The “Stickiness” of Faith

Multiple people have recently asked me: “How did you become so strong in your faith?”

My typical response is “Umm… thank you?!” It’s been a difficult question for me to answer because I really don’t know how to reply to this question.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, running around in church buildings throughout the week as if it were my own home. I have a hard time distinguishing my childhood memories of home life and church life because they were one in the same for me. God and faith have always been a presence in my life and church feels like a comfortable place. I have a feeling this is why my faith has persisted through all these years, even when life has presented challenges. I consider faith sticky because I don’t know why I’ve always had my faith and not knowing this drives me crazy sometimes! I like to know the answers, but I suppose that is the wonderment of faith, that it just is.

There came a point in college where I didn’t feel the presence of God. It was one of the hardest summers of my life, yet my faith still persisted. The summer was filled with my first heartbreak, my first time living truly independently from my parents, and the first time I experienced the death of someone that was too close to my heart. I kept wondering, “Where are you God?! I feel so alone and yet I’m living in a house with six other people!” I kept thinking that if I restated my statement of faith from my baptism I would sense God again. But it didn’t seem right somehow.

Ultimately, what got me through that summer were the friends and family who supported and loved me, even when I had trouble loving myself. I didn’t realize this until recently, but this was God working through others to reach me. I may not have sensed God in my life at that time, but God was working through the people around me. Comforting me, hugging me, and loving me.

So when I felt lost again this past spring, I knew where to look for God. God was in the church members who constantly checked in with me. God was in my friend who called me up out of the blue to meet for breakfast. God was in the friends who footed the bills, when my checking account was close to empty.

What do I have to offer to others about this experience? Sometimes I feel like not much, but the truth of it is I had a community of believers (both in Christ and in me) that have continually supported me. It’s okay to have doubts and to question faith because it is sticky! It’s like the crunchy kind of peanut butter; you never know when you are going to get a giant spoonful of crunchiness or when the crunchiness will get stuck in your teeth. You can’t plan that (and I am very much a planner so this was a hard concept for me to grasp).

As musician, it’s times like these (when the sticky crunchiness is hard to grasp) that I tend to turn to music for my spiritual connection with God. I can’t plan when anxiety will arise or when I’ll feel alone or don’t belong, but I have found a solace in music. This familiar hymn has been one that is currently working its way through my heart and soul. May it bring you peace when the stickiness of faith sets in your soul.

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When the darkness appears and the night draws near

And the day is past and gone

At the river I stand

Guide my feet, hold my hand

Take my hand precious Lord, lead my home







Renee Reimer graduated from Bethel College in 2014 and majored in Music Education. She current works as the Youth Program Director at Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, KS and attends Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary as an MDIV connect student.

Creating Faith That Lasts


Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1.

Youth ministry is all about faith; our faith in God and having faith we are disciple youth into a deeper relationship with Christ. If you are like me though, there are those times when we don’t have confidence in what we hope for in our youth and there isn’t any assurance because of what we see let alone what we don’t see. So how do we work at creating a faith that lasts in the lives of our youth? 

While there are many, let me suggest two ways I have seen youth’s faith being durable.

First is mission/service trips. Some might disagree but these trips are an opportunity for youth to get out of their comfort zone. It is there that they can see God working both in the little things and the big things that they don’t always recognize at home. In February of 2015 we took the Jr High group on a trip to Philadelphia. We were serving in homeless shelters, nursing homes, clothing banks and soup kitchens. Our “theme” for our trip was “love” since we were in the city of brotherly love. Our devotional on Sunday morning was from John 15:9-17. When we got to the place where we were serving, we set up for lunch before the worship service. The message was from the same passage as our devotional, which I thought was pretty cool. After we served lunch, the pastor shared with us about the ministry and that for the service he had planned on using another passage but sensed God leading him to the John passage. Our youth were able to recognize that it was God working in and through that situation. It is those kind of experiences that I believe create a faith that lasts. Youth being able to see God at work in their lives.

