Here at PCR, we see trends in church resources as we monitor new books and DVDs, as well as blogs and articles from church leadership and other organizations. We also see developing trends from the requests we get for assistance in different areas of church ministry.
One trend we see is a push for online Bible study and faith formation. This is all part of the church’s use of online resources and social media to bring Jesus’ message of love to as wide a group of people as possible. Using an online platform for study makes it possible for people who have irregular work schedules, children at home to care for, are homebound, etc. to learn and share with others from their church.
There are many ways to do this. Some studies include one or two face-to-face meetings to supplement the online learning. Sometimes there is a set time for everyone to go online together and share by using a chat box or through their computer microphone or telephone. Another option is to have a website which people can access at any time which has information about readings for the week, discussion questions, etc.
The materials studied can be Bible studies or devotional material and the students can be adults or even families. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Virginia decided to shut down Sunday school and adopted a program of online faith formation. Using the lectionary based Living the Good News curriculum, they set up a website with pages for each week that offer a Gospel story, family discussion topic, and prayer starter. Families can also share their personal experiences on the website. Every four to six weeks, there is a potluck lunch after Sunday worship with teaching and an activity.
If you don’t want to set up your own website, there are many other options for online study, some for a fee and some at no cost. One free option is ProBoards, an internet forum where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. You could also set up a Facebook closed group. Online meeting websites, such as GoToMeeting, allow people to talk to each other through their telephone or computer and charge a monthly fee. BeADisciple offers ready-made courses for your church to do, such as Disciple Bible Study and studies sponsored by The Upper Room, but you can also create your own course.
As always, PCR is here to help you set up an online study for your church. We’re also offering a webinar this September on the topic led by Kyle Oliver, the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator for the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. Check out the webinar page of our website where we’ll be posting information about the webinar shortly.