Announcing The Big Class: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer

From September 5-19 2016, ChurchNext will be offering a free class to anybody who would like to take it: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer.

If you feel like the nation has become increasingly polarized in recent years, you’re right. Research suggests that the U.S. has become exceptionally politically divided. More than in decades past, Democrats and Republicans prefer not to marry one another, consider one another threats to the well being of the United States, and would rather their children not marry people from the other party. The current election season underlines these studies’ findings. We are in the midst of what may be the most polarizing and contentious election cycle in recent U.S. history.

Parker J. Palmer, a teacher, author, activist, and an outspoken advocate on faith and democracy issues, believes our current political climate provides a rare opportunity to think more deeply about who we are as people and a nation. His course is intended to spur thought, conversation, and action around current political tensions. The class, a series of video lectures and discussions, can be taken anytime between September 5 – 19. Students can sign up today. No special sofware is required. It will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete. Registration is free and open worldwide.

Throughout the free course, participants are encouraged to ponder and discuss what it means to live faithfully in a society racked with political division. “We the people have made America great,” says Palmer, “and re-discovering our potential, in light of the present political climate may be our greatest challenge and reward.”

For more information and to register, click here or go to > The Big Class. Also, resources for congregations, including downloadable posters, bulletin inserts and a Launch Guide can be found here or at > The Big Class.

This course is made possible by the generous support of Forward Movement, The Episcopal Church, Bexley Seabury Seminary, Living Compass, and the Center for Courage & Renewal.

Online Resources for Altar Guild and Flower Preparation

Flowers 2

Two weeks ago, we posted about online resources for vestry members and lectors, and last week, we posted about online resources for Eucharistic visitation and pastoral care. Today, we will go into online resources for your church’s altar guild and the flower team.

We encourage you to forward this post or resources in it that you find particularly helpful on to the people at your church who are in charge of these ministries. Also, if you know of any particular online resources on these subjects that people might find helpful, please comment!

1. The National Altar Guild Association has a really extraordinarily good website filled with useful information about serving on the altar guild. The page includes detailed sections about the ministry of the altar guild, running an altar guild, and how to do specific tasks connected with the altar guild.

2. Try our class on Introducing the Altar Guild with Hobey Hinchman.

3. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Columbus has put up a helpful series of videos showing people step by step how to arrange flowers for the altar. Just start with step one and let the women in these videos show you how it’s done.

4. The National Altar Guild Website has a good subsection on preparing flowers for the service.

5. Fearless Flowers is a website devoted to helping people learn to arrange flowers for all kinds of purposes. It includes helpful instructional videos as well as pages of resources, tutorials, and ideas.

6. This list of secret flower arranging tips from florists is short and offers some good, basic tips for all kinds of flower arranging.

We hope that you have found these online resources helpful.




Online Resources for Eucharistic Visitation and Pastoral Care

Good samaritan

Last week, we posted about online resources for vestry members and lectors. Today, we will go into online resources for helping  Eucharistic visitors and pastoral care ministers practice their callings.

We encourage you to forward this post or resources in it that you find particularly helpful on to the people at your church who are in charge of these ministries. Also, if you know of any particular online resources on these subjects that people might find helpful, please comment!

Eucharistic Visitation

1.We offer a course on Eucharistic Visitation in which Tim Spannaus trains people for this ministry. It is, as are all of our classes, available For Groups as well as for individual learning.

2. The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts has written an excellent guide on Eucharistic Visitor Training  that gives detailed history of the ministry and guides visitors in this practice.

3.The Episcopal Diocese of Albany has published a Handbook of Lay Eucharistic Ministry and Eucharistic Visitation  that offers detailed guidance on how to pursue each of these ministries.

Pastoral Care

1. One of the first ChurchNext classes we ever produced was HoUntitled design (3)w to Help a Sick Friend with Joyce Mercer. Joyce has terrific suggestions about how to approach people who are ill, how to listen to them, how to support their families, and other subjects.

