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.

Announcing Another Free, Worldwide Class

FF Title PicChurchNext is thrilled to partner with the good folks at Faith Forward to offer a  free class to all aimed at helping us better understand and nurture young people in the Christian faith.

Registration for The Big Class: Reimagining Children’s and Youth Ministry is now open. Click here for more information and to sign up. The course will run from April 7 – April 14 and features talks with four of the most innovative and talented leaders in children’s and youth ministry.

This is a free, pre-recorded class that will take an average learner about 45 minutes to work through. It features text, video, quizzes, discussion areas, as well as two free downloads: The Takeaway, which is a one-page synopsis of the class, and Discussion Questions, which can be used in face to face gatherings following The Big Class.  There will be live moderating going on during the class (April 7 – April 14) so students will be able to ask the presenters questions.  There is no special software required.

This is the first Big Class we’ve offered in order to help get the word out about an upcoming conference. The class features four of the keynote speakers for the upcoming Faith Forward conference in Nashville. Organizer Dave Csinos and I were thinking about a way to more widely expose the work of these conference presenters to those who were either coming to the conference and wanted to get a head start on what’s coming up, as well as those who will not be attending the conference but have a keen interest in the subject.

The four teachers for this class are Dave Csinos, Melvin Bray, Ivy Beckwith and Danielle Shroyer. We will be releasing a moderator schedule shortly so that students can know when these live chats are happening.  We are excited to be bringing this kind of resource to a wider audience and pray this class can be useful in faith communities around the world.

Introducing Tracks

Announcing a new way for students to travel down a learning path that can take them to their destination.Tracks Title

They’re called Tracks.

Located at the top of the ‘Browse Catalog’ page, they can be used as fully online learning experiences, or as a more expansive, blended learning experience, which we recommend. Pulling people together, to interact face-to-face, whenever possible improves the learning experience.

Since each course comes with two downloads, The Takeaway (a one-page synopsis of the course) and Discussion Questions, classes can be convenient and easy to organize.Tracks

With that in mind, subscribers can organize their own, custom Tracks based on the outcomes you desire. We’ve put 7 tracks together, which you can view here.

The Big Class: Making Sense of the Cross Launches Today

D Lose Square
The Big Class is now in session.

More than 1,200 people in 14 countries have signed up – and you’re welcome to join us: Click here to learn more and register for free.

We’ve made The Big Class open to all, for free, thanks to Augsburg Fortress Publishers.  Beginning today through March 12, anyone with Internet access and a computer or tablet can take this course in which online learners will read, write, watch, listen, and participate in an open conversation about the cross.  

The Rev. Dr. David Lose is a professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. This course expands on the popular Making Sense of the Cross, a six-session, small-group course published by Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis.

Dr. Lose will moderate the course and answer online questions during the week of The Big Class. Participants can take the class anytime during the week at The course will take 45 minutes to complete and need not be taken in one sitting. No special software is required.

AF_logo_Large_blkThroughout Making Sense of the Cross, readers are encouraged to think about and experience the cross and its meaning for their lives. “The Cross has been as life-giving as it has been mysterious,” said Chris Yaw, founder of ChurchNext, a producer of online learning experiences. “However, David possesses that rare gift of theological insight and communication prowess that will makes this course incredibly helpful to anyone looking to gain deeper insight into Jesus’ death and resurrection.”

The Big Class is a worldwide online course for all who want to go further in their walk with Christ and is free to everyone, everywhere, thanks to the support of Augsburg Fortress. Special materials are available for congregations and education classes that desire to take the class together as part of a Lenten study.

“How we understand the cross shapes how we construe and construct our life in the world,” writes Dr. Lose. “By diving deeper into the message and meaning of this, the greatest event in the world’s history, we grow deeper into the kind of people we want to be. I’m excited to be able to offer this course free to a worldwide audience, as a way to use new technology to unpack ancient truths.”

New Course: Healthy Relationships for Couples with Holly and Scott Stoner

scott and hollyIt’s been said that people shouldn’t marry to make themselves happy, but to make their partner happy. It is this kind of selfless devotion that family and marriage counselors Holly and Scott Stoner call ‘Standing in Love.’ Learn more about how couples can improve their relationships by putting love first.

First there’s falling in love – then there’s growing in love.

Inevitably the latter is more difficult than the former and in this course the Stoners teach us several helpful strategies to grow in love that are timeless, life-giving, and potentially marriage-saving.

This course includes lessons on:

  1. Standing in Love
  2. Co-Creating Healthy Relationships
  3. Communication Styles
  4. Emotional Bank Accounts

Find our more about Healthy Relationships for Couples here.

