I’m thinking of creating an online course for my church. I have in mind something like an online class from a college or seminary. Now you know I like to use digital methods for everything from evangelism, to following up with new small group leaders, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m contemplating creating an online class for church.

online course for church

Background

I teach as an adjunct professor at a Seminary from time to time. Recently, I began teaching with a different Seminary in an online-only capacity. While it is not technically an online course for church, their software really impressed me. So, I started wondering if this delivery method would work for something similar at my church.

The Question in My Context

About every other week I’ll have someone ask me when our next Sunday afternoon classes (that goes into depth on a particular subject) will be. I love teaching these classes of about 10 people on a Sunday afternoon for a few hours. But realistically people’s schedules don’t always line up with the times that I can offer these courses. That leads to people asking me when the “next one will be” so that they can try and fit that into their schedule. So in my context, the question that I’m really struggling with is, “How can I best deliver in-depth study material to those who want it, in a way that fits everyone’s schedule?” By “everyone” I mean the people wanting to study the material and me, the person teaching the material. I have a busy schedule too with 3 kids. 

A Possible Solution

While I never want to stop offering IRL (In Real Life) Bible Studies, I’m starting to see the appeal of a well-constructed course available at any time. I suppose the change that pushed me to this point was hearing about how Midwestern Baptist Seminary sets expectations for their online courses. They require the professor to be the contact point, motivator, answer person, and organizer for the course. They are heavy on the contact idea. Hearing about that made me wonder if something similar could work in the church context. What if we had this stuff available online that was pre-constructed and self-paced, but that required a good bit of contact between the person taking the course and the pastor? What if we could build an online course for church?

My Tentative Answer

I say “tentative” because I have thought about this for all of 4 days… Having said that, I think I’m going to look into an open-source learning software for church. I could have our church website link to it, and give it a subdomain like “classes.greenwood.church” (which does NOT work right now). Then I could construct a sign-up process that made it clear to people that courses would start at the beginning of each month. The week before the course started, I could give those people a phone call to encourage them. I could look for them at church to build an IRL friendship with them. Then during the 3-4 weeks of the “course” they could have a few things to read, or a video or two to watch. But the real learning experience would be in discussing it with other people, so I could have them write up a paragraph of a conversation about that topic that they had with a friend or family member that week. Each week I could call/text them to see if they had any questions or had learned something that was impactful. At the conclusion of the course I could invite them over to my house for a meal, or take them out to coffee to discuss what they learned, and answer any questions.

Questions still to be answered

What software will we use? Will the course be primarily video, reading, or both? I’m convinced that whatever the mechanism is, it will need to be built for a mobile-first experience, with a clean design. What sort of classes will or will not work in this format? I really don’t think every subject matter lends itself well to this format. But, I suppose the challenge is to construct the course in such a way that it fits the subject matter in its delivery… I’m sure I’ve missed some of the other challenges that exist – please list any more in the comment section.

Conclusion

To me, this seems like a possible way forward in a time when people’s schedules are full, and also very different in terms of when free time is. People can learn at the time that best suits them, have meaningful conversations with others (a community of believers maybe), and get guidance from a pastor.

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2 comments on “Have Any of You Created an Online Course for Church Based Discipleship?

  • I like the idea with a couple of caveats. 1) You’ll have to work hard to make discipleship not a self study in that format. Discipleship is primarily relational not informational. 2) You also will need to design a way for people to eventually find their maturity in investing in others as opposed to accumulating more info. There comes a point where growth will level off if you’re not passing it on. Without that outlet people will start to feel stagnated and blame the material or the course for not being effective even though their feeling of being stuck is more about their lack of obedience and transmission of the material. 3) You need a way to develop new teachers and leaders through your process. Making your teaching more available doesn’t necessarily do that. In fact l, it may retard that.

    So how do you head those three off. I think there is a good model with the Kahn Academy. They provided a self paced, self directed lesson curriculum online and then inverted the classroom/homework principle. Students were learning at home but doing their homework at school in front of one another, helping each other out. After successfully completing a quiz to move on to their next module, students would pause to help students who were struggling with the modules they’ve mastered. There was peer to peer learning while the teacher tracked progress and prompted students to help each other.

    Some format like this provides the flexibility of a self directed study and the value of being in relationship and passing it on.

    For a good example of KA, see this link: https://youtu.be/W1zgPlMx2QY

    Let me know how it goes as you develop this.

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