Second, is getting involved in the life the congregation. When we provide opportunities for youth to use their gifts I believe it is a way to build their faith. They can be part of a worship team, read scripture, preach, and help with VBS, etc. These opportunities allow the youth to experience the life of the church from a participatory view instead of an observing view. They have the opportunity to see God work in the lives of other people and allows adults to speak words of encouragement to them. I remember a “youth” Sunday when a youth from the community volunteered to preach. I had little faith that it was going to go well, but she shared from her heart and God used her to encourage the congregation. It also reminded me that God can and does use youth to increase our faith.

Creating a durable faith takes our willingness to give youth opportunities to use their gifts, to maybe even fail, and to experience the body of Christ in different ways. We are not always sure of what we see in the faith of our youth but have faith, their faith will grow and mature into a faith that lasts.




Dwight Rohrer serves as youth pastor of Neffsville Mennonite Church where he has served since 1999. He is also currently serving as interim youth pastor for Atlantic Coast Conference. He and his wife Jenny are parents of 4 children and they have one grandchild.


May theme–“Durable Faith: Creating a Faith that Lasts…Graduation”


It’s May.  Time for budding spring flowers, afternoon rain showers, prom, open houses, and graduation!

We prepare diligently for this day with great care.  We encourage our children and students to study hard.  We help them proofread their college essays.  We drive them to countless prospective student weekends looking to find the right fit for college.

And then that marvelous day comes when they walk across the stage, receive their diploma, and throw their cardboard hat into the air.

They did it.  Congratulations, graduate!

As we consider faith formation, there is no ‘graduation’ date.  As disciples of Jesus, we don’t receive a piece of paper that states our credentials to frame and hang on a wall.  Our faith is an ever dynamic, ever growing (hopefully), evolving, and deepening relationship with the One who loves us more than we can ever imagine.

However, research is clear–we are living in the age of the ‘nones.’  More and more of our young people are not claiming any religions affiliation.  The National Study on Youth and Religion state many reasons for this, and about once a week I’ll come across an “open letter to my church” from a Millennial on why they are done with it on social media.  Sadly it seems that graduation from high school (and youth group) also means a graduation from faith altogether.

So, what are we to do? Because I don’t think this is how the story needs to end.

This month on The Gathering Place, we are going to delve into the topic of “Durable Faith: Creating a Faith that Lasts…graduation.”

Join the conversation this month through:

Webinar: Sarah Bixler, Ph.D student at Princeton presents a webinar, ” Youth Attachment to God and the Church: Should the Church Act Like Fly Paper?” Sarah will share her research on attachment theory and connect it to how it can inform our faith formation efforts.  Wednesday, May 17, 1pm EDT/12pm CDT. Sign up now!

Study Circle: Shana Peachy Boshart will lead this month’s study circle on Sticky Faith: Everyday ideas to build lasting faith in your kids by Kara Powell and Chap Clark. This is a top youth ministry (and parent!) read–so join the discussion today!

tGP Podcast:  An Interview with Brad Griffin. In this podcast, episode 19, Rachel interviews Brad Griffin, Associate Director of Fuller Youth Institute and co-author of the book, Growing Young, the newest book to come out of FYI’s research about qualities exemplary churches have that have the ability to retain young people. Listen to the interview now by clicking the title above.

As denominational minister for Christian Formation for Mennonite Church USA, I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about this quandary. How do we create spaces for authentic faith development to occur?  What does it mean to nurture spirituality in our children as they grow?

I look to hearing from you via our webinar and study circle, and you are in for a treat from our bloggers this month–seasoned youth workers–as they offer their own perspectives (new blog posts each Friday). Because I can’t help myself, I’m going to share a few of my own formation musings…

For starters, what do we mean when we use the term “faith formation”?  It seems to be a current buzz word–so I think it’s important to agree on what we are talking about!

My working definition is this: “Faith formation concerns the process of growth towards God.  It is a continual journey of being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Christ.”  For authentic faith formation cannot occur without being connected to the whole, and it needs to happen in both information and formal ways–not just in Sunday school or at church. All too often when we think ‘faith formation’ we immediately equate it to ‘Christian education.’

But it’s so much bigger than that.

I think we can all agree that this is a pretty decent working definition of faith formation—one that could transcend throughout history. But how this plays out, how this looks from one generation to the next, is interpreted differently.

