New Course: How to Pray with Christopher Martin

Here are just a few of the beautiful insights from this course on How to Pray, taught by the Reverend Christopher Martin:

Our spirits expand — and our capacity for happiness increases — through prayer.”

“Prayer reorients us to the fact that we are not alone.”c martin

“Set love in order in me,” says the bride to the bridegroom in Song of Songs.  Prayer is our way of asking, “O Lord, make me love the things that you would have me love.”  It sets our disordered loves — and lives — in order.

Episcopal priest, author, and teacher Christopher Martin has taught hundreds of people to pray through his ministry as a pastor as well as his work with The Restoration Project, an intentional discipleship program aimed at bringing people to deeper places of knowing God.

This course is sponsored by Forward Movement and is a good companion to Christopher’s book called The Restoration Project: A Benedictine Path to Wisdom, Strength and Love

In this class, Christopher offers some advice on how, when, and where to pray; how to make daily solitary prayer a habit; and why prayer matters.  The four lessons are

  • What is Prayer?
  • Varieties of Prayer
  • What Does Prayer Do?
  • Benefits of Prayer

We invite you to consider this fantastic new course, both as an introduction to an intentional, healthy prayer life and as a thought-provoking reminder for those who already have an active prayer life.  Click here for more information or to register!

Parish Profile: Trinity Episcopal Church, Belleville, MI – What Does ChurchNext Look Like in Your Congregation?

blog coverTrinity Episcopal Church in Belleville, MI was one of the first parishes to sign on to ChurchNext, and its leader says, ‘Overall it’s going well, but with a couple of challenges.’ You can watch the 4:32 interview here.

The Rev. Eric Williams says getting people to sign up – and bringing new technology into the church have been the growing edges.

We like to say that ChurchNext is a bit like online banking in 1998 – not only are we getting used to the possibility of learning about faith online, but we also realize that not coming together is a big change in the way we used to do things.  But we are thankful to be moving through this time together, staying on Jesus, and designing new ways to follow him.

Great New Course: Introducing Islam with Mustapha Elturk

What do Muslims believe and how can this rich faith tradition help us know more about God?  Our latest course, Introducing Islam with Imam Mustapha Elturk, is a great place to start answering these questions.elturk

As the last of the three great Abrahamic faiths–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–Islam brings unique gifts to the religious landscape.  Imam Mustapha Elturk knows this well. A former engineer and now scholar, author, and Imam of the Islamic Organization of North America in Warren, MI, he is a sought-after speaker and well-known teacher of Islamic principles.

In this course, there are five lessons:

Origins of Islam
Islamic Beliefs
Five Pillars of Islam
Islamic Diversity
“Why I’m a Muslim”

This course provides a basic introduction to Islam and is suitable for adults, teens, and anyone who would like to know more about one of the world’s great faith traditions.  Click here for more information or to register.

Sneak Peek: Introducing the Book of Common Prayer

Sneak Peek BSAs we’ve been sharing with you, we are elated to soon offer an eight-part series on The Book of Common Prayer in partnership with Bexley Seabury Theological Federation. These are online, on-demand courses, each will take an average learner 45 minutes to work through. We’ve recorded some of the courses and are set to begin rolling them out in May.

But today, we want to give you a sneak peek of the first class, taught by Bexley Seabury’s dean, Tom Ferguson. It’s called ‘An American Prayer Book, A Global Prayer Book.’ Click here to watch it. If you don’t follow Tom’s popular blog, Crusty Old Dean, you ought to. Tom is an incredibly talented thinker, teacher, and writer. And in this course he gives us an overview of the Book of Common Prayer, its origins, its future, as well as its global impact. This is one of the four videos that will make up this course. Tom has broken down this course into four parts called ‘The,’ ‘Book,’ ‘Common,’ and ‘Prayer.’ This one is called ‘The.’

Other courses in this eight-part series will include: The Spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer with Karl Ruttan, Scripture and the Prayer Book with Roger Ferlo, History of the Prayer Book with John Dally, Creeds and Commitments with Jason Fout, Singing the Prayer Book with Milner Seifert, and Collects of the Prayer Book with Ellen Wondra. We will begin launching these courses, roughly one per week, beginning mid-May.  Thanks to Seabury and its talented staff for sharing their gifts so we might all grow in the knowledge and love of Christ.