2. Vestry Papers and Vital Practices has a whole section on pastoral care. It’s not formal training — as with most of the vestry papers, it’s more thoughts on the process than a series of steps — but then, pastoral visits don’t usually follow step-by-step guidelines. It’s a great place to browse around and read about the experiences of people who have made pastoral visits and who have received them. They have some excellent tips.

3. The Anglican Fellowship of Prayer has produced a short pamphlet called Pastoral Prayer and Care with suggestions for how to prepare for and make a pastoral visit. In addition to reading it online, pastoral visitors might find it a useful “cheat sheet” to help them prepare for their first visits.

4. Ministry Magazine’s article Visiting the Sick is really intended for clergy, but it offers in-depth guidance that will profit lay visitors as well.

We hope that you have found these online resources helpful.

Coming soon: Online resources for the altar guild and flower teams.





Online Training Resources for the Vestry and for Lectors

These days, the internet offers excellent resources to train people for ministries at your church. Over the next few weeks, we will present posts about online resources — some that we have produced and some produced by others –for helping people at your church learn to participate effectively in these ministries. The lists aren’t exhaustive, but if you are looking for online resources to help train people to participate in any of these ministries, these are good places to begin.

We invite you to pass this post, or the resources that it mentions, along to the people responsible for organizing these ministries at your church.


Untitled design (2) 1. You can earn your ChurchNext Certificate in Vestry Leadership by taking four classes in different aspects of vestry leadership from experienced church leaders. Discuss your ideas about vestry leadership with other members or future members of vestries. The For Groups versions of the classes can be particularly useful at vestry retreats and orientations.(You can, of course, take these classes individually as well if you want to learn about some particular aspect of vestry leadership.)

2. The Episcopal Church Foundation publishes its Vestry Papers and Vital Practices online.  Find literally hundreds of different ideas, resources, and suggestions for different aspects of vestry ministry.

3. Some dioceses include information that can be of use to vestries on the diocesan website. We recommend looking on your diocese’s website and seeing what online resources it provides.


1. We offer a course designed to train lectors in the ministry of proclaiming God’s word in Untitled designchurch. It’s called Reading and Praying in the Church: The Office of Lector with Tim Spannaus, and in about 45 minutes, it covers everything covered in standard lector training — and more. Use the For Groups version of the class and add some practice time, and your church’s lector training sessions should be covered.

2. Denise Thompson, a well-respected trainer of lectors in the Catholic tradition from Illinois, runs a series of lector training videos on her YouTube channel. Many of these videos cover subjects that lectors encounter across denominations (rate of articulation, pronunciation resources, etc.) Lectors can use the videos in training or to address particular topics that interest them.

3. This isn’t really a training resource, but if you want to recommend a good site for learning to pronounce some of the more difficult words in scripture, try Net Ministries’ Biblical Words Pronunciation Guide.

4. Many congregations like to create their own training videos and post them on YouTube. The process is not difficult; if you have access to a smartphone and a tripod, you can make a video that will serve your purpose well. To learn how to make video that will look and sound clear on YouTube, click here or here . If you would like to learn how to post your video to YouTube, click here.

We hope that you find these resources helpful. If you know of any good resources that you can recommend to help people build or train parishioners in any of these ministries, please comment. We would love to share them.

Coming soon: Resources for the Altar Guild and the Flower Team.





Learn How to Serve on a Vestry: Earn a ChurchNext Certificate In Vestry Leadership

Many churches look for ways to help new vestry members prepare to take on their responsibilities. Church leaders can make this process simpler by asking new vestry members to earn a ChurchNext Certificate in Vestry Leadership. Each member of your vestry team can earn this certificate by taking four classes designed to train them for their vestry duties:

CN vestry 2

We have designed these courses carefully to help vestry members learn about several important aspects of vestry ministry. New vestry members, or experienced members who would like to learn more about these aspects of their ministry, can take these courses as individuals, or they can build fellowship by taking together the versions of the classes formatted for group learning and discussion. They might do so at a vestry retreat, for example, or as part of a vestry orientation.At the end of the final class, students may click on the link that we provide, and we will send each of them a signed, personal certificate of completion.

