Kids, Faith, and Technology 1: Using Video Technology

Digital technology has created a break between parents’ experiences of the world and that untitled-design-2of our children. Contemporary digital technology offers children an entire category of experiences that previous generations never imagined. Sure, we had video games and television, but playing Nintendo games didn’t really prepare us for parenting with the internet.

While this world creates new challenges — internet safety issues, temptations to over-screen, easy distractions for both children and parents, etc. — it also offers parents amazing new opportunities to engage children. Churches should be quick to utilize this technology to bring scripture into children’s lives, partly because digital technology is a powerful way to reach kids and partly because it’s one of the main ways that kids engage the world. If we want to reach them, we need to speak their language.

This post is the first in a series of blog posts that will explore ways in which religious educators, parents, godparents, and other people who work with raising children in faith might use digital technology to help engage kids with faith.

Today, we’ll talk about video technology. Anyone who has ever seen their children view photos and videos of themselves, wave at their own images on security cameras, or listen to their own recorded voices knows that recording kids in action is a great way to engage them.  Back in the day, hand-held video cameras were heavy and expensive, but now, creating a video is as easy as pulling out a smart phone.

Here are some ways in which video technology might be useful in engaging kids with scripture and spiritual practices:

  1. Discuss a Bible story or passage from scripture with your class. Have individual children or groups write a short lesson or meditation on the text and record the children telling the story and reading these meditations aloud.
  2. Have the class draw pictures of different scenes from a Bible story. Put the pictures in chronological order and record the children telling the story in the2016-09-29-11-17-57 background while showing the pictures in order. You’ve made a short movie! Play it back for the kids.
  3. Along similar lines, using more than one class, have students create a play or a puppet show based on one or several stories from the Bible. Have them make costumes or puppets and scenery and then record the production like a movie. You could even have multiple classes make such movies and then have a movie day. Pop some popcorn, bring the kids in — perhaps with their families — and show the movies to everyone. (Kids who prefer not to appear in the videos can still help write them and make materials for them.)
  4. Have students or different groups of students write prayers for different times of day. Create videos or digital recordings of morning prayers, evening prayers, etc., and send them to parents. The kids can listen to or say these prayers as part of their routines.

(Important note: Remember, many communities require parents to give consent before any identifiable images of children are displayed publicly. Ask parents before you show identifiable images of kids on websites or in any other place where the wider community could access them.)

Coming next week: learn how (and why) to create a website for your Sunday school class.

Just Launched: Practical Forgiveness with Rob Voyle


We just launched Practical Forgiveness with Rob Voyle For Individuals and For Groups. This class takes a hands-on, method-oriented approach to the process of learning to forgive.

Frederick Beuchner once wrote:

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

The kind of anger that Beuchner describes here is resentment. If you have ever found yourself caught in a pattern of resentment from which you have trouble breaking free, Rob Voyle’s class may be useful to you.

In this class, Rob Voyle, an Episcopal priest and faculty member at the Clergy Leadership Institute with years of experience and advanced degrees in psychology and counseling, offers methods to help people move from resentment to forgiveness. In his lectures, Rob defines both terms and offers reasons for people to pursue forgiveness. He distinguishes between forgiveness and reconciliation and discusses healthy ways to manage forgiveness without opening ourselves up to being hurt again by the same people. Finally, he offers practical spiritual and mental practices to help people break out of the cycle of resentment, wish those who hurt us well, and move on with our work of “walking in love as Christ loved us.”

For a preview of Rob’s class, click here.



Dear Big Class Participants: Thank You.

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We always enjoy Big Class time. It’s engaging and exciting to follow so many quality conversations between so many people on important topics. Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer has wrapped up as a Big Class (though a number of people have purchased it since it closed, or are planning to use it as part of their annual subscription). We want to thank all who participated. Parker Palmer’s wisdom offered much food for thought, but, as always, what moved the class beyond the lectures was your thoughtful, discerning engagement with the lectures and with one another. You continue to bring much of what these classes have to offer, and for that, we thank you.

Bridging the Political Divide enrolled more students than any Big Class has ever had —  2,842 people registered for the course. Many of those people took the class in groups with others from their congregations, so the class reached even more people than that number reflects. Of the people who filled out the class survey at the end, 93% were satisfied or very satisfied with their course experience, and nobody was dissatisfied.

Many people appreciated Parker Palmer’s lectures and overall demeanor, generally agreeing in sentiment with the student who wrote, “Parker Palmer is so cool.” In particular, numerous people mentioned Parker’s “concept of hope and cynicism being the biggest divide between us.” Others appreciated Parker’s advice about “how to engage with people of different political views” and his suggestions for “specific language with which to interpret conversations in a tailspin.”

