3 More Ways to Keep ChurchNext Active in the Life of Your Church

Last week, we discussed three ways that ChurchNext administrators can help their churches maximize the value of their ChurchNext subscriptions, especially over time, after the buzz from the initial launch wears off. The overarching theme that we covered is that it can really help a church utilize ChurchNext to its best potential if the administrator is proactive about reminding church leaders that the resource is available and suggesting ways to use the courses.

Note that this isn’t about pushiness; it’s about communication. Some ministries won’t find what they need in these courses. That’s fine. But if you have the resources, it just makes sense to let people in your church know you have them so they can decide whether or not to use them.

With these ideas in mind, here are three MORE ways to keep your church ministries aware of what resources are available to them through your church’s subscription to ChurchNext.

  1.  Communicate with other ministry leaders. As you begin your work, take a few minutes from time to time and let various ministry leaders know that we have courses that support their ministries. For example, find out who is training lectors at the moment and suggest that they use Reading and Praying in the Church: the Office of the Lector in their lector training. People who can’t make the training can even take it at home. We offer courses that support many ministries in the church, from Lay Eucharistic Ministry and the Altar Guild to refugee advocates and tutors. We have a series of courses that vestries use on retreat and to train new members. We even have a course that one church uses to great effect with its grounds committee. Many churches have found that these courses are very helpful in supporting their parish ministries — but not the ones whose leaders don’t know the courses exist. Enter you, dauntless ChurchNext administrator!
  2. Communicate through transitions. The world exists in a state of change. Despite the Christian devotion to an eternal and unchanging God, that truth seems somehow truer in churches. If your parish priest leaves, the person running ChurchNext should wait until the next one is settled and then meet with the new priest and tell them about how the church has been using this resource. Likewise, if you, elite ChurchNext Administrator, wish to remove your cape and superhero tights and return to civilian life, make sure to pass that cape along to another intrepid soul and tell that soul that it’s important to be proactive. Thus will your ChurchNext subscription endure and remain useful from one generation unto another.
  3. Keep the parish aware of ChurchNext opportunities. Communicating about these courses should be informal as well as formal. Sometimes friends or small groups within parishes find it useful from time to time to study an issue that interests them outside of a formal ministry. For example, say that you have friends at church who are exasperated at their attempts to communicate with people who disagree with them politically. (This scenario is likely at present if your church exists anywhere near the U.S. or any of its territories.) Get together over beer or tea or noshes and take Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer, or take it at home but around the same dates so you can build on each other’s comments.  Likewise, people take informal coursesover Lent and Advent, or maybe over the summer. You can also communicate about courses by making announcements in the parish newsletter, posting on the parish social media platforms, and/or in church announcements if something interesting is going on. If a Big Class is coming out that you think people might like or if a course has been launched that seems particularly relevant to the life of your parish, let people know so they can take the courses if they want to.

We hope that these suggestions help you work with your parishes. Our whole purpose in creating these courses is to help enrich the Church through the technology that is available to us today. You are a big part of helping us fulfill that ministry, since you are the people who bring the courses into the lives of your parishes. So, many thanks, and please keep up the good work!



Just Launched: Introducing the Washington National Cathedral with Randy Hollerith

WNC1We just launched Introducing the Washington National Cathedral with Randy Hollerith For Individuals and For Groups.

The Washington National Cathedral holds unique roles both in the United States and in The Episcopal Church. Commissioned by Congress in 1893, the Cathedral was intended as a place devoted to “religion, education, and charity” — a potentially confusing mission statement for a government-founded institution in a country that separates church and state.

Today, the roles of the National Cathedral remain complex. It is no longer funded in any way by the federal government, but it still holds a traditional Inaugural Prayer Service after a President has been sworn into office, as well as holding many state memorial services and funerals and events commemorating national days of celebration and mourning. It is an Episcopal cathedral and the seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, but its mission statement begins with its promise of “serving as a house of prayer for all people and a spiritual home for the nation.” This vision for the church means that it takes an extremely WNC2ecumenical and inclusive approach, reaching out to the nation with interfaith services, concerts and other events designed to move people into spiritual contemplation. One goal important to the cathedral is to reach out across religious divides to try to accommodate people of many faiths.