This generation views church much differently than those of the “builder” generation mid-century that fully embraced the church as an institution with most of the cultural life centered around church and faith.

Not quite so much anymore.

The National Study on Youth and Religion (10 year study which followed youth to young adults and explored what attributed to lasting durable faith. They surveyed and interviewed thousands of folks from a wide variety of denominations) discovered the following as it relates to the current trend of youth perspective and religion:

  • Youth are by and large not hostile towards religion—study found they are actually benignly positive towards it, “it tries to make you nice.” This general sense of vagueness is because they simply don’t care all that much about it. They aren’t going to be passionate about something that doesn’t matter much to them.
  • Teens mirror by and large their parent’s faith. Yikes!
  • Articulating faith is very difficult—easier to talk about God in general terms than Jesus.
  • Religion is inconsequential. Despite our best effort, we have seemingly turned Christianity into a moralistc-theraputic deism. We’ve represented Christianity as being good and feeling good, than the gospel.

If these findings are accurate and true, then it is paramount that faith formation for this new generation will need to look much different than it has in the past, because something is not working.

So, what do we do?  How do we reclaim authentic faith formation for this generation, connecting it in ways that make sense to them?

I think it begins by listening and taking an honest look into our own congregations and home-life to see what messages we are sending (both overtly and covertly). Our youth are stressed out and tired.  They need spaces to be themselves and loved and accepted unconditionally.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…they don’t need more pizza or crazy game nights (not to say that youth ministry can’t be fun–but we can’t simply stay in the programming/game mode).

Mark Yaconelli, illustrates the difference between ministry rooted in anxiety and ministry rooted in love. Or in other words, how are we busy doing things FOR Jesus, as opposed to creating space in order to be present TO him? I find his juxtapositions to be a helpful tool to use as you reflect and discern, structure and form ministries in congregational life:


Ministry rooted in ANXIETY Ministry rooted in LOVE
seeks control (How do I make Christians?) seeks contemplation (How can I be present to others and God?)
seeks professionals (Who is the expert that can solve this problem?) seeks process (What can we do together to uncover Jesus’ way of life?)
wants products (What book, video, curriculum will teach faith?) desires presence (Who will bear the life of God to one another?)
lifts up gurus (Who has the charisma to draw people in?) relies on guides (Who has the gifts for living alongside?)
rests in results (How many have committed to the faith?) rests in relationships (Who have we befriended?)
seeks conformity (Do the new people coming meet our expectations?) brings out creativity (What’s the fresh way in which God is challenging us through our new attenders?)
wants activity (What will keep the schedule busy?) brings awareness (What are the real needs?)
seeks answers (Here’s what we think.  Here’s who God is.) seeks questions (What do you think?  Or as Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?)

Mark Yaconelli, Contemplative Youth Ministry (London:  Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2006), 51.

Where are you anxious in your formation?  Where are you rooted in love?  What might holistic faith formation look like here? You might consider sharing this with another leader in your church and consider the implications together.

Before you begin to sketch out a new master plan, or panic (!), I have a few words of hope for you:

  • Don’t despair—it only take 3% of salt to make salt water, and Christianity only started with 11 disciples.
  • Often times, we just want to change things.  We begin to believe the woo of the world that claims to know the ‘secret sauce’:
    • We believe the croon, “We just need more young people,” thinking that young people will attract more young people to attend.  That young people will save the church—but only Jesus saves. Kenda Creasy Dean says that when we think like this we have “vampire theology” (young blood). We turn our ministries into programming.  When we frame faith in terms of numbers we reduce it to entertainment rather than equipping.  We become more focused on roping people IN rather than sending them OUT.
    • Another myth—in order to appeal to young people, it means acting like them. Churches are turning into coffee houses, sanctuaries are looking like living rooms…all of this is fine and good, but to what ends? If you are using these things as a gimmick, you fail to see those who come as individuals who are seeking transformation, and instead see them as a demographic to be marketed to.  But do you know what the largest growing denomination is?  Greek Orthodox.  It appears that significant number of millennials are drawn towards the mystery and the ritual, of ancient-future worship. (I wonder if it has something to do with the rhythm, quiet, and spaciousness that this tradition offers to our harried young people.)

