Formation is a life-long, cradle to grave experience. People never stop growing. This applies to faith formation as much as it does learning a new computer program or way to manage a business. The most successful parishes find ways to include formation as part of other parish events and projects.

Some examples include:

  • Formation as part of the weekend liturgies
  • Small groups that touch self-interest
  • Paying attention to transitions in people’s lives

One pastor adds a two-minute input session to the liturgy once a month. People had a chance to submit questions about current teachings or pressing issues. The pastor picked one of these and gave a brief answer to the question. He had a two-minute timer on the lectern so people knew it would not go too long. There was also a chance for people to come for coffee and donuts after the Mass to discuss with one another the topic addressed at the end of Mass. In a year’s time a great deal of teaching can be accomplished for a large group of people.

One way of breaking down the largeness of a parish is to offer occasions for people to come together in small groups. A successful way of doing this is to set up groups by the time people are able to meet and the topic that is of interest to them. Sample topics might include reflecting on the weekend scriptures, discussing a book, world events, church history or parenting. As a start, fifteen to twenty leaders are identified and given instructions about leading small groups. Each leader chooses a topic and time to meet. At the beginning of the Lenten season parishioners are invited to sign up for a group depending on when they want to meet and the topic that is of interest to them. The groups meet each week during Lent and are then encouraged to continue meeting on a monthly basis. Another sign up period takes place in October at which time, new groups are formed or existing ones change membership. The group leaders meet once before the Lent and Fall sign-up periods, and once again after the four weeks of interaction to assess their group’s progress and to give each other support and insight.

One parish decided to concentrate on moments of transitions in people lives as a focus for religious formation. Examples of transitions included marriage, the birth of the first child, the movement of a child from elementary school to high school or from high school to college, the “empty nest” syndrome, retirement and the death of a loved one. These are the times the parish can challenge people to go deeper and discover core values as they pass through important transitions in their lives. For further information about this approach to religious formation, see The Parish As Covenant (Thomas Sweetser, SJ, Sheed and Ward, 2001), pp. 127-131.  See also Keeping the Covenant (Thomas Sweetser, SJ, Crossroads, 2007), pp. 230-242.


A sample of PEP Newsletters related to Formation:

Signs of A Dynamic Christian

Almost Christian

Parish School – Getting the Parents Involved

A Working Model For Youth Ministry