Book Review: John Roberto's “Seasons of Adult Faith Formation”
While many churches focus on children’s and youth ministry or the design of “relevant” worship services in order to grow, John Roberto’s Seasons of Adult Faith Formation asserts that adult faith formation has become the weakest area in many churches. Roberto attempts to give a holistic vision for the formation of adults in their various seasons of life and to make the case for churches to focus attention on the process of discipleship. This book will be beneficial for Christian Education committees and practitioners (both new and seasoned) who are looking for more in-depth reasons and motivations that inform adult learning, as well as holistic thought about designing adult faith formation experiences.
Roberto highlights what makes adult learning unique and the motivations that factor into adult learning. Roberto is keen on “personalizing and customizing” learning environment to include IRL (In Real Life) and digital spaces to meet the needs of each individual adult learner. He pushes us toward thinking smaller instead of reaching a “mass audience.” He is correct to move us away from being content or program centered in faith formation. This book includes information about generational and seasonal development and identifies the need for ministering to adults during times of life transitions.
Roberto’s suggests a model of faith formation that includes a network of relationships through various platforms: online, real life, mentored, and communal. Seasons of Adult Faith Formation divides adulthood into four seasons: Young Adulthood, Midlife Adulthood, Mature Adulthood, and Older Adulthood. Different authors contribute to the chapters on the various seasons and give insight into the contributions and unique aspects to these intentionally nebulous categories. There are other helpful chapters by John Roberto, Tom Zanzig, and Ed Gordon that give the theory behind Roberto’s vision and make connections to practical application. Additionally, Roberto includes charts for processing his and other authors’ insights.
If you are simply looking for a how-to manual, this may not be what you need. While certainly not aiming to be a theoretical work, there is a lot of helpful background research and theory about adult learning included. While I am a fan of Roberto and don’t hesitate in recommending this book, I do have my own unease about his model. It seems to leave the Christian educator too narrowly in the role of curator. I also question whether Roberto’s methodology could slip into a consumerist-oriented model for faith formation even with trained mentors. Yet this book has much to offer those who are looking to revamp their adult education or are starting from the beginning.