December 12, 2017

Online Learning?

I've recently had a number of conversations with Christian leaders that are exploring the development of online missional communities. The number of times this has come up over the last month got me thinking a little more about the online presence of faith communities.

Certainly, more and more of us are discovering community online. You form relationships with those you would not have otherwise met. And you can nurture distant relationships those far away that would otherwise fade away. So, it seems obvious that spiritual community would be a next step for some though I have to admit that I have some reluctance about this. The Incarnation signals, to me, that there is something important about being together "in the flesh." Online Christian community has a lot to offer, but I wonder if the end result will always need to be people being with each other in person.

Increasingly, there is another online opportunity for Christian leaders that seems under utilized: online learning.

Christians leaders often find themselves attempting to keep up with the face-paced changes in online social media. Website? Check. Blog? Check. Facebook page? Check. Instagram account? Check? I am not discounting the importance of being found online, it is–for most–your "front door"; visitors will check out your online presence before darkening your door. But I wonder about other possibilities exist beyond hanging your digital shingle out for others to find.

Online learning is thriving. Sites like Udemy, Lynda.com, SkillShare and others are growing. Studies about religious participation have shown that while participation in religious institutions has declined, individual, spiritual identity and activity has not. This seems to indicate that there remains a spiritual curiosity in our culture. And if a general skimming of the news this last year offers any indication, we are spiritually starved!

At EdX.org, I can take a course on "Religion, Peace and Conflict" from Harvard. I can also take a course on "Religion and Hip Hop" from Rice University. Which, by the way, is free! Over a decade ago, Internet fandom celebrated the democratization of online learning. But now there is a whole level of skills and practice sharing happening. And a lot of it is provided for free. How are we engaging this growing source of resources?

I wonder about the deep well of spiritual practice, knowledge and wisdom that lies within our tradition. What about the practical aspects of our faith that you are passionate about? Maybe more than an Instagram account, you should be connecting with people by offering them tangible, practical tools from the deep well of Christian tradition for managing day-to-day life? Could this add value to our communities and engender interest in participating communities–whether online or in person?

Possibly.

If you've tried this, I'd love to know what you're learning.

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