4 Classes to Enrich Your Advent Season

As we approach the third Sunday of Advent, you’re probably feeling the usual holiday excitement and bustle. You have your everyday tasks — earn a living, keep your chosen residence from falling apart, etc. — plus all the holiday activities. Decorating the tree. Present shopping. Sending Christmas cards. Holiday parties. Baking. You want to bring your kids to see The Nutcracker. There’s that amazing light show in City Park.


The Advent season is both beautiful, and challenging for Christians because in order to celebrate the season in the church, we are asked to make time for contemplation and anticipation during a busy, exciting time. Holiday season activities are usually pleasant and often special in a way that only sacred family rituals can be special. Setting up the old nativity set that your grandmother used when she was a child with the one odd-looking replacement wise man because Melchior got lost somewhere over the years. Baking the particular Christmas snickerdoodle cookies without which your brother would regard the holiday season as incomplete. Our family always decorates the tree together with a particular kind of music in the background, and we always put the Diva Angel in the prime spot under the star.

These rituals are good, and they are their own way of preparing for Christmas, but it’s important to make time for focus and contemplation among all the bustle — time to think about what happened 2000 years ago when a tiny baby named Jesus was born to a (temporarily) itinerant carpenter’s wife. Time to try to fathom the unfathomable as we prepare to light candles and sing “Silent Night,” and, again, welcome the infant Jesus into our midst.

As you seek ways to maintain balance between bustle and contemplation, we hope you will make use of these classes.They can be used in church settings, of course, but they’re also good ways to enhance your personal devotional time during this sacred season.instructor

Advent: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year with Susan Goff, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, invites us to take on some practical and inspiring disciplines in this season. Bishop Goff offers ways to contemplate more fully what it truly means to prepare for and anticipate the newness of Christ dwelling in our hearts.

Advent For Families with the Rev. Heath Howe offers ways to help families focus on Advent as a season of anticipation. Heath suggests reasons for families to celebrate Advent in their homes and offers guidance on activities and other ways for families to experience a rich Advent season together.Tim Schenk

Introduction to Advent with the Rev. Tim Schenck introduces the season of Advent to people who would like to learn more about it. Tim explores the themes, rituals, and characters on which we focus during Advent and suggests rich ways for Christians to engage the season.

j-welby-newThis Advent, we also offer The Big Class: Getting More Out of the Bible with Archbishop Justin Welby free through the entire season. This class approaches Advent as the beginning of the Church new year and discusses ways in which Christians can read scripture more often and more productively over the coming year.

We hope that you find these classes useful in enriching your  Advent season.

This Lent, Teach Your Congregation How to Share Their Faith

Evangelism is about to get easier.

As mainline denominations re-discover the importance of forming Christians who know and share their faith, some of our brightest theologians are developing new ways tk-carlson-newo help believers get there.

Announcing a brand new formation curriculum to help mainline Christians discern their faith and more easily talk about it. It’s called Speaking Our Faith™.

Based on the doctoral work of The Rev. Dr. Kit Carlson, this intensive, five-week course is designed to help participants discover and become confident in their faith, as well as develop tools to authentically share that faith with others.

“We mainline believers have a faith within us. However we’ve not always been given safe spaces to ask questions, make connections, and form vocabularies that helps us authentically articulate our beliefs. Speaking Our Faith™ uses pointed questions in safe, small group environments to help us come to know and share this intimate part of ourselves.” says Dr. Carlson.

Speaking Our Faith™ invites small groups to come together once a week for five weeks. Each session lasts 90 minutes and includes a video presentation followed by small group discussion. A robust Leader’s Guide takes leaders step by step through the five week journey. Participant Guides are also included for everyone taking part.

“Vibrant mainline Christianity is evolving into a Christ-centered, Christ-sharing environment,” says ChurchNext founder Chris Yaw, “And we’re thrilled to work with Dr. Carlson to help share her groundbreaking research and communication techniques. with others.”

Speaking Our Faith™ will be available for purchase and preview in time for Lent, 2017 for $99 per congregation or $49 for subscribing ChurchNext congregations. For more information contact us at hello@churchnext.tv

Just Launched — The Big Class: Getting More Out of the Bible with Archbishop Justin Welby

While January 1 gets all the fireworks, in the Church, the first Sunday of Advent starts the New Year. We’ll pause to let you enjoy a moment of celebration. Happy New Year!


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Take The Big Class: Getting More Out of the Bible with Justin Welby  for free throughout the Advent season. In this class, Archbishop Justin Welby, the 105th leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, discusses ways to approach and study scripture. He suggests programs that help us read scripture and gives us many reasons to do so. In the final lesson, Stephen Lyon, leader of  the Bible in the Life of the Church project, offers guidance for where and how we might encounter scripture in the world.

The course also includes resource suggestions, including a resource guide to studying and experiencing scripture that you can download at the end of the course and take with you.

Want change in this new year? Read scripture. That’s a big part of Archbishop Welby’s message. We don’t read the Bible because we have to. We don’t slouch resignedly through a bunch of pages that we don’t really understand because that’s what Christians do. We come in armed with information, ideas, excitement, looking for what scripture can show us this time. What will happen? The Bible is a library of books that alter lives and communities. These books have moved through the world making changes for thousands of years. What will it do to your life, your community?