InstructorIn The Vestry Journey, Van Sheets discusses the role of vestry leaders in the church. He offers guidance about how to adapt to vestry ministry, resources to which vestry members can look for guidance, and helpful attitudes and mindsets to bring into vestry work.

In Vision and the Vestry, Charles Robertson guides vestries in instructorcreating a “sacred bundle” of values, ministries, and ideas that are most important to their particular congregations. He discusses ways to create goals based on these sacred ideas, and how to ensure that the church builds toward these goals in its ministries.

In Vestry Team Building and Conflict, Bill Carroll offers guidance on Instructorways to base the vestry ministry in a sacred fellowship that can offer a foundation for discussion and decision-making. He identifies strategies for building fellowship on a vestry and for managing conflict and anxiety during difficult times.

In Understanding Vestry Finances, Tom Post discusses the financial duties that vestry members assume as part of their ministry. He emphasizes the importance of all vestry members’ participation in financial Instructor imageoversight and discusses (in plain English) how vestries should handle financial reporting and building budgets.

Several church leaders who have been consulted about these classes have offered their opinions about the courses’ great value for churches who would like a way to introduce new vestry members to this ministry. For example, Roger Ferlo, President Bexley Seabury Seminary  has written: The ChurchNext series of courses for Vestry leaders offers a robust, thorough introduction to the joys and challenges of vestry leadership.”  Kirk Smith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, has said, “This is a convenient, practical way to gain essential information for new and veteran vestry members.”

We hope that as your church members learn more about leading your congregation, these classes help them do the work of Christ in their churches and communities.



2 Tips For Getting Your Church Hyped on Online Learning

Getting the ball rolling with online learning and e-formation at your church? Some churches are already technological resources that enhance ministry. These churches often take off with ChurchNext classes enthusiastically.


Others need a little more time, though. For these churches, this might be your experience: you tell your congregation that this great new resource is available. You’re hyped. The clergy and staff are hyped. The congregation is interested. You add classes, let people know that they are available, and wait for the flood of emails to begin.Here’s what you get.


Click on me.

If the above scenario describes your experience with launching ChurchNext or other online ministry opportunities in your congregation, we have some tips for getting things going with more energy.

Start with group classes. Many people who launch ChurchNext expect individuals members of the congregation to use it on their own, simply because they are interested. Some do, but we have found that starting by having members of the congregation use group classes is a better way to get congregations accustomed to using online educational material. Once they have taken group classes in adult formation, Bible study, or through some specific ministry and have some awareness of how the classes work, they are more likely to use classes, both in ministries and as individuals.

Assign an administrator. Particularly during the first year, it can help to have one person who is assigned to communicate with the congregation about ChurchNext offerings.


Who, me?

Assign a ChurchNext administrator — it can be an enthusiastic lay person, a seminarian, the Christian education director, or one of the clergy — to become aware of the classes that ChurchNext offers and to communicate with the leaders of different ministries about classes that can support their work. This person should be aware of what, generally, is going on in the church and be willing to talk to people about how classes can enhance various ministries.

For example, the administrator can communicate with the leaders of the lectors, of the Altar Guild, of Vacation Bible School,  of Eucharistic visitation, and of any other relevant ministries to let them know that ChurchNext offers training in working with these ministries. Or say that your church begins to work with a refugee family. The ChurchNext administrator thinks, “Hey, isn’t there a class on refugees?” and gets in touch with the head of that ministry about utilizing Responding to Refugees with Allison Duvall For Groups .

The time commitment for this job isn’t high — it will start with some talking and emailing, but communication needs should reduce considerably as parishioners and church leaders become more aware of ChurchNext as a resource.  Most congregations maintain an administrator, however, to continue communication as needed, so make sure to find a new administrator if the first one moves on.

Coming Next Week: 3 more tips on getting your church hyped on online learning. In the meantime, for more information about launching ChurchNext at your church, check out The ChurchNext Launch Plan.




10,000 Students and Counting

Screenshot 2016-07-19 13.27.23

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.