HAVING A FAITH CONVERSATION
Picture having in depth faith conversations with small groups in your congregation. You may already have such conversations with individuals as they come to you to talk about the challenges they are facing. You may also occasionally teach a class that engages members in exploring faith issues. How would it impact your congregation if you could engage numerous members in such conversations? The issue, of course, is time. What I will propose is a way to use the internet to spend an hour in small group conversations and do it from your office or even your home. This builds on the previous blog which addressed using this design among clergy in the presbytery so you might want to go back and look at that blog as well.
In the last blog, I shared a design for how a presbytery can use our modern technology to build theological community among pastors in the presbytery. In this blog, I will focus on how a pastor (or Elder) might engage members of the congregation in some theological conversation that can encourage the members in their journey of faith. While the conversation can be expanded throughout a congregation, I would encourage you to begin small and openly describe the experience as an experiment that invites feedback for strengthening the design.
The basic design is simple. As a pastor, or as an elder, you are going to invite a selected group of congregational members to engage in a set of conversations about the faith over a several week period. The exchange will take place via the internet in live conversations.People can participate from where they are and only have to set aside the agreed upon hour. Because some lay people would feel uneasy if you said you were going to have a theological conversation, I’d suggest that you frame it as a “faith conversation.” By keeping the size of the group small, six or eight people, you can prevent some people from dominating and as moderator you can encourage everyone to participate.
To begin, choose six to ten people to invite to share in this experimental conversation. A couple of people will probably decline, so the result will be a group of around eight. You will ask them to assist you by sharing in about an hour conversation once every month to discuss how our faith encourages and strengthens us in our life journey. By suggesting that it is an experiment and you are asking for assistance may encourage them to participate if for no other reason than to help you. Acceptance rate will increase if you send them a written invitation and tell them that you will call them to answer any questions and to get their response.
THE LETTER OF INVITATION
Your letter would suggest that you want to share in a conversation with a small group of members via the internet in a series of live conversations about how our faith supports us in our life. You are asking them to set aside an hour each week for six weeks to have this conversation. Once you have identified your membership, you can agree upon the time for the conversations. I would suggest that you arrange to have a text or email sent out the day of each conversation to remind them.
A suggested list of topics might be:
The role of forgiveness in nurturing our church fellowship
How believing in Christ impacts our daily life
How regularly engaging in worship in the church affects us
How can we strengthen our prayer life
How is it difficult to welcome a diverse membership in our church
What are the ethical issues that are the biggest challenge for Christians today
These are only suggestions. You can decide whether you want to identify these or other topics in your letter of invitation.
One variation would be to explain to your session what you want to do and invite them to be the first conversation group. Based on that experience, you can decide how to invite a second group and also whether there might be other topics that you want to include. One advantage of beginning with the session is that you might discover several elders who would be willing to host such a group and therefore expand the number of people across the congregation that participate.
I would be interested in hearing from any of you who try using this as a means of having faith conversations among members of your congregation. With your permission, I can share some of the responses I receive in a future blog.