As much as we want to keep our children and youth ministries siloed, like we did since the advent of big youth ministry programming (hello 1980’s-1990’s), I’m not sure that we can afford to continue with this trajectory given our current state. Families are more scattered and fragmented than ever before. “Regular attenders” come to our congregations once a month at best (Barna Research Group, 2015). Parents are feeling less and less confident in their own abilities to attend to the spiritual lives of their children, and bring their kids to church to get it (but due to the harried family schedule, can be difficult to attend)—and the cycle continues.

So, how do we break the cycle?  How do we think creatively and out of the box to meet our own unique congregations and families where they need to be met?  Guilt and shame have no place here.  Wishing for “the days of old” isn’t going to change a thing.  We have to be brave to look deep and honestly and trust that Jehovah-jireh will provide for us all that we need. Authentic faith formation is always connected to the whole. It’s about nurturing our children and youth to see that they belong to this faith community in real ways.  That they matter.  That they are seen. And then showing up for them, embodying Love as a verb (and I do hope that you are planning on coming to Orlando ’17–sly plug).

Are you still feeling a bit lost on where to begin?

Here are a few practical ways to take the first step to be intentional in creating a holistic approach to faith formation especially with this generation that craves belonging, authenticity, and something to believe in:

1) Say hello! Making an effort towards hospitality says far more than just a greeting—it says—you are seen, you are appreciated, you matter.

2) Invite in authentic ways.  Don’t see young people as a project, for they are real participants in the life of the church with gifts and skills to offer.  Young adults are a bit skirmish on commitment, but inviting to short assignments is often helpful (just this one Sunday…or for this month…). The more connected they feel, the more they tend to find their place within.

3) Create ways to engage intergenerational mingling—we need one another. Allow opportunities to talk with one another and share stories from life. Curt Weaver, long time faith formation minister (currently at Portland Mennonite) has older adults invite the youth group into their home for an evening of conversation and fellowship where the hosts share “Your Life in 10 minutes”.

4) Be authentic—Being real and authentic about life and faith, naming fears and questions and doubts, is just as important as talking about what you believe in.

The future of the Church, by the statisticians point of view might appear to be grim or so-so at best. But the future of the Church depends on Christ, not us.  Christian formation is not simply for growing churches, but for growing people into the likeness of Christ.  The shape of the church is changing and young people simply don’t care about sustaining an institution.  They want a real community that believes and acts and has a fire in its belly for loving God and the world around them.

As we posture ourselves and seek to be rooted and grounded in this way of being, there truly is nothing to fear—for this is God’s church.

And God hasn’t failed us yet.

I look forward to talking more with you this month about this topic, as a parent, as a pastor, and as a lover of the Church.






Rachel S. Gerber, Denominational minister of Christian formation and the editor of this fine website

tGP: An interview with Brad Griffin of Fuller Youth Institute

I had a spectacular time talking with Brad Griffin, Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, about his new book, Growing Young (2016), a research driven book looking into the fabric of exemplary churches that have figured out their ‘secret sauce’ to not only forming lasting faith in their children and youth, but have flourishing active young adult participation.

In this interview Brad talks about these qualities that this research uncovered that seems to help congregations “grow young” as well as offer some wisdom for you about creating a ‘sticky faith’ culture in your own church.

If you have yet to discover the Fuller Youth Institute, check them out and sign up for their insightful newsletter which provides the latest in youth culture, development, and faith.

Brad M. Griffin is the Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger (, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of the forthcoming Growing Young (fall 2016), several Sticky Faith ​books (see, Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager in a Digital Media World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California. Twitter: @bgriffinfyi




November Study Circle: Overplayed

overplayedSports/Activities vs. Church

It’s a dilemma that both parents and congregational leaders often wrestle with. This month, join Shana Peachey Boshart, of Anabaptist Faith Formation Network as she facilitates our Learning Circle on this important resource.  If you are a parent, youth worker, teacher, pastor, this is a very helpful read with much wisdom!

