For the second year in a row, Virginia Theological Seminary is offering its eFormation conference, eFormation: Faith Formation for a Digitally, Connected World, June 1-4 in Alexandria, VA. What drew 200 people from across the U.S., and several countries last year was the heartfelt conviction that Jesus’ call was to make disciples (not just converts) and that doing so in today’s hyper-connected, incredibly distracting world is both increasingly challenging and exciting. This year’s conference will be much bigger – and better.
Full disclosure, for the second year I am one of the presenters at this conference as ChurchNext has been working closely with VTS in our shared labor to develop resources, connections, experiments, and collegiality around what we believe the Holy Spirit is leading the Church into. While this is held at an Episcopal seminary, participants come from many backgrounds as we all witness the breaking down of denominational walls, giving us an even greater palette from which to color our futures.
So, why attend this conference? Why not just read up on the presenters and their work via their books or online offerings? Three reasons (yes, I purposely didn’t title this post, ‘Three Reasons Why You Should Attend eFormation’ because aren’t we all a bit tired of this sophomoric hook?)
1) Great Presenters – Here’s the list of presenters for this year (I’ve provided links to their websites and other work so you can learn more about them): Sharon Ely Pearson, John Roberto, Randall Curtis, Robbin Whittington, Edgar Giraldo, Bruce Baumgarten, Julie Lytle, Tim Schenck, Colin Chapman, Chris Yaw, Tom Tomaszek, Peter Turner, Jay Mallin, Lisa Kimball, Dorothy Linthicum, Kyle Oliver.
Yes, this is an all-star cast. The ‘A’ Team. Just a cursory read through the bios and extensive work that this group of professionals has assembled should be enough to get most of us to book our flights right now. These are gifted writers, presenters, thinkers, listeners, innovators, and dedicated followers of Jesus. They are approachable, open to new ideas, and willing to learn as well as teach. You will not leave this conference feeling like you didn’t learn something that can dramatically shape your ministry.
2) Ideas Will Germinate – Whenever this many gifted people are assembled in one place, the synergy becomes intoxicating. One thing I really love about this conference is the accessibility to the presenters. The conference designers purposely build in time for participants to interact individually with the presenters and each other. This means a plethora of ‘aha’ moments.
This year I will come to this conference with big ears. Sure, each one of us workshop leaders has wares to peddle, but that’s not the point. While I certainly cannot speak for my colleagues, I suspect we all come here to deeply and widely connect. There is so much innovation happening on so many levels. Parishes, judicatories, denominations, are experimenting, innovating, trying, and failing, failing, failing (isn’t this the only way to move forward?) that to come with blank sheets of paper and an expectation that something new will develop is the best idea.
3) You’ve Got No Choice – Is anyone saying that this Internet thing is a flash in the pan? That the incredible pace of technological change in communication, that’s even shaping the way our brains operate, will simply bypass the Church? Nope. We all suspect this is where the world is going – that to nurture, disciple, even attract a new generation, our faith communities have to have their acts together in the ways we ponder, shape, and offer resources for the ‘digitally, connected, world.’
As we continue through this transition in North American Christianity that is seeing fewer people go to church less often, the average American churchgoer attends services 1.4 times per month, we know that the congregations that survive are going to be the ones that take faith formation really seriously. The cultural nudge to get people to church on Sunday mornings is gone and the big reason people would even think about spending precious weekend time involved in a faith community is directly linked to the ability of that congregation to offer something of substance to the faith journey. We’ve got to figure out what that is for our congregations. We’ve got to try new things, innovate, pioneer, and ‘dare greatly.’ Taking faith formation seriously is no longer a luxury, ‘because most people are going to come anyway,’ but a necessity as this is increasingly becoming the reason people come.
Hope to see you in June.