This course is one of three produced in partnership with Living Compass, a ministry devoted to wholeness in every area of faith and life. Holly and Scott Stoner are popular speakers, conference leaders, and founders of Living Compass, a ministry dedicated to wholeness. Learn more by visiting 

The Big Class: MOOCs for Christians and What We’re Learning

The bubble seems to have burst for the MOOC.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were all the rage just two years ago when The New York Times called 2012 the ‘Year of the MOOC.’  On paper it sounds great: allow people who lack the resources to take an ivy league class on chemistry, that’s taught by one of the best communicators in the field, and it’s no wonder 40,000 people sign up.  Finally education is democratized, the playing field is leveled, and now students are the ones who can choose what they learn and when they learn from an ever-growing selection of FREE classes.

However, that dream is rapidly fading.

“The promise of MOOCs has been overpromised,” says Josuha Kim, director of Dartmouth’s digital learning initiatives. Research into who takes MOOCs, how well they do, and how often they finish courses has quickly deflated hopes that this could be a viable way forward for today’s busy (and broke) learner.  For example, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education recently analyzed 16 Coursera MOOCs over a year and found that the average completion rate of a course was just 4 percent. What’s more, those who finished the course often possessed the resources to attend a terrestrial school if they desired.  “We don’t see evidence that that’s a model that leads to real learning,” said David Hammer of Tufts University.

When ChurchNext decided to offer a MOOC-style course on January 27 – February 3 we did so with fear and trembling, aware of the drawbacks of traditional MOOCs, and intentionally designing an offering set to combat the attrition and lackluster result of previous offerings.

We made the class 45 minutes long. We made video presentations 5-7 minutes in length. We peppered the class with text reading, video presentations, short pop up quizzes, discussion rooms, and even asked students to write a brief essay.  We also knew that, unlike a MOOC course, which brings in anyone from anywhere with little in common other than some level of interest in the class, we were bringing together people of a faith whose allegiance to a particular tribe (the Episcopal Church) would provide some sort of esprit de corps that would aid in the class’s success.

When it was all over The Big Class with Michael Curry had 3,000 students from 30 countries registered. Of those, 61% started the class and completed various levels of the class.  20% finished the course- 5 times as many as the U-Penn study. 81% said they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the course, 82% said it had a moderate or major impact on their spiritual lives.  Several churches used The Big Class as part of their regular formation offerings, and some even projected the class on a big screen and took it in groups.

We can learn several things here: First, people are ready to learn about faith online. The feedback from learners was overwhelmingly positive, and the robust nature of the discussion rooms showed that people were deeply engaging in the material. Sure, the majority were not, but a large enough minority did so.

Second, there is a hunger for informed, moderate  conversation around religion. Bishop Curry’s course, ‘How to Be a Crazy Christian’ is a call to discipleship from a mainline perspective. His accessible style and reasonable approach provide a way for Christians to consider their call to follow Christ in line with their tradition.

Finally, online learning of this sort helps build relationships.  The discussion strings in the chat rooms – there were thousands of questions asked and answered during the class – betray an openness to engaging at some level with others about faith. Some people complained that the course took them 8 hours to complete simply because they got so caught up in discussions with others.

We continue to analyze this data and will undoubtedly draw more conclusions as we move forward.  We are grateful to our partners who came together to take this chance with us: Bexley Seabury, Forward Movement, The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, and Church Publishing, Inc.

New Course: Spiritual Roots of Loving Parenting with Scott and Holly Stoner

scott and hollyParenting is one of life’s most rewarding and challenging jobs. And in this course, taught by Living Compass founders Scott and Holly Stoner, we learn how a compass of faith, along with a faith community, can make the experience much richer.

Perhaps no other aspect of our lives offers as much frustration, challenge, victory and happiness as being a parent. Scott and Holy Stoner know this well. Not only are they the founders of Living Compass, a ministry devoted to wellness and wholeness within the Christian tradition, but they are parents as well.In this course, the Stoners touch on these important areas of Christian parenting:

  • We All Have a Compass
  • Grounded Parenting
  • Connected Parenting
  • Parenting and Discipline

This course is perfect for parents who are feeling overwhelmed as well as those looking for a spiritual center to their most important roles in life.

Learn more about this course here.

Holly and Scott Stoner are popular speakers, conference leaders, and founders of Living Compass, a ministry dedicated to wholeness. You can visit Living Compass here.

New Course: Lent for Families with Kim Baker

Kim BakerLent is a great opportunity not only for personal spiritual growth, but for the growth of the spirituality of families. This course is filled with practical tips from long-time educator and canon to the Washington National Cathedral Kim Baker who tells us how Lent offers an unparalleled opportunity for families to grow in Christ.

One blessing of the Church calendar is the cycle of life if mirrors in the lives of all Christians.

Lent is our wilderness because we all experience this time in our lives.  In this 45-minute course, Kim Baker shows us how Lent can be used to tap into these wilderness times as families.  Lessons include:

Why Lent Is for Families
Lenten Themes for Families
Lenten Activities for Families I
Lenten Activities for Families II

This course is ideal for families and educators looking to make the most out of Lent for families.