Join in the conversation and we seek to empower our families and churches to find a third way. Sign up today!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

3:30pm EST/2:30pm CST



Join our Facebook page to enter to win this FREE book by writing why this topic matter to you! 5 winners will be announced on November 1st. Sign up here to participate in the study circle.


November’s Playlist: Stressed Out

I was that youth that was involved in everything in school. Volleyball, Basketball, Track & Field, Student Council, Junior Class Board, Yearbook, British Literature Club, Chamber Choir, Madrigals, Marching Band AND youth group and youth group activities. Ever since I was young, I had the opportunity to be a part of pretty much whichever group I wanted to. I was privileged and blessed. BUT I never wanted to have any part of travel sports after one summer with the travel softball team. When I grew older, I couldn’t work on Sunday morning because that was God’s time. And the only reason my parents let me work on Sunday afternoon, is because the rest of my week was filled with all those activities I was involved with. My group of friends I would hang out with changed based on which activity I was currently in because of scheduling. Today, I wouldn’t change anything because I chose to do that.

My parents never made me participate in an activity that I didn’t want to. They resisted the urge to push me to be better at something, put more hours into one thing so that I could get a scholarship, so I could get into the best schools, so I could…..who knows what reasons they had. (I did play volleyball in college, but Division 3 = no scholarships for activities) And I’m glad they did….because I do know that my friends whose parents pushed them in one activity, one area of their life, or maybe even had those parents who were trying to live their dreams out through their kids….grew to hate that activity OR made it an idol in their life OR completely shut out their family later in life. And throughout my career, my teammates that had played travel ball seemed to be missing that little girl insides of them that still loved just playing the game. I didn’t want to lose that little girl inside.

During that summer with travel ball, my parents WOULD NEVER let me skip the church service for a game. I could never skip out early for lunch with my friends…Sunday was for God and for family. Did I grumble and grown the whole day about that decision? Yes I did, I admit that. But what I didn’t see then was that my parents were reminding me that remembering the Sabbath was a gift. To take a time to STOP all of those activities and be reminded of who created me to be, who provided me with all those opportunities, THAT was more powerful than any skill I could have acquired from a school activity and I didn’t even realize that gift until after college.

After reading this book Overplayed, I just kept saying, “yea!….Yes!!!….ahhh YES! They get it! Can every single parent or leader read this book please?!” Our youth these days have a lot of pressures and a lot of responsibility and a LOT of expectations put on them. Is some of those things bad? No, not at all! What this book is saying to me is that we can’t let our goals, our passions, our dreams and OUR idea of what life should be….those things can never grow BIGGER or MORE IMPORTANT to us than Our Creator, Our Lord.

For this playlist, it’s a mix of this reminder not to overplay our youth, but also a reminder for us as leaders to pause and enjoy what God has gifted us with! To remind us to step back from our activities (because being in ministry, we have the tendency to do as much as we can…right?) to say it’s okay if we don’t achieve the American Dream! To remind us to enjoy the moments we have before they’re gone.







~Ashley Litwiller is pastor of worship at youth at Arthur Mennonite, Arthur, IL. Email to share your favorite songs to include in upcoming monthly playlists!

Why These Songs Were Chosen , and a great tool to use as conversation starters with your own youth groups:

1) “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots

“My name is ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think” Our kids are so stressed out! This song is popular because it is how a lot of our youth feel with all the pressures put on them at ages 14 & 15….before they can even drive!


2)  “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams

“If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker” We only need to ask God to remove the chains of what we are slaves to, and he will wash us clean and set us free!!!


3) “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe

“Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life or do I go deep and try to change the choices that you’ll make cause they’re the choices that make me” We can’t make our youth change their minds, we are not their parents. We can lay out what can happen with the different choices we make and pray that God speaks to them.


4) “Slow Down” by Nichole Nordeman

I added this song to remind us of how our parent feels about us. No matter what we do, they are cheering for us…they are for us! God is enjoying every step of our journey with us.


5) “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

“Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong….you’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.” We need to remind our youth that they are not alone, and we are here with them through these things that stress them out, but more importantly, God will be with them for life. Turn to the ultimate comforter!


