Getting excited about The Big Class from ChurchNext
Getting excited about The Big Class from ChurchNext

Curry ChurchNext screenshot

We’ve been hopeful about the promise of ChurchNext since founder Chris Yaw first contacted us last spring. For those of you who haven’t already encountered it, ChurchNext is a platform for churches and individuals to participate in online faith learning.

It brings together a steadily growing catalog of short video-based courses taught by an impressive lineup of church leaders from across the denominations. Particularly nifty is the ability for a subscribing church to build its own self-contained “online school” with a hand-picked collection of classes. Some of the churches participating in our Hybrid Faith Formation Network Initiative use ChurchNext content.

The week of January 27 through February 3, ChurchNext is offering a free course sponsored by Bexley SeaburyChurch Publishing Inc., the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, and Forward Movement. Taught by the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, the course expands on his book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus. The book is itself a follow-up to Bishop Curry’s now-famous sermon at the 2012 General Convention.

Here’s how Yaw introduced the course back in December:

We thought about putting a warning label on this course: Danger, Your Life Will Be Transformed. In a world that constantly sanitizes Jesus’ radical message, Bishop Curry’s clarion call to deeper discipleship has changed lives. We pray all who take this course will experience God’s transforming power.

There are lots of reasons to be excited about this opportunity to learn with a large number of Episcopalians and other Christians. Here are some of ours:

  • Partners in mission – As we point out often on this blog, the nature of faith formation is changing rapidly, and it’s going to take committed and adventurous new initiatives to figure out what works for the church of the twenty-first century. The fact that so many committed partners have come together to offer this course strikes us as a very good sign.
  • A charismatic teacher – A common critique of distance learning is that some teachers lack the dynamic communication skills to make a compelling jump from classroom to online video. If you doubt that Bishop Curry is up to the challenge, I can only assume you’ve never heard him speak.
  • Big, indeed – Early indications are that a lot of people are going to take this class. If you’re tuned in even slightly to faith formation channels online, you’ve probably already heard about this effort. In fact, you’re probably one of the 1,500 or so folks invited online. (We’ll be participating from our CMT ChurchNext demonstration account.) A successful shared experience could go along way to convincing the church at large that online learning has an important part to play in forming the faith of the church.
  • A plan in hand – Just because a class takes place online doesn’t mean it can’t be a compelling group learning experience. But convening a learning community is no small task. That’s why we’re glad ChurchNext put together a how-to and strategy guide for using The Big Class in a congregation. Pay particular attention to the different suggestions about format: individual study, individual study at a set time, individual study with follow-up, and group online study. We agree that those last two have the most potential to have an impact on your church and on individual learners.

We hope to see some of you online for this crazy adventure in discipleship.

Kyle Matthew Oliver (@kmoliver) is the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and a panelist on the new Easter People podcast.

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