In this course, The Right Rev. Randy Hollerith, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, explains the multiple roles that the church plays in our church and in our culture. He discusses the history and physical features of the Cathedral and describes his vision for the Cathedral as it continues to grow and change over time. “The great thing about a cathedral is that it is never finished,” Dean Hollerith says. “It’s always being created. It’s always being added to. …This is a place that is always changing and adapting.” This course is designed to give you insight into the changes that have taken place in the past and the new steps that the Cathedral’s leaders hope to take as the Washington National Cathedral advances further into the 21st century.

Ex Nihilo

Image 1: Photograph of the Washington National Cathedral. Carrol M. Highsmith. Date Unknown. Public Domain. 

Image 2: Photograph of the Interior of the Washington National Cathedral. Mina Elias.  23 August 2010. Creative Commons. 

Image 3: Photograph of “Ex Nihilo” sculpture over central door of the Cathedral’s west facade. Tim Nelson. 29 December 2011. Creative Commons. 



3 Ways to Keep ChurchNext Active in the Life of Your Church

So you — a wise clergy member, a bright seminarian, a dedicated lay volunteer, a dauntless Christian Ed director, or a terrific example of whatever else you happen to be at your church — have made the commitment to be your parish’s ChurchNext administrator. You’ve gotten the subscription. You’re ready to explore that course list. You’re rarin’ to go. You meet with the clergy. They are excited! You use a course in adult formation. It’s awesome! You’re off!

Superman_CGIThat initial burst of enthusiasm is a great springboard into using ChurchNext courses, but you, intrepid ChurchNext administrator, will need to keep pushing along to keep the courses useful in your parish’s activities, especially over the first year. The various branches of your church will probably want your input on how to make use of this resource since they won’t know as much about it as you do. Remember that they don’t all know what courses are available. They may not know that the church even has access to this resource. In many cases, you will need to suggest ways to use ChurchNext as part of your parish’s life.

We particularly recommend that ChurchNext administrators who are lay volunteers rather than staff members emphasize a proactive approach to letting people know what courses exist. Volunteers don’t have the opportunity that regular staff meetings offer to offer suggestions as to how ChurchNext courses might be relevant to your church’s ministries, so don’t be shy. Tell people! They can’t use the courses if they don’t know they have access to them.

Here are some tips to get your church in the habit of using their subscription to ChurchNext in parish activities:

  1. Keep up with ChurchNext course offerings. It will help you to know what resources might help with what ministries if you glance over our recent course offerings from time to time. We write a blog post every time we launch a new class, so you can scroll through the blog and read about recent course offerings, and we also post about them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also keep up with other relevant ChurchNext options, such as our certification programs and our curricula in this way.
  2. Meet with the Clergy. Set up meetings with the rector, or perhaps with anotherclergy member who works with adult Christian formation, as often as seems reasonable. Try annual or biannual meetings to begin with.
    The Impressive Clergyman

    Always make sure to communicate with the Impressive Clergymen in your life

    Consider scheduling these meetings for July or August and right after Christmas since those are times when churches often plan fall and spring programming. Talk to the clergy about the parish’s goals for the coming months and projects that are in the works, and consider ways in which ChurchNext courses might be useful in supporting those goals and ministries.

  3. Find courses that support current church goals. Let’s say that in your meeting with the clergy, you discover that the church really wants to emphasize reaching out and welcoming the local community to your church over the coming year. You remember from perusing the course list that we have some classes about those topics. You might suggest to the clergy that a session or two of adult formation cover Stephanie Spellers’ Radical Welcoming course. Or you might get in touch with the welcoming committee and suggest that they use Welcoming Visitors with Elizabeth Geitz as part of training people in this ministry. Be creative and proactive! There are all kinds of ways to help support the church’s goals with ChurchNext courses.

We hope that these ideas help you as you incorporate this new resource into your church’s habits, routines, and ministries. Tune in next week, when we offer three MORE ways to keep ChurchNext active in the life of your church.


Missed The Big Class? You Can Still Take It!

We have just launched Faithful Dissent: Loving Our Way Into a Brighter Tomorrow with Stanley Hauerwas and Ed Bacon For Individuals and For Groups. It was released as a Big Class from September 11-September 25, and its free period has ended, but you can still take it through your subscription, your church’s subscription, or through purchasing the course on its own. Take it on your own or with a group from your congregation.

This course covers faithful ways to engage dissent on several levels, both between people and groups within the church and between the church as a whole and the secular world when the values of one come in conflict with the values of the other.

