10,000 Students and Counting

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The first image in the first course we ever launched: How to Forgive with Dr. Virginia Holeman.

Back in the summer of 2013, ChurchNext launched its first courses. We wanted to give people a unique opportunity to learn and to talk about matters of faith with Christians in our own congregations and across the world. We wanted to make available to anyone who cares to learn the wisdom of today’s Christian thinkers. We wanted to use the technologies available to us today to encourage people to deepen their engagement with their faith.

As of this week, 10,000 students have registered with our platform. Actually, with the two who registered the other day, we’re up to 10,003.

10,003 people who have found this opportunity and used it to learn more about our shared

The first line spoken in the first class we ever launched--If you've had a frontal lobotomy, it's possible to forgive and forget. You forget a lot of other things too.--Dr. Virginia Holeman (2)

The first words spoken in the first class we ever launched.

faith. 10,003 people who have been touched by new ideas, who have discussed topics that they might not have engaged otherwise. That’s exciting.

We believe that we are doing God’s work when we create these classes and let you know about them. We believe you are doing God’s work when you engage them and use them to grow in your faith.

We thank you for joining us in this ministry. We thank our instructors for offering their time, talent, and ideas for us to share with the Christian community. We invite you to keep growing with us as we work together with the grace of God to create a better and wiser world.

 

 

Just Launched: What Is Christian Mission? with Ian Douglas

We just launched What Is Christian Mission? with Ian DouglasWhat Is Christian Mission? with Ian Douglas For Individuals and For Groups.

Christian mission has evolved over the years. The words “Christian Mission” conjure for many a picture of a church outpost in some part of the world remote to Western culture, with missionaries attempting to convert the locals to Christianity.  The definition of Christian mission, however, according to Bishop Ian Douglas, is very different today.

Bishop Douglas has written and edited four books and numerous academic and popular articles on the topics of mission, the missional Church, contemporary Anglicanism, and world Christianity.  He teaches a contemporary understanding of Christian mission, defining the practice according to God’s mission to restore humanity into a right relationship with God, with one another, and with creation — not according to various churches’ missions to spread their Christian beliefs and build churches. We do mission by “reconciling all people to each other and God,” and we can do that in our neighborhoods, the next town over, online or abroad.

This class addresses the question of what it means to practice Christian mission through examining the development of mission over the ages, discovering God’s mission, and discussing in depth the ministries in which we are commissioned to participate as part of our baptismal covenants.

It is an idea class for people who want to understand more about Christian mission in the twenty-first century.

For a preview of the class, please click below.

 

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A New Way to Find the Classes You Want

Remember the old days, when you had to search for ChurchNext classes by category or by scrolling through the alphabetically arranged list of all our classes? If you had a specific class or topic that you wanted, it was like trying to run into the grocery store to buy milk, but having to walk through aisles of pasta and canned peaches to get to it. It wasn’t like you had anything against pasta, but that wasn’t what you were there to buy.

Well, we’ve been working with the noble experts at Pathwright (our online learning platform) on that problem, and we happily announce that we now have a search window! Just type in the keyword you want, and classes that address that topic will pop right up.

Just click on Browse Library and look in the top left-hand corner.

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Type in a search term, and see the magical results!

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(We realize that we might be a little overexcited by this, but we’ve been working on this for quite a while now. The search bar makes us somewhat giddy.)

So the next time you want to learn about Lent, angels, the Eucharist, or any other subject (we now have over 250 classes, so there’s a lot of material to search!), just type in your search term.

Now it’s like stopping into the grocery store for milk and being teleported directly to the dairy section. No pasta. No peaches. Enjoy!

 

Just Launched: How to Establish a Church/School Partnership

We just launched How to Establish a Church/School Partnership For Individuals and For Groups. If your church is looking for a way to do its ministry in the world, consider taking this course and learning how to develop a supportive relationship with a high-needs public school in your community.

Ben Campbell, co-founder of the Micah Association, an organization of partner faith communities and public schools in Richmond, Virginia, calls public education “the most Christian institution in America” because everybody across the multiple social, ethnic, racial, and economic divides in our nation can be involved with it. Schools with a large percentage of students facing poverty, however, need a great deal of extra assistance in order to put their students in a position to achieve success. Churches can help by creating partnerships with local schools to offer them long term assistance.

Creating a partnership with a school isn’t always an easy task, but the rewards can be great for everyone involved. In this course, instructors who have participated in successful church/school partnerships or who work with agencies that facilitate such partnerships offer suggestions about the steps that churches should take in initiating, creating, and maintaining successful partnerships with local schools.

The instructors for this course have a lot to offer on the subject of church/school partnerships. In addition to Ben Campbell, Liz Steinhauser, our second instructor, directs St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, which began as a church effort to provide children with a safe place to go when school was not in session and became an organization with multiple programs working to support over 850 children in the Boston area. Lallie Lloyd, who instructs the last two lessons of this course, is founder and director of All Our Children National Network, a Boston-based organization whose mission is to “promote, support, and strengthen effective faith-rooted community partnerships with under-resourced public schools.”

We hope that you will take the time to learn from these instructors about how to do the work of God on behalf of our children — the least powerful of God’s people, particularly the ones who most need our help, but at the same time, the people who offer us greatest hope because they hold the future of our nation and the Church in their hands.

