I wrote recently that if you want to set others on fire for faith learning, you need not just a spark but a stack of kindling to feed the flame. We all need a substantial list of resources that will speak to the faith situations and learning styles of the different people we work with. As a curator of the Online and Digital Media pages at Faith Formation Learning Exchange, I believe strongly that some of those resources, perhaps even most of them, can be online resources.
But finding the good stuff that’s out there can be a real challenge—to say nothing of keeping up with new developments. This work of finding, reviewing, and recommending, a process increasingly known as curation, takes some practice. Here are a few tips for getting started:
The key for any process of systematic curation is to regularly get your eyes on a stream of potential resources. You can do this by subscribing to publishers’ newsletters, following experts’ blogs, or connecting with colleagues on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Whatever method(s) you use, let trust be your guide, and “work outward” from the centers of that trust. (For example, whenever I’m looking for something knew, I start with Sharon Pearson’s excellent Building Faith blog and see what she recommends.) Remember: no system will be perfect. The goal isn’t to know about every great “channel” out there, or even to catch every potentially useful resource that comes across the channels you monitor. The goal is to be regularly exposed to the good stuff that’s out there.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this work is deciding what resources are worthy of being passed on to others. Jesus had a little something to say about teachers leading their students astray, and I can’t help but think about those passages in moments where I’m tempted to pass along a resource I haven’t thoroughly reviewed. Along with the trust that discernment is a shared ministry and an iterative process, I commend to you the practice of establishing a procedure for resource review. Here’s a list of criteria one project I work on uses to help decide what resources make the cut.
You won’t always be centered calmly at your desk with time on your hands when a faith formation treasure comes your way, or when the Spirit whispers to you that someone you’re serving might be well served by a resource you know about. There’s a sense of “always on” to this work that ought to set off our work-life-balance alarm bells, at least at first. My suggestion? Take a page out of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. To achieve “mind like water,” you need a reliable place to store your notes as you think of them. If God puts a serendipitous suggestion in your head, fire off an email or text message to yourself, reminding you to review, share, or investigate that new resource or connection when the time is right (better yet: use a mobile task-management or to-do-list tool). Then go on with your day.
Good disciples know that enthusiasm is infectious. If you’re passionate about the resources you share, that joy will come across in how you communicate about them. I love Sparkhouse’s David and Goliath video-based Sunday school lesson, and I relish the opportunity to watch the clip with … pretty much anyone. That’s the most glowing endorsement I can give, and I suspect it’s not lost on the people I share with. Take the time to really get to know the resources you love. If you let them speak to your life, you’ll be in a better position to help them speak to others’.
For a more thorough treatment of this topic from one of the people who taught me how to curate, check out John Roberto’s excellent article “Becoming a Faith Formation Curator” from Lifelong Faith Journal.
Kyle Matthew Oliver (@kmoliver) is the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, a writer for Faith Formation Learning Exchange (where this post originated), and a panelist on the new Easter People podcast.