Can You Combine Formal and Informal?


It is on this informal level that real, long lasting life change is fostered, developed and matured. God has ordained the family to be the primary vehicle for the laboratory of faith development. It is regular, mundane, average life that incubates a robust spirituality. And the best context for that is a home.

Some are privileged with a home where a father and/or a mother lead their children in an intentional way. Most are not.

In the absence of this natural laboratory, the church seeks to compromise its formal environment to incorporate an informal one. This is a response to the obvious vacancy. The problem presents itself in regard to time constraints. The church tries to accomplish formal and informal teaching in one hour, one day a week. It takes over a year of these consistent environments to equal one week of influence in a home environment.

The response is often a noble one. Small groups are created to bridge the gap between formality and informality. These small groups seek to recreate a “formal” sort of informal environment. This might be a necessary corrective to over-formality (what church children’s ministry was like when I was a kid), however one cannot effectively combine a formal endeavor with one that is dependent on relational means.

Thus it’s important to not try to do all things in one context. It takes several contexts to accomplish a maturing disciple of Jesus Christ. Some we can construct ourselves, most we must merely place and submit ourselves to the work of of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe another solution is to deconstruct the whole thing, both formal and informal. Perhaps the church was never meant to teach formally, but rather be a collection of informal family environments. This is also a noble pursuit, but it misses those who are spiritual orphans.

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