We’re Thankful…

Team Photo 11-13

ChurchNext Design Team Lists Their Thanksgivings

Can we ever give God (and so many around us) enough praise and thanks for the blessings we enjoy? OK, so enough of beginning blog posts with rhetorical questions – and onto the thanks we have in our hearts for this project.
So we asked the team (pictured above) to chime in about what 6 months of working on ChurchNext has inspired in them. Here are their responses:

Ashley Busse
I have so enjoyed learning from all of our talented teachers:  the classes I have taken and the classes I have helped to write have enriched my life greatly already.  I love learning and thinking more deeply about new and different topics; I love how ChurchNext combines education, technology, spiritual growth, encouragement, and community in new and exciting ways.  I love sharing these courses with my friends, and I love the varied backgrounds and styles of all of our lecturers; there truly is something for everyone.  Most of all, I am grateful for the humble integrity and vision of ChurchNext’s leaders.  What a blessing this ministry is and is to become.

Shannon Kelly
I am thankful for the people who have signed on to be a part of this venture. The amazing teachers give of their time and talent so that others may learn and engage with a wide variety of topics. Without the teachers, we would not have the classes. At the same time, I’m thankful for the congregations and students who have come along on this adventure of online learning. Their willingness to try something new, to engage in discussions and learning in an alternative way, and their feedback on the courses make this all worthwhile and meaningful for me.

Julie Lytle
While I was doing my doctoral studies in 1998, I wrote a paper identifying that “One Hour on Sunday is not Enough” and proposed that parishes needed to take advantage of the emerging interactive technologies to connect members beyond Sunday services for faith formation and fellowship.  I celebrate ChurchNext and am grateful to the collaborators – presenters, facilitators, technicians, congregational leaders, and course participants – who have turned that vision into a reality!

Stacy Williams Duncan
Over the last several months I have been thankful, again and again, for my ChurchNext colleagues’ willingness to take risks. In a time when what is known about effective online education changes on almost a monthly basis, it would be easy to take a wait-and-see approach: Once things have settled down and become more reliable, then we can begin to do online Christian Education. Instead of taking this safe (and boring) route, Chris launched ChurchNext, knowing that there would be bumps along the way and much to learn. Chris and Shannon have modeled their willingness to learn from what goes well and what needs to be improved in every course and each design-team meeting. I am grateful for their leadership, which is inherently entrepreneurial, and their commitment to make online Christian Education accessible now.

Karen Robertson Henry
Striving to be in a state of thankfulness helps me to be more aware, and can so often immediately move me from either fussing with what is around me or not noticing what good is around me, to being so much more full of appreciation. Thankfulness changes to color all that I was seeing before. Being in a state of thankfulness for the ministry of ChurchNext helps me to place God more squarely in the midst of this work and it then becomes another avenue through which I gain color in my life, because as I learn, collaborate and write, I feel God working through me, passing on to others as it were, the baton of color.

Chris Yaw
I am thankful for the innovative clergy who were willing to take a chance and swim into uncharted waters. I am thankful for the instructors who generously share their gifts with poise and passion. I am thankful for the best design team anywhere, Shannon, Julie, Ashley, Karen, and Stacy, whose enthusiasm and dedication is only surpassed by their abilities to perform and imagine. I am thankful to our dedicated technology partners at Pathwright, Paul, Michelle, Louisa, Greg and Mark. I am thankful to the congregation of St. David’s for giving their rector a very long leash. I am thankful to God for the inspiration and guidance without which any of this could happen. And I am incredibly thankful for my wife Natalie who not only believes in this project and provides excellent counsel, but graciously takes on other duties while I take on this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

May God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving. We look forward to continuing the adventure with you!

New Course: Advent for Families with Heath Howe

Heath HoweOne of the easiest ways to teach our children about God comes during the Christmas season, when images of Christ can frequently be found. However the busyness of the season can keep us from taking full advantage of this teaching moment. In this course, youth and family minister Heath Howe shows us some practical ways to commemorate this blessed time of year.

For many of us the rush up to Christmas is the busiest few weeks of year.

Yet it is also often the holiest – and can be the most spiritually memorable and formative for families.

Filled with Santa Clauses and holiday parties, what are some ways we might live faithfully through this sacred, yet highly secularized season?

