Instructor Highlight: Jason Fout

fout_jasonThe Reverend Dr. Jason Fout has shared his research and wisdom with ChurchNext in two courses: as part of our series on The Book of Common Prayer in partnership with Bexley-Seabury, Jason taught us about the history of our professions and beliefs in Creeds and Commitments of the Prayer Book; in a fascinating course called Who Is Jesus? he explored the various ways we might get in touch with who Jesus was and is.

Jason also gave a fascinating talk at this year’s Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) conference on his research and experiences in the Diocese of London, and the ways that Bexley-Seabury and the folks in London have been working to create a “seminary without walls.” Here at ChurchNext, we of course love their mission of deepening Christian formation in innovative ways, unbounded by place or even time.

Jason joined the faculty of Bexley Hall in 2009. Before that, he and his family and lived in the UK for four years, where he was completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He is from the Diocese of Chicago and was ordained there in 2001, after having attended seminary at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. His dissertation was on the glory of God and its relation to human agency at Cambridge, under the supervision of Professor David F. Ford and the late Professor Daniel W. Hardy. His research interests include contemporary Anglican theology, as well as the history of Anglican theology and constructive theology in the areas of Christology, political theology and theological anthropology. He also has a growing interest in the practice of Scriptural Reasoning, in urban studies, particularly related to the New Urbanism, and theological readings of the built environment.

He is an avid cook, a keen road cyclist and a longsuffering fan of the Chicago Cubs and English Test Cricket. We’re grateful to have partnered with Jason and look forward to his next project.

ChurchNext For Groups

This week, we’re excited to roll out nine more courses in our For Groups format:

Finding God in Divorce with Carolyne Callhands
Being Single, Staying Faithful with Beth Knobbe
How to Live a Spirit-Filled Life with Alberto Cutie
Grieving Well with Andrew Gerns
Developing Christian Patience with Jeff Bullock
Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenck
Introduction to Epiphany with Sharon Pearson
Introduction to Lent with Maggi Dawn
Who Is Jesus? with Jason Fout
Jesus at 12 with Chris Stepien

Many of these are particularly suited for small group use: Grieving Well, with Andrew Gerns, is an ideal course around which to gather a small group of folks who have lost a loved one. Many parishes have support or ministry groups for widows or widowers, or parents who have lost children. Taking this course together, as part of a healthy journey through the grieving process, can offer dedicated, safe space and time to wrestle with questions, share wisdom, and offer the mutually-beneficial gift of holy presence with one another.

Beth Knobbe’s thoughtful and joyful approach to the single life, Being Single, Staying Faithful, is another course well-suited to small group gatherings. Those who live alone, from the very young to the very old, can benefit from sharing time together; the course offers a lot of wisdom simply on becoming comfortable being alone — wisdom that even those in relationships can use. Beth’s lectures help explore what it means to be alone without being lonely, and how aloneness can be a very special time in one’s life, even a special call from God.

Finding God in Divorce, with Carolyne Call, is another wonderful resource for a group of folks navigating a challenging time, one with which the themes of the above two courses also dovetail: Divorce is a time of grief, a time of (re)learning how to be alone; it’s also a time many people find a great need for the support of not only those who’ve “been there” but also those in their faith communities. Finding God in Divorce helps find the gifts and the redemption in what might feel like a very dark and discouraging time.

We at ChurchNext are glad to be able to offer resources like these for creating intimate, life-giving, and Spirit-filled communities, and we hope that these latest For Groups courses help you minister even more intentionally to particular groups within your congregation.

More “For Groups” courses now available

two or three

This week, the following courses go “live” in the For Groups format:

Advent for Families with Heath Howe
Lent for Families with Kim Baker
Reimagining Children’s and Youth Ministry with FaithForward
The Spirituality of Children with Catherine Maresca
Healthy Relationships for Couples with Scott and Holly Stoner
How to Help a Sick Friend with Joyce Mercer
How to Deal with Difficult People with Peter Steinke
How to Forgive with Virginia Holeman
Introduction to Christian Marriage with Paul Walters
Overcoming Sex Addiction with Mark Laaser

as well as our series about financial stewardship, Managing God’s Money, with Timothy Dombek:

Managing the Household Budget
Managing Credit Cards and Debt
Managing Church and Charity
Managing Retirement and Savings

Many people have the impression that churches talk about money too much — in the sense that they feel like churches are always “begging for money.” And yet, oftentimes, churches don’t talk about money enough, whether that means intentional teaching about Christian stewardship, or addressing local economic inequality, or talking about what the Bible really teaches about money. Why not make use of the For Groups format of Timothy Dombek’s excellent series on managing the money with which God has entrusted us? Start healthy, encouraging, proactive conversations about money and each person’s fears or worries or relationship with this topic. Talking about money doesn’t have to be a stress-inducing chore; rather, it can be a way to deepen our faith in God, and to make us aware of what sort of giving and commitments we’re being called to — if only we practice that trust.

Honestly and intentionally exploring our feelings about money — and how God is asking us to use our resources — can be a revitalizing and rewarding spiritual practice. Because many Christians have never really been taught how to be good stewards or how to create budgets and financial plans, your parish might use these Managing God’s Money courses for small group work, alongside workshops on estate planning and budgeting. You could create small groups with a wide range of ages and economic backgrounds to give people the opportunity to learn from each other’s resources and experiences. After all, we are called from the beginning of time to be good stewards of the world God has given us and to help people destroy those barriers of fear, ignorance, or mistrust that keep us from living in abundance.

We pray that, however you make use of these For Groups courses, you may grow in relationship and community with each other and with Jesus Christ.