6) “Through Your Eyes” by Britt Nicole

“Get it together…I put on the pressure, you can do better, be who you’re supposed to be” Our youth put pressure on themselves too. Let us remind them what they look like through God’s eyes!


7) “The God I Know” by Love & the Outcome

“I threw my hands up, worries down…no strings attached when he saved my soul…you gotta know the God I know” –Remember that God tells us that if we believe in Him and follow him, we need to leave our worries, fears, dreams, broken hearts, stressed out souls in from of the Cross. He gives us freedom in that!


8) “You Never Let Me Down” by Marvin Winans Jr

— “you picked me up when I was down…” When we lose a contest or fail on a project, we often start that downward spiral. But when we think we fail, God is still in control. He is there to pick us up or remind us how much He loves us


9) “Every Giant Will Fall” by Rend Collective

“Nothing is impossible with you” No matter what is overplaying you or stressing you out, God can concur anything. He is on your side….just ask Him forward and sit back and watch the excellence that will come!


10) “Air I Breathe” by Mat Kearney

“It’s the same fight all over again” – These fights will continue our whole lives. Let’s remember who our Breath is!


11) “Let Them Be Little” by Billy Dean

“Let them hope, give them praise, give them love every day.”  Our youth are pretty awesome, otherwise we wouldn’t be youth leaders. We learn from them! Let’s remember to step back from pushing our goals for them just enough to see where God is leading them.
12) “Intentional” by Travis Greene

“All things are working for my good” This is just a great reminder that everything God has for us are for our good! His are better! Spend time with God to let him tell you what His plans are for you, for your youth, for your family.


13) The Well by JJ Heller

“I followed my heart and it led me astray….I was chasing the wind, I should’ve chasing you” Sometimes we get sidetracked on our own little side projects. Let us keep going to the Well for our wisdom and strength.


14) “That’s What I Love about Sunday” by Craig Morgan

— “Not do much of anything, that’s what I love about Sundays” Remember those times where you just relax in the joy of peace of mind, praising the lord with your church family, catnapping, taking walks, etc. Let’s not let our schedules get so filled that we forget to Sabbath and remember that He is in control and it’s okay to rest without it adding more to our resumes or college applications.


15) “King of the World” by Natalie Grant

–“I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed. I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye.” Our human nature tells us that if we don’t do something, it won’t get done! But our God tells us to be still and KNOW that He is God….not us. I believe the King of the World can handle much more than I possibly could dream of.


tGP Podcast: Interview with Femi Hollinger-Jantzen, MLS



As tGP continues with its interview series this year, Rachel talks with Femi Hollinger-Jantzen, of the New England Revolution (MLS), about his journey with soccer, balancing life, and wisdom for parents and youth who struggle with finding balance.

Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Bethany Mennonite High School graduate (Goshen College) and Indiana University and attended Waterford Mennonite Church now plays soccer for the New England Revolution Major League Soccer. Femi was born in Cotonou, Benin and was adopted by Mennonite Mission Network workers, Rod and Lynda Hollinger-Jantzen.

New England’s third-round selection (51st overall) in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Hollinger-Janzen officially joins the club after four years at Indiana University. The six-foot forward was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, helped the Hoosiers to an NCAA National Championship as a freshman in 2012, and finished his decorated collegiate career with multiple First-Team All-Big Ten selections and a College Cup All-Tournament Team nod. As a senior in 2015, Hollinger-Janzen paced Indiana with eight goals and 21 points. He logged 45 minutes in one preseason appearance for the Revolution in the 2016 Desert Diamond Cup. Read more about Femi’s amazing story below:

November Theme–Overplayed: The Busy Lives of Youth (and families)

busy-calendarI get it. Totally.

As a parent of three boys, life often feels full.   Between multiple soccer practices during the week, games on the weekend, piano lessons, swim team, school activities, friend meet-ups, and homework, there is usually little time left over.

Except to shower. As a parent, I always make sure that there is time for my sweaty, smelly tween to hose down. For the love of us all.

I know that my family is not unique. And actually (as my kids are still a bit young, we have much more control over their schedules and activities, goings and comings), I’m guessing that as each get older and take on more diverse activities, things will ramp up to an even greater degree when we have three teens in the house.