The relationship between the church and the secular world has always been relevant to the church’s discussions about its mission. In each of the synoptic gospels, Jesus is asked whether the Jews should pay taxes, and he responds that we should give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and to God what belongs to God. The idea that the church and state stand apart from one another was relevant to Christianity even before the Church had been established.

The relationship between the Church and the secular world has included lot of overlap for most of the Church’s history. Some of this overlap has involved the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. Harvest festivals have become intertwined with Christian religious festivals, for example, and Christian religious festivals have become secularized. Secular and religious governing bodies have overlapped as well. The Pope and the secular kings of Europe argued for centuries over who would have more power (and what kinds of power they would have) over both the states and the people. Some governments have required their citizens to practice Christianity. Other governments have claimed a free approach to religion, while at the same time promoting Christianity indirectly. Secular laws have been justified for religious reasons, and religious edicts have been enforced by secular governments.

The line between the world and the Church, in short, has been blurry for many centuries.

In this course, Stanley Hauerwas and Ed Bacon explore the idea of the Church’s, by necessity, existing in a state of dissent from the world. They discuss the correct relationship between the Church and the world. Does the Christian faith require our being active participants in world events? Should we hold ourselves apart from them? How can we advocate for change in the corrupt systems of the world without to some extent becoming part of them? These are the questions that Stanley and Ed address.

They also discuss the role that dissent must play within the Church. It’s all very well to say that the Church must dissent from the world when the world’s values do not align with those of God — but how do we determine what God wants the church to do, as new ethical and moral challenges continue to emerge in our increasingly complex culture? Stanley argues that the Church makes those determinations through the very dissension that distresses us — that working through conflicting opinions through debates and arguments is how the Church has always determined the right way from the wrong. Ed, meanwhile, emphasizes the need for us to engage dissent (both with other Christians and with people outside the Church) in a healthy manner. He discusses ways to argue in a spirit of love with others — even with people who seem to hold values that are entirely alien to our own.

Both of these instructors have much to offer in a conversation about faithful dissent. Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at Duke University. A prominent American theologian, Stanley has written many books and articles in the course of his career. They include: A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social EthicResident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, and Hannah’s Child: A Theological Memoir. To learn more about Stanley’s work, check out the Stanley Hauerwas blog.

Ed Bacon is the author of numerous articles and the book 8 Habits of Love: Overcome Fear and Transform Your Life as well as a prominent public speaker. From 1995-2016,he was the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasedena, California where he led the church in faith-based social activism. Ed is nationally known as an advocate for justice and peace for all people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

We hope that you will bring the ideas that you develop in this course into your daily lives as together, we try to build a better Church and a better world. For a preview of the course, click here.


1. Image of a denarius from the time of Jesus. (Jesus uses a denarius to illustrate his point about giving the government what belongs to the government; see Matthew 22:15-22.) Creative commons. 

2. Henry VIII with Charles V and Pope Leon X. Anonymous painter, Circa 1520. Public domain.  

Your Thoughts: Does Dissent Build a Stronger Church?

instructors faithful dissentThe discussions are rolling with our Big Class: Faithful Dissent: Loving Our Way Into A Brighter Tomorrow with Ed Bacon and Stanley Hauerwas. Over 1100 people from across the U.S. and the world have joined the discussion. These courses rely on the active participation of students discussing the instructors’ ideas with one another, and this course has been particularly active in discussion.

In one of his lectures, Stanley Hauerwas argues that dissent helps to build the church because arguing over controversial issues helps the church to discern right from wrong. Through addressing issues of right and wrong and arguing them out as a community, Stanley argues, the church makes itself stronger and better.

One discussion question asked students to identify controversial issues within today’s church and to discuss whether these topics of dissent are building the church. The responses have been nuanced and thought-provoking.Many of you argue that dissent does build the church, and some feel that we are not willing enough to engage it. One participant says that we don’t stick out the tough conversations enough:

I find the major problem in the Church is the unwillingness to listen to each other and stick together as a community rather than running away or refusing to face one another to come together when there are disagreements.

Another participant says that we need to be good instead of “nice.”

I think we have been raised to be nice instead of good. That means too many ignore social issues and even stay quiet about in the church issues. This is a problem for me. I agree that dissent, even hearing other’s views helps me clarify or challenge my own beliefs. I am willing to change or allow others to have a different view. 

