How are we incorporating online learning into our ministries? #oc12

This week I’m reflecting on some “big ideas” that struck me at the Orange Conference last week.  Join the conversation . . . I’d love you hear your thoughts on these macroscopic ideas shaping our culture as we seek to minister to families.

During one the main sessions at Orange, Reggie interviewed Mawi Asgedom, who overcame a childhood torn by civil war in East Africa when his mom carried him out of his country. He came to America, lived in welfare in Chicago, and overcoming cultural and financial challenges, earning a full-tuition scholarship to Harvard University. He currently leads an organization called Mawi Learning . . . which focuses on leadership development within schools across the country.

In the middle of his interview he dropped a quick fact that grabbed my attention so much that I had a problem moving on mentally to what he said next.  Did you know that . . .

There are four States that already require High School students to take at least one online course to graduate from High School.

The logic makes a lot of sense . . . students already spend over 30 hours online every week . . . they know how to fling Angry Birds and network on facebook . . . our education system needs to keep pace with these changes and help students navigate online worlds.  1/3 of post secondary classes are delivered through online distant learning.  [Listen to this quick news story about the rise of required online learning for high school students in America.]

What difference does this make to us as we seek to serve the people in our churches?

  • Should we require that our small group leaders be extending the conversations beyond the bounds of the normal “meeting time” through online forums and social media?
  • Are we missing an opportunity to present our sermons online with other rich learning tools to help drive home the material being presented?
  • Does our leadership development strategy reflect that people are looking for ways to receive content online?
  • What does the future of church online look like?  Will it move beyond simply just a rebroadcast of an offline service with a chat box?  Online learning isn’t a video recording of a teacher in front of a black board.
What are you seeing in the church to push the envelope in online learning?  Who is leading the charge on this front?  I’d love to learn from them!  [Leave a comment or two about how you think online learning will impact your ministry.]


  1. There’s a couple of issues here, of which I believe the church as a significant opportunity to lead other industries trying to sort it all out.

    1) We’ve been interacting online for years, but there hasn’t been much evolution in the discussion board format for interaction. We’re still instant messaging like we did with AOL AIM, just with more people at once in a chat room. The Blackboard(tm) platform many universities use today is greatly underutilized since faculty don’t know how to integrate it into the curriculum (and the vast majority are not digitally native, so they don’t have experience with the medium). And it again, is basically the same thing we’ve been doing for the last decade and more. Perhaps it’s time to blow it up and have a revolution not evolution in this area?

    2) Content producers are lacking. Online education is more than recording a lecture and then just streaming it. Yet the pyramid lens to content online (90% consumers, 9% curators, only 1% producers) tells us that only a few are creating top notch online teaching content. We need to teach more people how to use video teaching for the most impact.

    3) There is a huge paradigm shift needed in online education. Even our most contemporary churches still embrace a sit and soak model for sermon/service attendance. The one-to-many, sit-still-or-be-condemned approach to church is not what is needed for successful online teaching/learning enivironments. We need the content creators to reimagine what is possible in this new medium.

    What are your thoughts on the isssue?

  2. I lead the middle school ministry at my church and we actually just launched an app for our students and small group leaders to interact online. Here’s what it is:

    1. Everyday we update the app (really just a direct link to a blog) with a chunk of Bible verses that pertain to what we taught on Sunday.
    2. We ask our students and small group leaders to read the verses and leave a comment to have dialogue about what those verses mean and how they apply to our lives.

    The app is called “SHINE! Time With God” and the blog that it’s directly connected to is

    We just launched it on Sunday and since then we’ve already had 85 interactions between middle school students and small group leaders. As we get more and more small group leaders to encourage their kids to interact with God’s word together through this app, I think it’s going to be a huge success for us. It’s a great way for our leaders to continue to influence and speak truth into their students’ lives throughout the week and of course encourage their students to read the Bible regularly.

    The verses we use are directly related to the messages and series we are doing on Sundays, so it also helps us drive home the main point for the week. This really is our first attempt at anything like this, so I’m excited to see if our small group leaders embrace it and really start to engage their students during the week through it.

  3. We’ve been looking into an online LMS (Learning Management System) for new people to follow along a course at their own time. It incorporates video, presentations, tests, quizzes, etc, and you can do this in a team.

    We haven’t launched it yet, but would love to hear if anyone has used something similar? LMS –

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