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More times than not, families in our congregations are also maxed out. And it’s generally with really good things. But more and more, we are seeing Sundays filling up with soccer tournaments, marching band competitions, and other activities, including Saturday friend-sleepovers. This puts parents in a precarious position of choice. What gets top priority? How do we navigate these decisions of how to spend our time and what do our choices say about our values?

Before I  get too far, I want to show my own hand. I do highly value the Sunday morning church experience and want  my own children see, understand, and participate in their community of faith. But I also don’t think that it’s always that easy to decide; that it’s always that cut and dry. Because it goes deeper than just a technical change of schedule. I believe that we all lose if we simply pit Church against extra-Curricula.

What is really going on?  What is the deeper issue in this concept of ‘overplayed?’

As church leaders how are we able to walk with our families to name and identify, and perhaps even navigate this rat race? Are our schedules full because we have the FOMO disease (fear omissing out)?  What might it mean to encourage our families to flip the board entirely–and begin with identifying their own family mission/values, evaluating potential activities in light of this lens?  Maybe less is more. But maybe not. It depends on how God has called each family to engage and what feels right to them–and it isn’t going to be the same for everyone. But giving families tools to consider for reflection is important. The book this month, Overplayed is one of these tools to use, which has the potential to begin good conversation.

Regarding faith formation for busy families–I want to pose something to consider.  Our congregations are also often highly activity based.  We have activities for girls/boys club, jr. youth, youth group, softball league, basketball league, choir, handbells, drama team, etc…Often times when we get to church, our families are split again into age-segmented programming.

Let’s consider Sunday evening, when youth groups generally gather. Maybe Sunday evening is the only time that our families actually have to be together in any given week (do you see the delicate balance between it’s not always so cut and dry)? Our families are stretched, hurried, stressed, and tired. What is it that they really need?

What might it mean to, as formation leaders, create spaces for our families to re-create together?

What space do their spirits need in order to be present to God, and one another? There are no easy answers or magic formulas.  But I do believe that open, honest conversations along with our families deeply knowing that they are loved and supported and cared for will carry us further. Maybe our faith formation practices will need to change or become more adaptable for families on the go. But this I do know, shaming or guilting our busy families won’t get us anywhere.  There has to be another way.

So let’s gather together this month and talk about it!

This month on The Gathering Place, we will engage in the theme of Overplayed: The Busy Lives of Youth (and families). Our webinar will be presented by the authors of the book by the same title, Dave King and Margot Starbuck, as they help us navigate these questions and ponder this dilemma, Friday, November 11, 1pm EST. Sign up now!


Shana Peachey Boshart will be facilitating a study circle on the book on the same title on Tuesday, November 15, 3:30pm EST. Join our Facebook page to enter to win this FREE book by writing why this topic matter to you! 5 winners will be announced on November 1st. Sign up here to participate in the study circle.



As tGP continues with its interview series this year, this month Rachel talks with Femi Hollinger-Jantzen, of the New England Revolution (MLS), about his journey with soccer, balancing life, and wisdom for parents and youth who struggle with finding balance.




In the All About YOUth podcast vlog this month, Lesley and Caleb talk about how they adjusted their youth group Bible study to work with their youth group’s busy schedule.  Sometimes you have to work with what you have. You can’t change the commitment levels of people, but you can make the most of the various touch points that you do have.




Don’t forget to check out this month’s playlist curated by Ashley Litwiller, “Stressed Out.” This list is just what you need to remind yourself of Whose really in control.



May peace, wisdom, and and joy guide you on this journey this month. I look forward to seeing you!

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Rachel Gerber, Denominational Minister of Christian Formation for Mennonite Church USA and editor of The Gathering Place.

The Comparison Game

Lesley and Caleb Francisco McClendon, youth ministers at C3 in Hampton, VA are back with their podcast, “All about YOUth!” This monthly vlog provides a dose of inspiration to get you through the day! This month, L & C talk about “Comparison,” and how to stay focused as you do ministry.  It’s not a numbers game. Stay focused and be encouraged.