I was a young adult when I first became familiar with John Westerhoff’s seminal book, Will Our Children Have Faith. The faith development paradigm that Westerhoff describes has four stages: Experience, Affiliative, Searching and Owned. In the early years of my time serving as a youth minister and a camp director, Westerhoff’s writings were helpful and inspiring.
In my experience of walking with young people in their faith journey, most of them – in some form or another – were in the place of Searching Faith. Having this awareness was critical for me in helping to provide a container in which each young person felt safe to explore, to ask questions, to push the boundaries of the faith of their childhood or the lack thereof.
One of the blessings of walking with these young people over the years, was to be able to witness their growth, which for many meant moving into an Owned Faith.
As a bishop, I am blessed to walk with folks of all ages and all stages of faith. Regardless of where they are, it is a privilege to be a companion with others on their faith journey.
We are blessed in ECMN to have a multitude of opportunities, both in our local faith communities and in ECMN at large, where individuals can explore deeply the foundations of their faith and the stirring of the Spirit in their midst.
Your Team of Missioners strive to assist our faith communities through the arc of faith development, for both old and young, for those new to the faith and those wishing to deepen a long established faith. Whether in the local context or in gathering together with others from across the state; whether at camp or Teens Encounter Christ retreats; whether taking School for Formation courses with your faith community or attending a workshop with those from around the state; whether children, youth, young adults or adults, you will find there are incredible opportunities to grow and deepen your faith.
At the core of Westehoff’s work is the importance of being intentional about our faith development. One of his primary questions is “how can we be communities that nourish and nurture the faith of children.” I’d like to suggest that this question is applicable for all God’s children. With the beginning of the new program year just around the corner, I encourage all of us to explore, whether it be in our local faith communities, in our Mission Areas or offerings in ECMN, ways that we can continue to grow and deepen our faith.