By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan
Can you believe Advent begins in a month?
We’re in a series discussing the importance of shared practices in missional discipleship. As the Christmas season approaches, we’d love you to consider whether Advent 2019 would be a good chance for your community of faith to be introduced to shared rhythms.
Here’s why: Advent is a defined period of time when churches can focus thematically on reflection, hospitality, Scripture and prayer. During this season, churches likely already engage in shared practices such as eating together, giving generous offerings, incorporating Advent readings into Sunday gatherings, serving the poor, and perhaps even a daily Advent devotional or prayer guide. The kind of intentionality that we find in the weeks leading up to Christmas is a great foundation for exploring what deeper engagement in shared practices could look like in the broader church calendar.
The Forge Church’s Experience
Shared practices as we’ve been introducing are not a new thing at all. The Jewish community of Jesus’ day practiced traditional spiritual practices throughout the year (Jesus emphasizes three of the main practices in Matthew 6, though as correctives to how they were being practiced). These formed and shaped them into a community on God’s mission together when they practiced them in ways faithful to God’s ongoing redemptive plan of restoring all things together in unity.
Utilizing the Advent season to introduce shared practices has been a rich and growth-inducing journey for Shannon’s church, the Forge. For two years now they have been digging deeper into what it means to be disciples together on God’s mission.
The Forge has offered to share two resources: the Advent Guide they used when first implementing an intentional framework of shared practices for their congregation, and also the guide they used a year later as the shared practices were more established. As the folk at The Forge grew deeper together, so did their shared practices—and you will see that reflected in these two guides which are a year apart.
The guidebooks are only one of the tools Forge uses to make room in their everyday lives to spend time both with God individually and as the scattered community of disciples who gather for a few hours during the week.
Advent Shared Practice Resources
Here are some other resources that you may find helpful in gathering your congregation or household in shared reflection and action throughout Advent:
- Advent Conspiracy is a multi-faceted movement to “celebrate Christmas humbly, beautifully, and generously.” They offer tools from inspirational videos and kid’s curriculum to a full-fledged book and small group series. Great to engage as whole churches or as a family, Advent Conspiracy was the basis for The Forge Church’s Advent Guide provided above. If you look further into the Advent Conspiracy resource, you may wonder how children felt about their parents engaging in the Spend Less (on yourselves) and Give More (to those who have less/not). Overwhelmingly, from small to teen, the kids at The Forge embraced this idea. So that’s just a plug for those of you who fear your kids not feeling like Christmas is Christmas.
- CBWC’s Advent Page provides samples of Advent devotionals, Advent readings and Christmas Eve service orders.
- Saturate’s “How to Make a Plan for the Holidays” is a short, simple and very practical guide to preparing for the season before it bulldozes us. Intended for use in small groups.
- Marva Dawn’s brief daily devotional Follow the Story takes a reflective bent as she walk slowly through the story of that first Christmas and invites us to enter into the anticipation of the coming Saviour alongside ancient disciples like Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, Joseph and Mary.
What other resources have you found helpful around Advent? Let us know by leaving a comment!