Have you ever remodeled a room in your home? Maybe it was a kitchen. Maybe it was a bathroom. Maybe it was even the whole house. I remember when the parsonage kitchen was remodeled, as well as the second floor bath, and the creation of a master bath from an adjacent room to the bedroom. All three had one thing in common. I three remodeling jobs required demolition. We had to take everything down to the studs before we could build it back up again with a new design and decor. It wasn’t the same kitchen, but it served the same function, only more effectively and efficiently. The same could be said for the bathrooms. When the job is done we exclaim, “It’s beautiful! I can’t wait to use it! And after some time, we may even find it difficult to remember what the old kitchen, bathroom, or living areas looked like. The point is in order to create a more functional room or space that fits life of the family demolition is almost always required when remodeling.
As I’ve talked with a variety of pastors so far on this sabbatical about what their Sunday morning experience is like and how they address faith formation of families in this day and age I realize we may be in for more of a remodeling project than simply applying a fresh coat of program curricula and refurbishing the songs we sing on Sunday morning with something more contemporary. It may require the courage to demolition the current worship and faith formation models we are using, or at least some of them, in order to rebuild it for the needs and culture of the day. Sunday school may not look like grade segregated classes with teachers and students using age specific curricula. Instead it may look like some form of cross-generational faith formation experience that involves a lot of the same components, just not in the same format.
The goal of my sabbatical is to study how faith formation of children, youth, and adults is most effective in today’s culture. The answer to that question may involve some demolition of current education and worship schedules, formats, and teaching styles that many have grown up with and hold dear. The very thought of that can be painful and even frightful. That’s only natural. Imagine remodeling grandma’s kitchen and realizing the place where she taught you how to make chocolate chip cookies will no longer be the same. Yes, it will look different. But grandma’s recipe hasn’t changed. The ingredients haven’t changed. And the equipment used only helps the process go more smoothly. The most important part of that nostalgic experience was making the cookies with grandma, not the outdated kitchen in which they were made.
Remodeling projects are always frustrating while we are in the midst of them. Yet, when they are over the joy of the newly remodeled room is so great we almost forget the frustration of the process. We rarely if ever long for the old. We celebrate the new space that has been created to share life and love, meals and relationships among family and friends. I trust it will be the same whenever the Holy Spirit leads our congregation and the Church through a mission and ministry remodeling project. She has done so for the last 2000 years. Why stop now?