Plan for year-round adult faith formation

Creative ideas for summer adult faith formation

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By Sylvia Devillers

In the popular culture of American Catholicism, most parishes close down in the summer and don’t resume activities until school starts in the fall. No children, no meetings, no faith formation. Liturgies continue, but otherwise the parish campus is quiet.

But once September arrives, everything is buzzing. Squeezed in among all the other activities, adult faith formation sessions are starting once more after a long summer hiatus. Bible study groups reconvene. A six-week lecture series on Catholic moral issues, scheduled months ago, will soon begin. DREs are busy with catechist training.

We know that adults learn and grow in faith all year round. For those engaged in adult formation it might be challenging to think about ways the parish calendar could reflect this.

Use the RCIA as a model
Adult faith formation teams might look at the process of Christian initiation to see how year-round faith formation works. Following recommendations of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, catechesis for catechumens and candidates for initiation follows the liturgical calendar, not the Gregorian one. They do not take the summer off, because the story of salvation continues, captured in the Sunday lectionary readings. As summer progresses, along with dismissals and extended catechesis, catechumens integrate those readings into their summertime routine of cookouts, hikes, concerts in the park, day trips, and vacation travels.

Adult parishioners who participate in faith formation sessions during the summer could do the same. They, like catechumens, do not turn off their interest, curiosity, and longing for holiness three months out of the year. It is important to continue to meet their spiritual and formational needs as those needs arise no matter what time of year it is.

Adult faith formation teams might consider planning soon for this summer. A simplified version of adult faith formation could be put in place, enabling parishioners to continue what God has begun in them during the school year. Rather than cramming everything into the other nine months, those “lazy days of summer” might just be the best time of the year for adults to contemplate, reflect, study, and grow more deeply in their faith.

Five tips for the summer
Summertime adult faith formation should be simple, easily managed, and relaxed. Here are some suggestions:

1. Because some lectionary readings are only proclaimed during the summer months, opportunities for catechesis and growth in faith are lost when time is not set aside to pray and ponder those readings. Plan to schedule some sessions throughout the summer for adults to reflect on or prepare for the Sunday readings, perhaps held at parishioners’ homes and accompanied by a casual outdoor meal.

2. Parish facilities are sometimes more available in the summer. Take advantage, and book a popular speaker for a time when the parish calendar is more open.

3. Summer is a great time for relaxing with a good book (or Kindle!). Organize a parish book club for the purpose of praying and discussing classic Catholic literature. Consider Death Comes to the Archbishop (Willa Cather), the writings of Flannery O’Connor and Graham Greene, or anything by C. S. Lewis. Encourage participants to contrast Catholicism of the past with the way it is today.

4. Plan a summer film series, complete with popcorn and perhaps an outdoor screening area. Feature films with messages that are appropriate for mature adults. Do not be afraid of controversy, but provide facilitators to enable productive discussion.

5. Rotate adult faith formation team members throughout the summer to give everyone a break. Take turns, and keep it simple.

Sylvia Devillers

Sylvia DeVillers, MA, serves on the Los Angeles Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission and is a member of Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo, California.