Other students made specific mention of the high quality discussions that took place. One student wrote about appreciating “the opportunity to share discussion with others in a meaningful way,” while another liked “the conversation with others and being able to ‘upvote’ the responses.” That’s on you. Thank you for providing your valuable insights and adding value to this discussion.

Finally, one more thanks to Forward Movement, The Episcopal Church, Bexley Seabury Seminary, Living Compass, and the Center for Courage and Renewal for making it possible for this class to reach so many people. Thank you!



Tomorrow’s the Last Day.Take The Big Class: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer.

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The Big Class: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer runs through Sept. 19. Today is Sept. 18. You can see where we’re going with this.

If you have signed up with the idea that you have plenty of time to take it — you do! Today and tomorrow. Two whole days. If you are planning to sign up and take it when you get a chance — go ahead and do it! Today or tomorrow. It takes less than an hour to take the whole thing. If your friend is interested and you meant to forward her the link — do it! Just tell her to take it today or tomorrow.

Really, it’s well worth the effort. Parker Palmer’s ideas about handling discordant political beliefs are wise — and this election season isn’t going anywhere until November 9. It’s well worth 45 minutes on the computer to take a free class from a wise man who will give you some skills to surf the negativity — and even make the differences between us opportunities for growth.

It’s that that you can’t take it after Monday — just that you will have to be a subscriber or pay for the class. But today and tomorrow, it’s free to anyone in the world who wants to take it. Put aside some time for later today — or just stay on the computer now — and take Parker’s class.

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Some of Your Thoughts on Bridging the Political Divide


Work 1The Big Class: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer  now has over 2200 students taking it. Parker’s lectures have provoked many insightful comments in the discussion section. Here are a few of your responses to the class’s discussion questions:

On whether or not we should maintain silence on politics with those who disagree with us:

I think silence is an essential part of true dialogue. Not just the silence of waiting for your turn to talk, but the silence and stillness that come with really listening to others with an open and humble heart. That said, when someone in the dialogue says things that are harmful or degrading to a person or group of people, silence is a participation in that, and it is not being in right relationship with our brothers and sisters who are being demeaned to remain silent. But prayerfully try as I might I too often am not able to discern when I need to deeply listen in silence or to speak up at difficult but needed times.

On maintaining space in conversations for disagreements without betraying our core values:

Respectful conversation can clarify commonality of core values. For example, in the case of abortion untitled-design-1the pro-Lifer might agree with the pro-Choice argument that an outright ban simply drives abortion into the back streets, the common value here being law and order or the desirability of minimizing crime.


Respect for others’ beliefs is a value in itself.

On the qualities held by good citizens in our communities:

  • Humility – knowing no one person or party or perspective has a corner on the truth.
  • Openness to learn – becoming informed, study, reading beyond mainstream media, from all sources – from those who share opinions and others
  • Positive attitude about our connection with each other and possibilities that may emerge as we listen to each other and work together on solutions for the greater good.

On using the internet for productive political conversation:

Researchers tell us that effective communication across a wide range of settings (marriage, work, politics, etc.) is built on a foundation in which inquiry outweighs advocacy by a significant margin.The trouble with so many online “conversations” is that they almost exclusively take the form of advocacy. All chutzpah and no humility. As a result, we never really get to know the hopes, dreams, and fears behind these often strident words. More questions and fewer assertions can help create the safe space needed to explore complexity.

Thanks to you all for the high quality discussions that you are having. Please keep the insights coming!



Launching Today — The Big Class: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer

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Today, we launch Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer. It will be available for free to anyone who wants to take it from today through September 19.After that date, it will remain available to ChurchNext subscribers and for purchase.

We offer this class as a ministry that we feel America really could use right now. Political divisions, for good and ill, are nothing new in the U.S., but lately, they have been unhealthy, not only between the candidates on each side of the aisle, but among their supporters. In the past couple of decades, a Pew research study shows, extreme antipathy between Democrats and Republicans has risen sharply, with many members of each party viewing the other party as actively dangerous for the country. An exceptionally vitriolic election season has done nothing to dampen these party-based hostilities.

In this class, author and activist Parker Palmer discusses the sources of today’s antipathies and talks about ways for us to engage in productive political discourse. He suggests that while healthy divisions strengthen American politics, unhealthy divisions bring us down socially and politically. He offers guidance in how to re-frame our approach to political thinking and conversation to produce better discussions, better politics, and better relationships.

We hope that you will enjoy this class and spread the word about it to your friends across the political spectrum. Would would like to thank Forward Movement, The Episcopal Church, Bexley Seabury SeminaryLiving Compass, and the Center for Courage & Renewal for making it possible for us to offer this class free for these two weeks.

For more information about taking Bridging the Political Divide, please click here. For a preview, please click below.

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