Find out more about Lent for Families here.
The Rev. Canon Kim Baker is the canon pastor at theWashington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. She is a lifelong educator specializing in children and families.

The Big Class with David Lose: How Can Our Congregation Use This Course for Lent?

D Lose SquareLent is a blessed opportunity for us to learn more about our faith. Many church members count on this holy season to draw closer to God via the time honored traditions of fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and study.

Along with our partners at Augsburg Fortress we are excited to offer a terrific resource: the online learning version of Making Sense of the Cross with David Lose. Many congregations have been touched by Augsburg’s outstanding DVD series, which is a 6-part, video-based curriculum that walks learners through Scripture, tradition, and David’s sound insights into how Christians can approach the Cross. This DVD series is available from Augsburg Fortress here.

What we have done at ChurchNext is turn that material into an online learning experience. Instead of 6-parts, the online learning version gives us 3.  And the material is also ordered differently – with David’s interpretation first, followed by his presentations on Scripture and tradition.

In Part I of the ChurchNext online learning version students will learn about the importance of approaching the Cross as an experience. In other words, as a participant in the ongoing work of God to reconcile the world through Jesus Christ. This course is available for free to all from March 5 – March 12 then will be available for purchase.

In Part II David walks us through the witness of Scripture, particularly the distinctive lenses of the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will be available March 23.

In Part III David takes us through the history of interpretation of the Cross. Students will learn about three distinct theories of the atonement that have endured through time and will be available March 30.

This online alternative offers congregations the opportunity for those who might not normally attend 6, face-to-face gatherings during Lent, to learn and participate in their own time, at their own pace, via an online learning experience.

A suggested approach would be for congregations to sign up as many of their parishioners as possible to take the free online course called The Big Class with David Lose, which you can take for free by clicking here. Parishioners can take this  class for free on their own time and at their own pace anytime between March 5 – March 12.

Congregations can also consider putting the course on a big screen with speakers and taking it as a group.  That’s what groups like this parish in Wisconsin recently did with a previous Big Class.

Curry at Wauwautosa
The course will take an average learner about 45 minutes to work through, though you can take longer depending on how much discussion you choose to engage in. An Internet connection is needed. There is no special software needed.  A 3-part course means that it may be easier for congregations to interest those who have other time commitments during Lent.

Each of the 3-part online learning experiences comes with two downloads. One is called The Takeaway and offers a 1-2 page synopsis of the course so learners can continue to review the salient points of each class. The second is called Discussion Questions and is designed for face-to-face gatherings, so that once people have taken a class they can come together and talk through the material. The downloads to these 3 courses are available within the course. We will make the first one available by March 4 on our blog (under The Big Class tab) to those who will be leading these classes. Others will follow.

Therefore, congregations may want to consider using both of these resources during Lent – the Augsburg Fortress DVD series for people who are able to commit to and gather for 6 weekly sessions. And the ChurchNext online version of Making Sense of the Cross for those who are able to gather less frequently or not at all.

The Augsburg Fortress DVD series is available here. And the complete, 3-part ChurchNext online learning version will be available on March 5. Again,  the first class is free from March 5 – March 12, and there will be a charge for the other two. Students can pay $15 for an unlimited ChurchNext membership and take these courses at their own time and pace. Congregations can pay $10 per course and use it in groups as depicted in the photograph above.  Your congregation may also want to consider a Congregation Membership to ChurchNext, which would make these classes (and the other 50+ in our catalog) available to parishioners for free, with the church paying a greatly reduced subscription price.  If you have any questions feel free to contact us at

New Course: Introducing Lent with Maggi Dawn

Maggi DawnLent is a holy season of devotion that offers wonderful opportunities for life transformation. Theologian and author Maggi Dawn unpacks the wonder of this season. Click here to learn more about and to take this course.

Lent is the Christian tithe. 40 days which we give back to God by intentionally drawing near to the Lord. The season of Lent is an opportunity for life-change, as we are invited to participate in special rituals and activities centered on Christ’s own preparation for death and resurrection.

Maggi Dawn knows much about this. She is the author of a book on lent called Giving It Up, and has a special place in her heart for the ways in which lent can transform lives and point them back at God.  In this course, Maggi will teach us:

  • Why Commemorate Lent?
  • Origins of Lent
  • Themes of Lent
  • Practicing Lent

This course is an inspiring introduction to this holy season and is appropriate for those who are new or have spent years commemorating Lent. To learn more about this course click here.

Maggi Dawn is Associate Professor of Theology and Literature and Dean of Chapel at Yale Divinity School. She is the author of several books including Giving It Up, a book of daily Bible readings for Lent.