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During a webinar on Christian formation that I participated in a little while ago, the speakers spoke about two kinds of Christian formation[1]. These two dimensions of formation are the macro and the micro. While a concept that seemed so obvious once I heard it explained – I continue to find it helpful as a model to understand how formation happens.

Macro formation is the formation that is happening all the time in the life of the church. It’s all the regular small activities that are infusing people with the character of faith. It’s the weekly bible study that begins the guild meeting, it’s the monthly parish council where everyone takes a turn opening with prayer, it’s learning a Godly Play story to tell on Sunday, it’s the bulletin that explains the parts of the eucharist, it can even be that conversation at coffee hour when someone asks what is the Triduum anyway? Macro formation includes the bite-sized learning that can become part of what we already do and it’s vital. Without it, people lack a regular and supported way to draw deeper into knowledge of and relationship with Christ and each other.

The other dimension of formation is Micro formation. This formation is made up of intentional bursts of focused and intensified faith formation. It’s the weekend prayer retreat, the 40 day Lent challenge, a pilgrimage, or summer camp. Micro formation can create the conditions for deep insight and new growth. It takes organization and focus but this kind of formation can yield transfiguring experiences and fresh perspective on the gospel and one’s life. Without it, people can become stuck, stale or simply adrift in their spiritual journey.

When the macro and micro dimensions of formation are present, people’s energy and aliveness goes up. They also show a willingness to share about their experiences with others. When one of these is missing, then people’s maturing in Christ can be stunted. If you only have the micro dimension then formation only becomes about mountain top experiences and people have a hard time integrating their discoveries into daily life. If you only offer the macro dimension then people can get tired of the routine and unchanging diet. They might get stuck in patterns of thinking and doing and insensitive to nudges of the Holy Spirit to experience how things might be made new.

All Christian formation is ultimately dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this model of macro and micro formation can help us take a look at our parishes and discover the times and places we are most open to this work and when and where we might prepare more ground for that work to happen. These two dimensions of formation, the macro and the micro, need each other, and as multidimensional people of faith maybe we need them too.

  1. Rev. Dr. Altagracia Perez-Bullard and Dr. Lisa Kimball, “Reimagining Adult Formation.” The recording of the webinar is available here:

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