This course is designed to give you inspiration and resources to make reading scripture part of your daily life. We hope that it helps you experience the Bible in new and exciting ways in the coming year. To learn more about the class, please click below.

God bless you, and have a happy new year!


Announcing Our Advent Big Class: Getting More Out of the Bible with Archbishop Justin Welby


We are pleased to announce our newest Big Class: Getting More Out of the Bible with Justin Welby. The Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, is an author, teacher, and the spiritual leader of 80 million Anglicans worldwide. Taking this course and using it to launch a renewed approach to scripture is an excellent way to start a new Church year.

In this course, Archbishop Welby invites Christians to deepen and improve their reading of the Bible and offers guidance on ways to do so. We will offer the course for free to anyone who wants to take it across the world from November 27 through December 25.

The course includes, among other materials, video lectures with Archbishop Welby, resources for further Biblical study according to his suggestions, and the opportunity to discuss the Archbishop’s lectures with Christians across the world. It requires no special software and should take the average student less than an hour to complete. To learn more about taking the Big Class yourself or about using it in your congregation, click here.

We are able to offer this course free of charge during Advent thanks to the generosity of the Office of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and The Bible In the Life of the Church initiative. We hope that you will make the course a part of your Advent discipline. For a preview of one of Archbishop Welby’s lectures, please click below.






Just Launched — Martin Luther: Here I Stand with Alec Ryrie

We have just launched Martin Luther: Here I Stand with Alec Ryrie For Individuals and For Groups.

This class is most productively experienced in conjunction with another class by Alec Ryrie, Martin Luther: Seeds of Reformation, which we published a couple of weeks ago. Martin Luther: Here I Stand picks up discussing Martin Luther’s life and work where the first class leaves off.

This class begins with the church’s reaction to Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, which was not what Luther had hoped. Luther had desired open discussion and debate about the nature of salvation, but the church didn’t want discussion; it wanted obedience. Alec discusses the confrontations that Luther engaged with church authorities, including the most important one at Leipzig, in which Johann Eck succeeded in pushing Luther to make what both men knew the church would regard as heretical statements.

Alec examines Luther’s unique status as the central figure of the early Reformation and ways in which Luther disseminated his message through Germany. Finally, Alec offers in-depth discussion of Luther’s determined refusal at the Diet of Worms to admit any authority in interpreting scripture as necessary besides his own conscience. He examines that choice and its repercussions for the final two lessons of the course.

Dr. Alec Ryrie is a professor of history at Durham University. He specializes in Reformation history and particularly in the way Protestant beliefs and ideas manifested themselves in England and Scotland during the Early Modern period. He has published five books, the most recent of which, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain (2013) won The Society for Renaissance Studies book prize in 2014.

This course is designed for people who want to know more about Martin Luther, his concept of justification by faith alone, and his role in the Protestant Reformation.For a video preview, please click below.

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Need a Break? Take a 3-Minute Retreat



As the pressures of a busy fall combine with the outsize frustration of a vitriolic election season, you might benefit from short spiritual rest breaks. Try Loyola Press’s free 3-minute online retreats.

A ministry of the Jesuits, Loyola Press has created a short online break from your day. A standard 3-minute retreat uses an image and soothing music. It suggests deep breathing and centering attention. It then offers a verse from Scripture, a short meditation on the passage, and some questions for reflection.

You go through the exercise at your own pace, pressing a “Continue” button when you are ready to move on. You can choose to use or silence the music. If you prefer to use a smartphone or tablet for your meditation, you can get the 3-minute retreat app at the App store for apple products or at Google play for Androids.

The spiritual refreshment is surprisingly effective given how short the experience is. To give it a try, click below.




Just Launched — Martin Luther: Seeds of the Reformation

We just launched Martin Luther: Seeds of the Reformation with Alec Ryrie For Individuals and For Groups. Dr. Alec Ryrie is a professor of history at Durham University who specializes in Reformation history. Basically, if you have questions about the way the Protestant Reformation played out in Europe and especially in England, Alec Ryrie is the man you should ask. We are fortunate to be able to include two classes by Dr. Ryrie focused specifically on Martin Luther.

Martin Luther was a study in contradictions. His Catholic faith led him to become an Augustinian monk — and from there to start the Protestant Reformation. He was a theology professor at an obscure university who stayed in his relatively unimportant town — who reached millions of people with his words and ideas. He was driven profoundly by the sense that  he could never do enough to rid himself of the enormity of his sins, though he tried every possible method of doing so — and a  man who ate heartily, advocated drunkenness to combat despair, and disdained the celibate life.

Martin Luther’s work started Protestant Christianity. His writings became the basis for the Lutheran denomination of Protestantism. His protests against corruption helped to motivate a massive reformation within the Catholic church. Through his writings and his especially his translation of the Bible into German, he standardized one dialect of German in a country that had previously been separated into such varied dialects that its people could not understand one another. That’s a lot of work for a career that didn’t begin until Luther was thirty and ended with his death at sixty-two.

In this course, the first of two related courses on the life of Martin Luther by this instructor, Dr. Alec Ryrie examines Martin Luther’s life and career. He offers an overview of how Luther’s early writings created a foundation for a movement that would eventually become the Protestant Reformation.

For a preview of the course, please click below.