We’re heading into the last day of what has been a fairly intense conference here in Washington, DC. The best word that I really have is “intense,” in that nearly every moment is being used in some way, and there is a lot of discussion, networking, resourcing, etc. An interesting mix of folks are present: academics, pastors, laypeople, c.e./r.e. directors, interested outsiders. All faith traditions are present; I had lunch with German Methodists and spoke to Unitarian Universalists on my way out of lunch. We are all here to talk about the future of children’s and youth ministry in the so-called “emergent”/”emergence”/”missional” ministry contexts; realizing that the faith formation of younger folks has been neglected in this conversation.
My presentation went really well, and people keep coming up to me to tell me how much they liked my talk on The Synaptic Gospel, which is gratifying because it is this audience who I intended to reach in the book. The conference bookstore ran out of copies of the book–I love saying, “it’s sold out!”–but they clearly didn’t order very many and didn’t think there would be interest in the book. I told folks I would link Amazon on the blog, so here it is. For folks outside of the US, contact me directly and I’ll find a way to get the book to you.
There is a real hunger to talk about innovative liturgy and using the body in worship among children’s ministers.
LGBTQ inclusion issues do not seem to be coming from the Sunday School department, or at least from what I hear at the conference.
As soon as academics who have little contact with church leadership enter the conversation, the conversation stops and everyone is in awe of how many different ways we can eloquently talk about “the” paradigm shift since 1950 (R).
It’s difficult to talk about emergent/emergence/missional church practices because there are varying degrees of depth to the conversation to something that is in essence very simple, and children’s ministry folks are entering the conversation in a new way.
Nearly all classic theological or theoretical paradigms of religious education are entirely unknown, because they aren’t taught in seminaries, the books are out of print, and the major players of the discipline have suppressed them.
We need more substantive theological reflection that leaves room for the Kingdom of God to be inclusive of children and youth.
It is this last point that seemed to be missing the most from the conference. One presenter gave a rousing reflection, leading to a standing ovation, was about making theology more public. Now, little that was said was anything new (Martin Marty got ripped off), but the fact is that coming out of the United Methodist General Conference last week, the mainline church folks here all must realize that the theology we think we might want to go public is anything but prepared to engage the world of the secular, is personally distructive, and fundamentally dishonest about valuing the development of children.