Resist Violence with Action. Embrace Wisdom in the Face of Ignorance.

 

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Many of us opened our news feeds on Sunday and felt punched in the stomach by the particularly horrific example of mass violence that occurred in Orlando very early on Sunday morning. People wanted to demonstrate solidarity with the victims. Blood banks suddenly found themselves with long lines of donors. People have been attending vigils and donating to GoFundMe pages for the victims’ families. We wanted, and want, to do something.

If you are looking for a way to respond, take one of our classes on ways that Christians can resist violence and help people learn about cultures that make them afraid or angry. These classes offer suggestions for practical, effective responses to hatred and violence as well as discussing their place in our culture.

The most obvious class with which to start is A Christian Response to Gun Violence with Eugene Sutton and Ian Douglas. This class includes informative and moving discussion of Screenshot 2016-06-16 12.59.50the place that guns hold in our culture and suggests responsible ways to resist the violence that they do. The class also includes a list of resources for resisting gun violence that we offer here.. We hope that you find it helpful.

Because Omar Mateen,the murderer in Orlando, targeted homosexuals, you may wish to learn ways to help fellow Christians accept gay people in our culture instead of responding with hatred and/or fear. Increase understanding of same-gender unions in our church by taking Talking About Same Gender Unions with Jeffrey Lee.

Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shortly before beginning his attack. For this reason, some political leaders have used the attack as an opportunity to energize their constituents against Muslims living in our communities. To learn more about the faith of Islam (which bears little resemblance to the warped versions of Islam promcrossoted by the Islamic State) and again, to shine light instead of darkness on this controversial issue, try taking Introduction to Islam with Mustapha Elturk.

Finally — most importantly — look to the cross. A Christian response to violence like we have seen in Orlando hinges on how we understand the cross. For this reason, consider taking David Lose’s excellent courses, Making Sense of the Cross Parts 1, 2, and
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Let us look to the cross and the God who redeems us all to help us as we absorb this  atrocity and decide how to translate our beliefs and prayers into effective action. May God be with the people who died in Orlando on Sunday, with their families, with Omar Mateen, and with us all.

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Free Online Learning Opportunities from Yale and Harvard

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Looking for new learning resources for yourself or your congregation? Try looking online for free university courses. Some universities, including Harvard and Yale, offer free online classes to the public. The classes aren’t offered for credit, but they are excellent resources for people who want to learn more on the subjects that they cover.

Your congregation may be interested particularly in Yale’s religious studies offerings, Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature and Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Make your congregation aware of these offerings to take on their own, or incorporate them into your Bible study and other group offerings. Yale also offers courses that address religion less directly but that are certainly relevant to Christian discussions — courses on philosophical approaches to death, for example, and on the Reformation in England and on environmental conservation. Any number of adult formation offerings, for example, might be enhanced by material from these classes.

As you develop and curate online offerings for your church, consider linking your congregation to these courses and exploring free online courses that may be available from other universities.Help your fellow Christians take advantage of these rich educational opportunities in ways that can enhance their journeys and faith and help them explore God’s abundant creation.

 

Help Your Congregation Use ChurchNext Over the Summer

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Over the summer, congregations alter the pace of their activities. Many people travel; worship schedules change; and often, church classes, formation activities, and other  shift into lower gear. During this calmer season, congregations’ needs differ from those the rest of the year. ChurchNext classes can be a valuable asset to church ministries under these adjusted conditions.

Many congregations  begin their summers with Vacation Bible School. A class that many ChurchNext clients have found helpful is How to Run a Vacation Bible School with Dorothy Linthicum, a program director at Virginia Theological Seminary’s Center for the Ministry of Teaching. In this class, Dorothy addresses essential questions central to running a successful Vacation Bible School, offers suggestions about creating a VBS curriculum, and recommends ways to keep the chaos (at least marginally) organized.

Parents and caregivers have unique opportunities during the summer, when the chaos of summer children 2scout meetings and soccer practice and school schedules usually calms down, to work with their children on matters related to spirituality without having to rush. Parents in your congregation might benefit from Holy Habits For Children, in which Valerie Hess helps adults teach children how to make spiritual habits part of their daily lives. Parents might also utilize Start a Family Devotional time with Anne Kitch.  Christian education directors or other groups focused on children and families can offer For Groups versions of these classes early in the summer and invite parents to attend, or they can simply invite parents to take these courses on their own.

If your congregation has an active grounds care committee, a community garden, or simply a number of avid gardeners, consider offering Spirituality and Gardening with Christine Sine. Since many people garden actively during the summer, help them use the activity as a spiritual discipline. This would make a good adult forum topic or an interesting activity for your grounds committee or gardening club.

Some churches continue to offer adult forums during the summer. If your church offers adult forum, consider using ChurchNext classes to make the process simpler. It need not be complicated — just project the class onto a screen — or even on a computer if your group is small — and let your fellow congregants take the topic and run. If your church does not offer adult forum in summer, consider offering opportunities for remote learning. One church in North Carolina combined four classes focused on Jesus into one large summer class called Befriending Jesus. The class met in person several times over the summer, but they also took it remotely so that people could participate while on vacation.

We hope that you take the time over to nourish your body with the rich fruits of the season and your soul with the slower pace and opportunities to explore the natural world. Have a happy and fulfilling summer.