ, his life, and the content of his message.
Faith formation* responds to this desire by giving the believers a knowledge of the content of God’s self-revelation, which is found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and by introducing them to the meaning of the Creed.
Creeds and doctrinal formulas that state the Church’s belief are expressions of the Church’s living tradition, which from the time of the apostles has developed “in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit.”

Faith formation* promotes knowledge of the meaning of the Liturgy and the Sacraments.

Since Christ is present in the sacraments, the believer comes to know Christ in the liturgical celebrations of the Church and is drawn into communion with him.
Christ’s saving action in the Paschal Mystery is celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, where the closest communion with Jesus on earth is possible as Catholics are able to receive his living Flesh and his Precious Blood in Holy Communion.
Faith formation* should promote “an active, conscious, genuine participation in the liturgy of the Church, not merely by explaining the meaning of the ceremonies, but also by forming the minds of the faithful for prayer, for thanksgiving, for repentance, for praying with confidence, for a community spirit, and for understanding correctly the meaning of the Creeds.”
Sacramental catechesis prepares for the initial celebration of the sacraments and promotes enrichment following their reception.

Faith formation* promotes moral formation in Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ moral teaching is an integral part of his message. Faith formation* must transmit both the content of Christ’s moral teachings as well as their implications for Christian living.
Moral catechesis aims to conform the believer to Christ–to bring about personal transformation and conversion. It should encourage the faithful to give witnesses–both in their private lives and in the public arena–to Christ’s teaching in everyday life.
Such testimony demonstrates the social consequences of the demands of the Gospel.

Faith formation* teaches the Christian how to pray with Christ.

Conversion to Christ and communion with him lead the faithful to adopt his disposition of prayer and reflection.
Jesus’ entire life, death and Resurrection were an offering to to his Father. His prayer was always directed toward his Father.
Faith formation* should invite the believer to join Christ in the Our Father. Prayer should be the ordinary environment for all faith formation* so that the knowledge and practice of the Christian life may be understood and celebrated in its proper context.

Faith formation* prepares the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the Life and mission of the Church.

…Faith formation* encourages an apprenticeship in Christian living that is based on Christ’s teachings about community life. It should encourage a spirit of simplicity and humility, a special concern for the poor, particular care for the alienated, a sense of fraternal correction, common prayer, mutual forgiveness, and a fraternal love that embraces all these attitudes.
Faith formation* encourages the disciples of Jesus to make their daily conduct a shining and convincing testimony to the Gospel….
Preparation for community life has a ecumenical dimension as well…. It should always provide a clear exposition of all that the Church teaches and at the same time should foster a “true desire for unity”…. Faith formation* will have an ecumenical dimension as it prepares the faithful to live in contact with persons of other Christian traditions, “affirming their Catholic identity while respecting the faith of others.”

Faith formation* promotes a missionary spirit that prepares the faithful to be present as Christians in society.

…Faith formation* seeks to help the disciples of Christ to be present in society precisely as believing Christians who are are able and willing to bear witness to their faith in words and deeds.
In fostering this spirit of evangelization, faith formation* nourishes the evangelical attitudes of Jesus Christ in the faithful: to be poor in spirit, to be compassionate, to be meek, to hear the cry of injustice, to be merciful, to be pure of heart, to make peace, and to accept rejection and persecution.
Faith formation* recognizes that other religious traditions reflect the “seeds of the Word” that can constitute a true “preparation for the Gospel.” It encourages adherents of the world’s religions to share what they hold in common, never minimizing the real differences between and among them….

These six tasks of faith formation* constitute a unified whole by which faith formation* seeks to achieve its objective: the formation of disciples of Jesus Christ. All these tasks are necessary in order to attain the full development of the Christian faith. Each task, from its own perspective, realizes the object of catechesis, and all the tasks are interdependent….

— United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
National Directory for Catechesis. 2005. #20.

How would you respond if a parishioner asked, “So what do you really mean by faith formation?”

I asked myself that question this week as I worked toward launching our new training program for congregational leaders:  If we’re going to invite leaders to do what matters in their faith formation efforts, we need to be clear about what faith formation is, yes?

Problem is ‘faith formation’ has become a catch-all term that can mean just about anything a church or Christian community does—from the parish picnic, to Bingo nite, to team sports in the gym, to Sunday worship. It’s all faith formation, right?

Well, potentially yes, but there are some criteria that our programs and activities ought to meet in order to fall under the faith formation umbrella.

In a single line we could say faith formation is: equipping people to live as disciples of Jesus.

In his latest book, Generations Together, John Roberto reaffirms a traditional, but very rich notion that faith formation informs, forms, and transforms the person—whether child, youth, or adult—into a robust, vital, and life-giving Christian faith that is holistic: a way of the head, the heart, and the hands.

And faith formation does the very same for the Christian community as it immerses people into the particular practices and particular way of life that identifies them as followers of Jesus.

Supporting Faith in others

Catholic Church of St. Ann in Marietta, Georgia

Roberto goes on to say, “While expressed in many different ways, faith formation seeks to help people:

  • Grow in their relationship with God for the whole of life
  • Live as disciples of Jesus at home, at work, in the community, and in the world
  • Develop an understanding of the Bible and their faith tradition
  • Deepen their spiritual life and practices
  • Engage in service and mission to the world
  • Participate in the life and ministries of their faith community”

So, faith formation may indeed occur at the parish picnic or on the gym floor, but it has little to do with eating hot dogs or sinking baskets, and whole lot to do with forming disciples.