In this class, Heath Howe leads us in a helpful discussion about:

  • Why we should celebrate Advent as a family
  • Consumerism and Advent
  • What are the Advent themes
  • Advent in the home

This class perfect for families who are looking to learn more about how to incorporate Christian practice in the home.

Click here to learn more about this class and how to take it.

The Rev. Heath Howe is an Episcopal priest serving a congregation in Kenilworth, IL. She is a contributing writer to Vibrant Faith at home. You can read more about her here.

What Shall We Name our Online School?

OK – so you’ve got the ChurchNext online school, know which classes to offer, and are excited to launch – now the big question: what should we name our school?

Since it’s a question we often here around here we thought we’d share with you a couple of directions people go when naming their ChurchNext school.

There are three basic strategies people seem to have in mind. The first, and most common, is to name the school after the congregation. Let’s not get people confused. Online learning is new, so let’s keep it simple. So the most common names are St. Barnabas of the Desert, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, or Trinity Church Easton PA. Clearly, folk are interested in helping their members bridge the technology gap as seamlessly as possible – so three cheers for following the KISS method.

Another strategy is to inject a bit of academic aspiration into the mix, focusing on the learning that’s going to happen and helping to create an aura of educational expectation for the student. Some common names are St. Christopher’s University, St. Peter’s Online Academy, St. John’s Community School, Bruton U., and St. Mark’s Episcopal Bible School. Users will have no question as to what they’re in for – it’s all about learning in a school that may be a bit different than the last school you attended, but you’re going to learn nonetheless.

A third strategy we see is churches developing names around a deeply held tradition or conviction. These names seem to reflect who a congregation is, what they believe, or what they’re trying to do. And they are undoubtedly instantly recognizable by the members of that community. Examples include Christ Church Poughkeepsie Soul School, Beyond the Red Door, Shepherd’s Table, Food for the Journey, Growing in Christ, and The Front Porch.

There are also a couple of schools that have creatively incorporated acronyms into their school names: LOTS (Learning Online Together School) and FLOCK (Flexible Learning Online in Community for the Kingdom).

Whatever you choose to name your school, you are free to experiment because you can always change it back! Your administrator can do this by going to your school’s console and looking under Manage School>Branding. Happy naming.

Introducing Lutheran Worship with Don Kreiss

Don KreissLutheran worship has a rich and joyful history of forming vibrant communities that have lasting impacts on the world around them.

In this course, Lutheran (ELCA) bishop Don Kreiss helps us understand the foundation of the most common worship service: the Sunday Holy Eucharist by telling us how this experience is broken into four movements Gather, Word, Meal and Send. Click here to learn more about the course and how to take it.

Gather refers to the coming together of worshippers. Word describes the centrality of hearing the scripture and a sermon. Meal highlights the importance weekly communion plays in Lutheran worship. And Send reminds us of the central place of mission in the church.

This course is perfect for those who are new to the Lutheran Church as well as those who have been members for a long time.

The Right Rev. Donald Kreiss served as pastor to several congregations in Michigan before becoming bishop of theLutheran (ELCA) synod of Southeastern Michigan.

ChurchNext and Flipping the Classroom

Sure, you’ve probably heard the term ‘flipping the classroom’ – if you haven’t it refers to the idea that instead of learning about a topic in class and then practicing (i.e. doing homework) at home – the students actually learn about the topic on their own time (i.e. an online video or class) and then spend that precious classroom time putting the new learning into practice when they come together, face to face.

This, in theory, means that a student can study at their own pace, re-read, re-watch, re-listen to course content to make sure they understand what’s going on. Access to the teacher and other students in class helps them understand better. And judging by the stats at the bottom of this infographic there’s some serious data to show this works (thanks to the good folks at Knewton – if you want to keep up on online learning in general, do subscribe to their blog!).

Many ChurchNext subscribers are bringing this concept into their formation programs for obvious reasons: convenience, access to expert teachers, and affordability,being some of the bigger reasons.

If you’re flipping the classroom at your church, drop us a line, tell us how you’re doing it and how it’s working.

New Course: How to Be a Godparent with Nancy McLaughlin

Nancy McLaughlinWhile the word ‘Godparent’ is nowhere in the Bible, it is all over Christian history.

From very early on Christians began baptizing their children as a way to form healthy believers – in keeping with the admonition in the book of Proverbs which says, ‘Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they shall not depart from it.’