Now Available: Reimagining Children’s and Youth Ministry with Faith Forward

Last week’s Big Class, Reimagining Children’s and Youth Ministry with Faith Forward, was a smashing success and inspired great discussion about our churches’ theologies of children, how we minister to young people, and how they can minister to us.  Now this course is available to take or to add to your church’s online school.  Check it out:    FF Title Pic

Where are all the young people in church?

The folks at Faith Forward suggest: Something is happening in the church. A new kind of Christianity is taking root and growing across the globe. New forms of ministry, worship, and community are emerging. Questions are being asked. And change is happening.

But amidst these changes and shifts, children and youth are being left behind. Innovative approaches to ministry with adults are emerging around the world, but little critical reflection and attention has been given to how to nurture young people within a new kind of Christianity.

In this class, 4 keynote speakers who will be appearing at the 2014 Faith Forward conference, ‘Reimagining Children’s and Youth Ministry,’ share their insights into what this reimagining should look like. Lessons include:

  • Where Are We? with Dave Csinos
  • Reimagining: Theology with Ivy Beckwith
  • Reimagining: Story with Marvin Bray
  • Reimagining: Rhythm with Danielle Shroyer

Click here to register.  Click here for more information and to register for the Faith Forward Conference.

Why You Need to Go to the eFormation Conference in June

For the second year in a row, Virginia Theological Seminary is offering its eFormation conference, eFormation: Faith Formation for a Digitally, Connected World, June 1-4 in Alexandria, VA.  What drew 200 people from across the U.S., and several countries last year was the heartfelt conviction that Jesus’ call was to make disciples (not just converts) and that doing so in today’s hyper-connected, incredibly distracting world is both increasingly challenging and exciting. This year’s conference will be much bigger – and better.

Full disclosure, for the second year I am one of the presenters at this conference as ChurchNext has been working closely with VTS in our shared labor to develop resources, connections, experiments, and collegiality around what we believe the Holy Spirit is leading the Church into.  While this is held at an Episcopal seminary, participants come from many backgrounds as we all witness the breaking down of denominational walls, giving us an even greater palette from which to color our futures.

So, why attend this conference? Why not just read up on the presenters and their work via their books or online offerings?  Three reasons (yes, I purposely didn’t title this post, ‘Three Reasons Why You Should Attend eFormation’ because aren’t we all a bit tired of this sophomoric hook?)

1) Great Presenters – Here’s the list of presenters for this year (I’ve provided links to their websites and other work so you can learn more about them): Sharon Ely Pearson, John Roberto, Randall Curtis, Robbin Whittington, Edgar Giraldo, Bruce Baumgarten, Julie Lytle, Tim Schenck, Colin Chapman, Chris Yaw, Tom Tomaszek, Peter Turner, Jay Mallin, Lisa Kimball, Dorothy Linthicum, Kyle Oliver.

Yes, this is an all-star cast. The ‘A’ Team. Just a cursory read through the bios and extensive work that this group of professionals has assembled should be enough to get most of us to book our flights right now. These are gifted writers, presenters, thinkers, listeners, innovators, and dedicated followers of Jesus. They are approachable, open to new ideas, and willing to learn as well as teach. You will not leave this conference feeling like you didn’t learn something that can dramatically shape your ministry.

2) Ideas Will Germinate – Whenever this many gifted people are assembled in one place, the synergy becomes intoxicating. One thing I really love about this conference is the accessibility to the presenters.  The conference designers purposely build in time for participants to interact individually with the presenters and each other. This means a plethora of ‘aha’ moments.

This year I will come to this conference with big ears. Sure, each one of us workshop leaders has wares to peddle, but that’s not the point. While I certainly cannot speak for my colleagues, I suspect we all come here to deeply and widely connect. There is so much innovation happening on so many levels. Parishes, judicatories, denominations, are experimenting, innovating, trying, and failing, failing, failing (isn’t this the only way to move forward?) that to come with blank sheets of paper and an expectation that something new will develop is the best idea.

