God calls the church to live a life grounded in Scripture, shaped by spiritual disciplines, and centered around intentional discernment. But what does it look like to be a congregation or a community that actively cultivates practices of prayer, Scripture reading, and other spiritual disciplines?
This is one of the questions that the Christian Reformed Church in North America has been exploring as part of its Our Journey 2025 ministry plan. The plan outlines four “milestones” or goals that CRC congregations identified as areas in which they’d like to grow. The first of these is a desire to become places that “cultivate practices of prayer and spiritual discipline, transforming our lives and communities by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
At the halfway point of this five-year plan, the CRC is seeing some great examples of this milestone being lived out.
You probably know someone who can take an idea, adjust it to fit their context, and then get the people around them excited about it. These are the kind of people helping people of all ages grow in faith by crafting their own services and events inspired by resources from the Faith Practices Project.
Initially launched as a set of online resources, the Faith Practices Project focused on 12 spiritual disciplines—actions that, when regularly repeated, can enrich our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, cultivate the life and character of Jesus Christ in us, and strengthen our love for God and others.
These practices include prayer, Scripture reading, sabbath, service, remembering, wonder, celebrating, listening, hospitality, generosity, gratitude, and acts of justice and mercy. Each equips us to better serve God and our neighbor.
The Faith Practices Project recently expanded to offer a set of “build-your-own-service” guides for any type of gathering, from worship services to vacation Bible school alternatives.
From these resource starting points, here’s what church leaders across North America have put together to help their congregations develop lasting faith habits in creative and communal ways.
Bethel CRC, Brockville, Ont.
When members at Bethel CRC in Brockville, Ont., gathered for worship one Sunday in October 2022, they found paper “thought bubble” cut-outs in their pews. As the service began, Pastor Jack Van de Hoef invited the congregation to write or draw on the pieces of paper to share how they were experiencing wonder. Then he pointed to a colorful board at the front of the sanctuary with the words “I WONDER” in big letters at the top.
“Now, this is not what we normally do in church,” Van de Hoef explained. “When you come to church, you usually sit in the pew, behave yourself, and you wait until you’re told to stand or walk around. You don’t just wander around in church. This morning, I am giving you permission to wander. Come up here during a song, during a prayer, while I’m talking—that’s fine—to put something on this wonder wall.”
Throughout the service, members of all ages walked up to the board to pin their thought bubbles to the board. “It was encouraging to see so many participating,” Van de Hoef said.
Covenant CRC, Sioux Center, Iowa
After its regular morning service one Sunday, Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, hosted an intergenerational lunch and “WE service” to explore the practice of wonder. Members received a color-coded name tag based on their age group and were encouraged to have no more than two people with the same color seated at the same table. After the meal, people watched a skit about faith practices and then worked through activities together. They used magnifying glasses to examine the details of objects at their tables and talked about what they noticed. Each age group had its own role in the conversation; adults explained to kids what the word “glimpse” meant and kids explained—or demonstrated—what “surprise” means!
Grace CRC, Oak Lawn, Ill.
Grace Community CRC in Oak Lawn, Ill., began a Pentecost series on faith practices. After using the first six practices in a “build your own” series, they decided to continue with the remaining six for a full 12-week series. Worship coordinator Diane Ritzema said the congregation loved how practical many of these faith practices are and how easily they can be integrated into daily living. During coffee fellowship after worship, members spent time around tables reflecting and asking questions with all generations.
During its worship service on the faith practice of hospitality, Grace Community CRC formally welcomed children to partake in the Lord’s Supper for the first time. Pastors Michael Kooi and Kelsey Jones met with children for several weeks leading up to the service. During the service, shaped around Luke 14:12-24, all ages gathered around the table to partake. The service closed with everyone singing “Jesus Loves Me,” now the church’s communion tradition.
Silver Spring CRC, Silver Spring, Md.
Silver Spring (Md.) CRC used the Faith Practices material as a starting point and then went in a new direction. Pastor Doug Bratt preached on the faith practices of listening, celebration, remembering, wonder, prayer, and sabbath, using the psalms to anchor these spiritual habits. Worship coordinator Bethany Besteman decided to use the familiar and well-loved words of Psalm 23 as the common thread throughout the sermon series.
Each week, the congregation learned a new section of the psalm in sign language until they could sign the entire psalm together. Artwork for bulletin covers and eventually a devotional were made each week by ninth-grader Lorelai Reiffer.
Weekly emails went out with prompts for journaling and reflection. They invited the congregation to engage through art, poetry, acts of service, and quiet meditation. The full worship series on Psalm 23 will be published in Reformed Worship in spring 2023.
Historically, spiritual disciplines included practices such as prayer, reading the Bible, fasting, silence, solitude, and service, but the range of faith-formative practices actually encompasses a much larger set of activities. Find resources for your own intergenerational gathering or worship series on faith practices at crcna.org/faithpracticesproject.