With so many young (and not so young) people walking away from faith these days, parents and church leaders are asking themselves why people don’t embrace the faith of their childhood and make it their own. In “Will There Be Faith? A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples,” Thomas Groome presents an approach to Christian faith and identity that informs, forms, and transforms people. He presents thorough examination of who and what is involved in religious education of all kinds and recommendations based on the example of Jesus and a thorough understanding of our current society. Groome states the goal of such education in a theme repeated throughout the book: that people bring their life to faith and their faith to life.

Groome draws from the example of Jesus, the master teacher. He points out, for example, that after the resurrection when he appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus never tells them what to see. He waits for them to see it themselves. Groome writes, “I’ve found such patience to be the greatest challenge in my own teaching style.” [And everyone said “amen.”]

In the mid section of the book, Groome takes time to examine who we are and what that means for how we teach. Here he spends a good deal of time wading through both the Catholic and the Protestant views of humanity:  are we inherently good or inevitably bad, for example. He shows where both branches of Christianity can find common ground, particularly in how much we are in need of grace. That said, the book reflects his identity as a Catholic Christian and most of the examples come from their specific practice of faith.

Thomas-GroomeI really appreciated his chapter “What Faith and Why Educate?” in which he considers the nature and purpose of educating in Christian faith. He advocates good sound religious education or “’a right understanding of faith,’ so that ‘the truths to be believed are in conformity with the demands of reason.’ …Such critical understanding is needed ‘to overcome certain forms of fundamentalism as well as subjective and arbitrary interpretations.’ Note well: [this] is saying that critical thinking is needed to prevent both fundamentalism and relativism.”

Groome also delves into the challenge of sharing faith with today’s thinkers, who are more postmodern than anything else. His description of modern vs postmodern thinking was both eye-opening and helpful. Despite the postmodern resistance to metanarrative (systems of thought and belief that presume to explain everything to everyone all the time) and assigning universals as products of their contexts, they are open to spirituality and are seeking fullness of life. Jesus can speak to their pursuit of happiness, their desire for meaning, their love of holistic knowing, and their respect for those who are different. Knowing this will help us know how to express faith in a way they can hear.

The book doesn’t remain mired in theory. Groome includes many lists of questions to ask of our programs and activities, strategies to consider, and pitfalls to avoid. He advocates community-based cooperative models of teaching, rather than the more traditional didactic style of a teacher lecturing. If you are not a Catholic, large sections in which he describes church practice and religious schools will seem less relevant. I challenge you to dive in anyway – there is much practical advice for those who plan and lead worship services and who teach children in formal school settings.

Thomas Groome writes as a thoughtful and serious Catholic Christian. While much of what he writes is framed in the context of Catholicism, as a Protestant, I found much to learn from in this book. He challenged me in my personal faith and taught me better how to pass that faith along to my children and friends.

Would you like a free copy of this book? Even if it’s my copy? It’s in excellent condition. Leave a comment and let me know if you are interested in barely-used book giveaways. I’m going through my bookshelves and have many books to share if you like the idea! I’ll select one winner from the comments via a random number generator on Saturday.

Book provided for review by TLC Book Tours. Click here to find links to other bloggers’ reviews of “Will There Be Faith?”

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