3) You’ve Got No Choice – Is anyone saying that this Internet thing is a flash in the pan? That the incredible pace of technological change in communication, that’s even shaping the way our brains operate, will simply bypass the Church? Nope. We all suspect this is where the world is going – that to nurture, disciple, even attract a new generation, our faith communities have to have their acts together in the ways we ponder, shape, and offer resources for the ‘digitally, connected, world.’

As we continue through this transition in North American Christianity that is seeing fewer people go to church less often, the average American churchgoer attends services 1.4 times per month, we know that the congregations that survive are going to be the ones that take faith formation really seriously. The cultural nudge to get people to church on Sunday mornings is gone and the big reason people would even think about spending precious weekend time involved in a faith community is directly linked to the ability of that congregation to offer something of substance to the faith journey.  We’ve got to figure out what that is for our congregations. We’ve got to try new things, innovate, pioneer, and ‘dare greatly.’  Taking faith formation seriously is no longer a luxury, ‘because most people are going to come anyway,’ but a necessity as this is increasingly becoming the reason people come.

Hope to see you in June.

New Course: Introducing the Psalms with Isaac Everett

We’re excited to announce our latest course, a thoughtful and engaging Introduction to the Book of Psalms.  After all, the Psalms are woven into the very fabric of our church’s history and contain some of the most powerful and poignant words we may ever encounter.

Musician and composer Isaac Everett argues that there is no more human book in the Bible than the Psalms, which means that these poems have a way of touching us like no other. Everett has been immersed in the psalms for years, and has even written a psalter of his own.

In this class, Isaac gives us an engaging overview of the Psalms by touching on these areas:

  • Origins of the Psalms
  • Themes of the Psalms
  • Favorite Psalms
  • How to Read the Psalms

This class is an insightful overview suitable for newcomers to the Psalms as well as for veterans who are looking for a solid refresher course. Click here for more information or to register: Introducing the Psalms with Isaac Everett.

Isaac Everett is a sought-after worship leader, speaker and thinker who is minister of music for two faith communities, in Maine and Boston. He is also the author of The Emergent Psalter.

Partnership Launched to Bring ‘Introducing the Book of Common Prayer’ Online Classes

Boy, this is an exciting announcement for us and all of our subscribers and students because one of the more consistent comments we get from folk is to provide them with a higher level of educational rigor. Well, here you go:

Bexley Seabury and Church Next are teaming up to present an eight-part series on the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer that will be easily available to anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone and an Internet connection.

Led by President Roger Ferlo of Bexley Seabury, the series will be available by the end of July at

“I am delighted to be involved in our first partnership with a seminary and our first offering of academic level content,” said the Rev. Chris Yaw, founder of ChurchNext, which promotes Christian formation through online classes with some of the best teachers and practitioners in the world.  “This series is perfect for Christian education classes, but people can also participate on their own time and at their own pace because all of the presentations will be available for viewing online at any time,” he said. Each of the eight courses will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete.

Ferlo said the series will help participants develop “an easy familiarity with the Prayer Book” and equip them to cultivate “a personal ‘rule of life’ centered in Prayer Book practices such as praying the Daily Office and observing the church calendar.” “People who take this course will emerge with a firm understanding of how important the sacrament of baptism is to the Episcopal tradition. We hope they will develop a deeper commitment to the ministry of all believers in advancing God’s mission of justice, mercy, and reconciliation in the world,” he said.

The course will be taught by Ferlo, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, dean of Bexley Hall; and Bexley Seabury faculty including the Rev. Dr. John Dally, the Rev. Dr. Jason Fout, Professor Milner Seifert and the Rev. Dr. Ellen Wondra. “This is an exciting venture for Bexley Seabury,” Ferlo said. “ChurchNext is an excellent partner for us as we continue to develop new ways to bring high level theological education to ever-broader audiences.”

The course will be available to congregations that subscribe to ChurchNext for free and to individuals for $10 per course, or for an unlimited, $15/mo individual membership. “This is an extremely convenient, cost effective, and professional way to provide first-rate Christian formation materials to people around the world,” Yaw said.

Keep tuned to this blog and our site as we roll these classes out – we’ve already taped 3 of them and are on track to begin the roll out next month.