Building adult formation: layer by layer

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By Joanne Sanders

Stop for a moment and consider the many different audiences who are there to receive your message. There are some topics that will appeal to certain age groups and others that different groups could be encouraged to attend.

Young Families
Young families are attracted to one-time events that are family focused, like a family retreat, learning experiences such as making an advent wreath or Jesse tree, or sharing holiday faith traditions with other families. During Lent, these learning experiences might focus around how forgiveness and reconciliation in families can be approached or how families can help the poor of the community.

Young Adults
Young adults might be invited to a candlelight vigil with a visit to a local hospital or nursing home afterwards. This can be followed by a sharing experience back at the parish with refreshments. Other ways to bring these persons deeper into the journey of faith might include a weekend mission experience, a trip to the local food bank, or several evenings re­flecting on a book on spirituality, with time for prayer and sharing. Or encourage them to seek out opportunities in church or community groups to give hands-on assistance teaching computer skills to young people so that they might secure better jobs.

Senior Adults
Senior adults may prefer a morning memory experience exploring how they once celebrated the holiday as a child and how they cele­brate it now. This discussion, coupled with a speaker presentation, may help them focus on the incarnation of Jesus or, in the lenten sea­son, the death and resurrection of Jesus. They could also be encour­aged to share their wisdom with their grandchildren.

Long-term Success
During the lenten season, the entire parish can be invited to a soup and bread supper, followed by a prayer experience like Stations of the Cross or evening prayer, and a weekly guest speaker presentation on a particular lenten theme to deepen their relationship with God. But generally, focusing on specific sub-groups of the parish may be more successful in the long run.

We can also reach out to groups within the parish that have similar needs and interests. Helping them to share resources with each other can bring about a collaborative spirit of adult faith formation. TP


*This article is excerpted from the January 2003 issue of Today’s Parish.

Joanne Sanders

Joanne Sanders works in the diocese of Austin, Texas.