I have begun to use the term “faith formation” more so than religious exploration or education these days. I like the word ‘formation’– it brings to mind the slow process of hands sculpting clay or play-dough. As Director of Family Ministry, I am always asking “what are the activities that help us to make meaning of our lives and to cope with joys and sorrows?”
Faith formation is really about boat-building. Educational psychologist Robert Kegan talks about how when you are working with people (children and adults), helping them shift from one level of ‘consciousness’ to the next, you cannot just sit people down and “talk them” into a different level of consciousness. There needs to be an activity or goal–something the person wants to do for herself that, in the process of achieving, requires her to develop and acquire different skills; different ways of thinking and relating; and yes, possibly even a different kind of consciousness.
Like building a boat. A group of people who want to learn carpentry skills, for example, may come together to build a boat. At the beginning, they are just focused on gaining technical experience. But in the course of the project, each person involved will learn different skills and perspectives– they will learn collaboration skills, they will see that different people approach the same problem differently. Their worldview, their consciousness, can transform. In the process of building that boat, the people are being formed– often not in the way the person expected or anticipated.
It can be easy to focus on the final product, on the boat itself. But what I care about most is the boat-building process and what happens among and within people during building the boat. Are you engaged in any “boat-building” projects? How are the activities in which you are engaged forming you?