United Evangelical Lutheran Dr. Martin Luther Church
GIFT participants age 3 through sixth grade engage in Godly Play, a curriculum developed by Jerome Berryman using a Montessori approach to encourage children to WONDER about God while becoming connected in a relationship with God. The goal of Godly Play is to teach children and adults the art of using religious language and to help them become more fully aware of God's presence in their lives. Through parable, sacred stories, and liturgical action, the wonder of God is opened, focusing on the innate spirituality of children. We are a Godly Play congregation with trained Godly Play teachers and pastor, joining educators of many Christian denominations in this method of faith formation.
With a strong heritage of valuing Christian education, Shiner Lutheran pivoted to a renewed emphasis on faith formation through a ministry named GIFT - Growing in Faith Together. Learning times shifted from the traditional Sunday School to a Wednesday evening gathering of all ages seeking to learn and grow in faith. Following the school calendar, volunteers provide a meal at 5:30 pm. Parents are invited to accompany the very young, high schoolers come straight from sports practice, and adults join as they finish their workdays. After food and fellowship, age groups head into various class areas to learn and grow in faith formation.
Our high school youth gather in our upstairs youth room during GIFT classes. Together with adult facilitators, they view themed video clips and apply their faith to life situations.
Special Learning Opportunities
Young children are invited to join first communion classes when their parents feel it is appropriate. By meeting with the pastor, children are encouraged to value and participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Pastor led sessions are also offered to those adults and families new to our congregation who may wish to better understand and connect with our congregation by considering membership in the Lutheran church. As a special event every three years, our youth are invited to attend the ELCA National Youth Gathering which will next take place in 2022. Lutheran youth from across the country gather for worship, fellowship and service.
During GIFT our junior high youth spend time with the pastor in confirmation instruction, preparing them for the rite of confirmation as they publicly affirm their faith in the Triune God and become voting members of the congregation.
Vacation Bible School (VBS)
Each summer our entire building is transformed into an adventure filled week of faith formation using stories, music, art and science to build faith. Our army of volunteers from throughout the Shiner community opens their hearts to all the children of Shiner who spend time together learning about Jesus and God's love for all.
Cross Trails Ministry, part of our larger Lutheran organization, operates Camp Chrysalis in Kerrville, Ebert Ranch Camp in Harper, and numerous offsite camps and day camps. We send our confirmation age junior high youth to camp each summer, along with many elementary and high school youth. The congregation supports camp participation both in our budget and in support of fundraisers so that every child who wishes to participate can afford the camp cost. We see the church camp experience as a proven path to encourage faith formation.
Parents and adults have an opportunity to join in conversation and study while their children attend GIFT classes. In addition, other Bible Studies are offered for adults at various times, including new opportunities for virtual online group studies.