Instructor Highlight: Chris Stepien

There are precious few mentions of Jesus in the Bible that involve his childhood. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can learn from imagining what the child Jesus would have been like. Chris Stepien, author of Three Days: The Search for the Boy Messiah, has consulted stepienScripture, commentaries, and other authorities to piece together what life for the pre-teen Jesus would have been like.

As a journalist, in fact, Chris Stepien has spent his career asking tough questions and telling intriguing stories. His Amazon author profile tells the story:

He’s worked as a television producer-director and writer for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). From 1979 to 1987, while at WXYZ-TV, Detroit, he won six EMMY awards for documentaries, sports and celebrity specials, and children’s programming, as well as many other honors. Stepien left broadcasting to co-found Adventure, Inc., a successful Detroit-based video/film production company. He created award-winning communications for Fortune 500 companies like General Motors and Ford Motor Company for nearly nine years. Since 1996, Stepien has crafted marketing and advertising for global clients as writer-creative director and owner of Stepien Creative Services, Inc.

A lifelong metro Detroiter and Roman Catholic, Stepien attended parochial schools and was an altar boy. He and his wife, Ellen, have two adult sons, Alex and Mike. Chris and Ellen are Vincentians, active members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP). Stepien, a former SVdP conference president, is currently spiritual advisor to a group of Vincentians in Dearborn, Michigan. Their core mission is to respond to the needs of poor families in the surrounding community, visit them in their homes, and provide financial assistance, guidance, friendship, and hope.

Bible studies, spiritual exercises, and praying the rosary inspired the author to write this novel about young, preteen Jesus. Stepien relied on his humble love of God and his passion for visual storytelling to help him shape this account of the boy Messiah, and His Passover pilgrimage. His experiences serving the needy and children of alcoholics were very influential, as well.

So if you’re yearning to know and understand Jesus this Easter season, consider our course, either as an individual or in a small group. We’re grateful to offer the research and talents of Chris — and of all of our gifted instructors — as we seek to shape disciples, transform hearts, and share the Good News.

All Things Being Made New

Spring is here and, with this season of renewal, we’re doing a little rearranging. We are so grateful that this dream has taken off to the extent that we’re able to lower our prices a bit and still stay in business, thanks to all of you who are a part of our mission to equip and nurture disciples through online learning.

We’re excited to announce our new pricing structure, which gives you more for your subscription dollars:

Our new entry level membership for individuals is only $9/month instead of $15. This gives unlimited access to ChurchNext courses that are for Individuals ONLY.

If you’re already an individual monthly member, your current membership for $15/mo unlimited subscription now gives you access to all of our products – the Individual courses and the ‘ChurchNext for Groups’ courses.

In addition, our ‘For Groups’ courses are now available for $15 each – or – as part of a Congregational subscription, which starts at $29/month.

If you’re an individual subscriber and would like to change to the $9/mo subscription plan, either email us at hello@churchnext.tv and we’ll do it for you – or – you can cancel on your own and sign up on your own via the instructions in the FAQs. If you’d like to continue at your current level, don’t do anything and you’ll see you now have access to all our courses designed for small group use.

Finally, let us say thank you for being open to something new, thank you for learning with us, and thank you for believing in us. We can’t tell you how your support gladdens our hearts.

Making the Most of ChurchNext in Your Church

This is the first in a series offering ideas for ways to use ChurchNext in your congregation, to meet the needs of parishioners and to build strong faith communities.Bible-Reading-Group-Photo

Finding God in Divorce (also available in the For Groups format):  Does your congregation have a divorce support group?  Carolyne Call offers a wonderful way to begin working through the emotional and spiritual damage broken relationships can cause. If your church has a support group, you may want to take this course together, either by meeting as a small group to watch the videos and discuss them, or by offering the course in your church’s online school. Participants could be encouraged to keep a journal of their thoughts, experiences, and wisdom gained; they could use their journal, the course and its Takeaway as references to revisit in times of need. Perhaps participants could collect the wisdom they’ve gained and share it with others outside the church, or with new members of the divorce support group.

Newcomers: What about those folks who are new to your parish and new to the Episcopal Church overall? If you come from a non-liturgical background, you may feel overwhelmed and confused at times by the different aspects of Episcopal worship and theology. You might want to offer Introducing Episcopal Worship and The Episcopal Tradition (also available in the For Groups format). By adding the course to your online school, you offer newcomers or the curious — or even their friends — an opportunity to learn more about the Episcopal Church in a non-threatening way. Alternatively, you can offer a time and space for newcomers to meet as a group, watch the videos, and discuss them. Clergy can be on hand to answer other questions — because there are always many!

Parenting: Parents often long to take part in congregational programs and spiritual formation, but haven’t childcare, are overscheduled, or are simply strapped for time. Why not offer a spiritual parenting program at your church — one that is based online, so that parents can take courses on their own schedule and as needed? In addition, you might arrange — or encourage them to arrange — regular small group meetings, playdates, potluck get-togethers, and the like, where parents can meet, learn from, discuss with, and support each other. There’s nothing more powerful than moral support and strength in numbers, as any parent knows. Simply offering time to think, reflect, learn, and then enjoy fellowship and discussion, can make a world of difference as parents try to raise their children in the faith. Courses along these lines include Spiritual Roots of Loving Parenting; Handling Strong-Willed Children, and Start a Family Devotional Time. They may also want to review the vows they made at their children’s baptism (and their own), since the event itself can be a distant memory.

How have you been using ChurchNext courses to shape and inspire disciples? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on social media (#churchnext).