In this course, writer and teacher Nancy McLaughlin tells us:

  • Why have Godparents?
  • Godparents and the Bible
  • The Role of Godparents
  • Being a Godparent

This course is perfect for Godparents and Godparents-to-be – especially those who are out-of-town and want to know more about the role before they attend the ceremony. It’s a great way for clergy to teach and instruct from a distance.

Click here to learn more about the course and how to take it.

Dr. Nancy McLaughlin is a teacher and author of two books including Godparenting: Nurturing the Next Generation (with Tracey Herzer).

Taking Advent Online: A Few Ideas

We’re excited to launch an online Advent program that you can use either by itself, Adventor incorporated into your current Advent offerings. You can form classes around these courses, offer them church-wide, or simply allow your students to pick and choose the courses they’d like to take.

Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenck

Advent is a season of great anticipation, both inside and outside of the Church. While the world around us shops, cooks, and prepares for December 25, Christians have their own way of anticipating the birth of Jesus.

In this class, Episcopal priest and author Tim Schenck will open up our imaginations to the magic of this holy time of year. Tim Schenck has just published a new book with our partners Forward Movement, called A Dog in the Manger. This course is appropriate for those who are new to the church year, as well as those who are familiar, but are looking for a refresher.  Click here to learn more about this class and how to take it.

Advent for Families with Heath Howe

How do we celebrate Advent with our families in an intentional and life-giving way? What are the practices we can adopt that will help focus our families on the season and help us prepare for Christ’s coming.

Heath Howe, is an Episcopal priest serving at Church of the Holy Comforter in the Diocese of Chicago. During her 12 years in ministry, she as worked closely with families, teens, and children to development and enhance faith formation in both parish and home life. She currently writes for Vibrant Faith Ministries. Click here to learn more about this class and how to take it.

Other Courses to Kick off Advent and Year A

Introduction to Matthew with Katy Valentine

If you are using the Revised Common Lectionary, our Gospel lessons beginning in Advent will mostly come from the Gospel of Matthew. As a way for your congregation or group to learn a bit about the Gospel before spending the next year with it, you may want to encourage your schools to take the Introduction to Matthew. Click here to learn more about this course and how to take it.

Developing Christian Patience with Jeff Bullock

The idea of patience, as we know it today, has been heavily influenced by Christianity, says Jeff Bullock, an experienced teacher and author of an upcoming book on Christian patience. In this class, Jeff makes it clear that there is a difference between Christian patience and secular patience. The latter is self-interested, the former is other-focused. Click here to learn more about this course and how to take it.

Grieving Well with Andrew Gerns

Have you suffered a tragic loss – or know someone who has? While tragedies often motivate us to seek grief support, the truth is we grieve everyday. So says pastor and chaplain Andrew Gerns, who also says we each handle grief in our own unique ways. Usually we get over loss on our own, though there are times when taking to a professional and using medication may be needed.

In this course, Gerns tells us what grieving well looks like. He walks us through the four tasks of grief, and gives us helpful tips and strategies for getting over loss. And he tells us what positive and negative signs look like and how to address them. Click here to learn more about this course and how to take it.

How to Live a Spiritual Life with Mary Gray-Reeves

Mary Gray-Reeves defines spirituality as the exploration of the fullness of life, all things seen and unseen.

And while one need not believe in God to be spiritual, the Western understanding of spirituality is directly related to religion. In this course, we will ponder more deeply what is meant by “spirituality,” how spirituality is interwoven with grace, how the basic beliefs of Christianity are united by the common thread of this grace, and how nurturing our own spirituality is really for the benefit of those with whom we are in relationship. Though we may have different motivations for seeking a deeper spirituality, we all have the capacity for growth and wisdom. Click here to learn more about this course and how to take it.

How to Have a Family Prayer Time with Anne Kitch

Tending to the spiritual lives of children is one of a parent’s highest vocations.  Yet we are faced with day-to-day pressures that can crowd out even our best attempts to inspire and ignite the flame for God that lies in each one of our little ones.

Anne Kitch knows all about this. She’s an author, consultant, and mother who knows how difficult it can be for parents to religiously engage with their children. She believes that regular family prayer time can have a big impact on our children, and has some great ideas as to how parents might develop and fine tune their shared devotions. Click here to learn more about this class and how to take it.