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

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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.

search screen

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.


Nonviolence 3

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

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.





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.