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Creating hybrid faith-formation networks

Creating hybrid faith-formation networks

The Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary has been working with faith formation ministers in congregations and dioceses to test out a new model for Christian education and faith development. The Rev. Kyle Matthew Oliver, digital missioner and learning lab coordinator at the Center, is looking for feedback on this new “hybrid” model, focusing on small group learning in person and online. He writes:

The idea here is to stop offering programs (“show up when and where we tell you and learn what we want you to learn”) and start nurturing networks (“get connected with others who want to learn and do so at your own pace and with the church’s blessing and support”). For an excellent summary of faith formation networks, check out the Summer 2013 issue of the Lifelong Faith Journal, which is entirely dedicated to the subject.

The feedback we got from the folks we shared this idea with was that faith formation networks sounded very exciting, but making the transition to this new paradigm was intimidating. So with the help of several congregations who were intrigued by the idea, we proposed what we came to call a hybrid network, combining network theory with classic small group ministry ideas.

The “hybrid” comes from “hybrid learning.” It’s the term used to describe classes that have both an online and in-person component in traditional educational settings.

The process of launching a hybrid network as we imagine it looks something like this:

1) identify an area of shared interest for learning and growth (e.g., prayer at home) and connect interested individuals or families via a contextually appropriate “hub” (social networking group, shared blog, or email listserv),

2) gather the group for monthly in-person meetings to build community and introduce important concepts and skills, and

3) in the intervening time, learn “alone together” (we use the term in a positive light) by trying out leader-provided activities and discussing the experience online (and hopefully discussing other faith-learning joys and challenges along the way).

Read more here, and let us and the Center know what you think.

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Kyle Matthew Oliver

This has been a really fun and rewarding project. Looking forward to hearing if others think it has legs. Thanks for sharing!

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