To which another student replies:

As a deaconess and pastor for 36 years, I see this so often. It is a peace at any price stand that some people take. Let’s all just get along, is their motto, even if it means allowing things to continue which are harmful if not addressed.

Others among you suggest that dissent CAN build the church, but only when engaged in productive ways:

In my experience dissent on these issues is building up the church when these different perspectives are in the same room together over a sustained period of time. However, the dissent appears to be destructive when certain tribes condemn others from their pulpits without direct engagement. Those echo chambers seem to polarize perspectives (killing fruits of the Spirit in the process).


I would like to see a greater development of disagreement that takes place with
Christ in the room listening. Then I think we would be more careful to honor the other and disagree without being disagreeable. The most useful phrase that sums up how I would like discussion to proceed is to say, “This is my Reverent, Best Guess.” 

Finally, some of you think that goodness can come of all these arguments — but only because God makes good out of evil:

I feel uncomfortable with the duality involved in saying in effect (if I understand this argument correctly) that evil is necessary in order for there to be good…. I guess I would see any building of the church as the result of dissension as “collateral goodness.” So a contemporary example would be that as our secular society moves away from valuing creation, caring for the disadvantaged, welcoming the stranger, etc. that Christians are being forced to articulate and act on these Gospel values rather than just coasting along while expecting government to do it all for us.

(Personal note: Thanks to this participant for the term “collateral goodness.” I am going to use that.)

If this is the level of the discussion on one topic, what other conversations could be happening? What could you contribute? And how many chances do you get to engage profitable internet discussion, anyway? Let us hear what you have to say!



Some of Your Thoughts on Faithful Dissent: Loving Our Way Into a Brighter Tomorrow

Bacon Hauer NewOn Monday, we launched our Big Class: Faithful Dissent: Loving Our Way Into a Brighter Tomorrow with Ed Bacon and Stanley Hauerwas. Some extremely interesting discussions about what Ed and Stanley have to say are already underway. Here are some of your insights:

In response to a question about whether the Church in America tends to over-identify with the state: 

Growing up in the Southwest, as a child, I believed that the U.S. was a Christian nation favored by God, who was on our side: Christendom! Now as an adult all too aware of the ways in which the state’s values and Gospel values conflict, and understanding us to be experiencing Post-Christendom in our society which no longer privileges the church, I feel disillusioned. But disillusionment can be the first step towards enlightenment and engagement–perhaps even empowerment.

In response to a question about the possibility of alienating church members through political advocacy:

I care about what people think, but I can’t think for them. What I would hope to model is to be the kind of believer whose faith is larger and more robust than any particular side of an issue. A witness that God has an eternal plan for the world– which is to love it to life.

In response to a question about what institutional compassion is and whether it is possible in a government institution:

I find it helpful to ask “what values are evident in an institution?”…[A]n organization might have a vision statement, a mission statement and codes of ethics / values statements. What these look like “when the rubber hits the road” can be very revealing…There has to be intentionality behind institutional compassion – we do this because we have a moral obligation to do so, and are accountable not just to our shareholders, but to the wider society in which we operate.

And another response to the same question:

Here’s another thing I struggle with. Even though our courts say that corporations are “persons,” I don’t believe that social structures have a soul. People have souls and people have the capacity to show love for the world for which Christ gave his all (God gave his all). People, in relationship with each other, can live in God’s love. To the extent that institutions show compassion they do it because people show compassion.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful comments and for responding with such insight to one another’s ideas. Your energy brings these courses to life. Please keep the excellent discussions developing. You’re on a roll!

Now is the Time to Address Racial Justice

Given the events of Charlottesville, VA and beyond we in the church have a stellar opportunity to organize some healing conversations.

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville

As public interest pans to the nagging racial inequities and injustices, here are some ChurchNext resources to help us organize helpful conversations and hopefully positive changes.  For ChurchNext fans, you may remember we recently produced an entire series on the topic. Thanks to the work of Trinity Wall Street in New York, and their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change, we were able to assemble a helpful series of online learning classes

These include Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry, available in two formats, For Individuals and For Groups.

There are four more classes that are equally helpful:

Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas, available in two formats, For Individuals and For Groups;

Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, in both For Individuals and For Groups formats;

Reparation and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey, in both For Individuals and For Groups formats

Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carder, in both For Individuals and For Groups formats.

We join the vast majority of Americans in their downright hatred for racial injustice and pray that we who follow Jesus may be better equipped to address this pressing issue.