eFormation 2017 Registration now live!

The Center for the Ministry of Teaching is excited to announce that the conference registration for eFormation 2017 is now live! Find the details over on Eventbrite: eformation2017.eventbrite.com.

We encourage participants to think about joining us for both Monday, June 5th and Tuesday, June 6th – to experience the full diversity and depth of programming and learning from our new and returning facilitators.

Tuesday, June 6th is the focused conference, with practical workshops from national leaders in faith formation, social media, and digital communications. Select workshop offerings will also be streamed for webinar participants.

Monday, June 5th will be a Leadership Summit to gather people in directed conversation around pertinent digital ministry and evangelism topics. The evening program will focus on the connection between educational neuroscience and religious education.

Discounted early-bird registration for the full 2-day programming is available until March 15th. More information about schedules, presenters, workshops, and consultations will be posted on the conference site: eFormation Conference Details.

Información sobre la programación en español estará disponible pronto. ¡Gracias por su paciencia!

The Center for the Ministry of Teaching is committed to bringing faith leaders and practitioners together to provide learning experiences that best serve the needs of the future. Building on the momentum of the past five years of e-Formation conferences and bootcamps, the learning community is ready to expand, bringing this important training to new places, new people, and new organizations. Know someone that would benefit from the e-Formation conference and community? Make sure you share this event!

We are incredibly grateful to the eFormation advisory group:

  • Keith Anderson (Upper Dublin Lutheran Church)
  • Randall Curtis (Episcopal Church in Arkansas)
  • Anthony Guillen (Episcopal Church Latino/Hispanic Ministries)
  • Lisa Kimball (Center for the Ministry of Teaching)
  • Kyle Oliver (Teachers College, Columbia University)
  • Eduardo Rivera (Academia Ecuménica de Liderazgo)
  • John Roberto (Lifelong Faith Associates)
  • Sarah Stonesifer (Center for the Ministry of Teaching)

Thank you for being a part of our community! Follow the e-Formation Facebook page to continue the conversation and also tag #eform17 in on your favorite social media to contribute your voice. 

Public Theology in the Digital Age

Public stained glass

Editor’s note: This post originated as a list of questions for a conversation with Kenji Kuramitsu as a part of the Digital Media for Ministry class at VTS. When Kenji’s travel plans forced us to cancel the interview, he graciously tackled these questions on his blog. The post is reproduced here with his permission. For more on this topic, check out the recording of Kenji’s e-Formation 2016 workshop, Doing Theology Online.

What motivate(d/s) you to bring your theological studies into the public sphere via social media? 

I’ve found in the Internet much of what many relatively lonely people, from LGBTQ teens to white nationalists, have – a place where I can connect with others from a wider community that reminds me I am not alone. A place to build momentum and find fellowship that extends beyond my local community.

I started to use social media in the same way that many young people do: without thinking critically about it, just imitating how I saw others acting. As I began to pivot towards using online spaces to engage critical questions of theology and power, I was forced to start thinking more intentionally about my practice. But there certainly wasn’t always a critical reflection embodied in my engagement, lacking sound theory there were certainly more thoughtful ways I could have contributed. We know that what we put out there is always out there, and that’s a scary thought: my great, great grandchildren will have full digital access to my well-intentioned half-truths and mistakes. I hope my children and future generations think more critically about this stuff from the outset.

It wasn’t until college, through participating in online video call book clubs, swapping blog platforms, tweeting, and then co-curating my own projects like the Theology of Ferguson and #StayWokeAdvent anthologies, I began to realize the organizing power of the web.

At first, I really didn’t think that anyone would really care what I was writing or talking about. Questions of representation have influenced how I see myself occupying space online. Knowing that there weren’t many Japanese American or queer or mixed race theologians being read or discussed in general, I became more interested in lending my voice in a public way. I think being present in online spaces is also healing for me, given my years of participation in traumatic forms of Christianity that didn’t really invite authenticity.

How would you describe the relationship between your local community of formation and your broader online community? How does each contribute to your studies and your theological identity? 

I was formed by Christian traditions that tended to share a healthy skepticism for positive uses of the Internet: we were encouraged to think of social media with metaphors of temptation and wildfire. These days, through seminary community and my work at a local Episcopal church, I feel lucky to have a community that honors my public witness. I don’t feel as much like I must hide who I am anymore, which is enormously healing…I have met many other people online for whom local community is toxic or otherwise lacking, which can make for a profoundly isolating journey of faith.

I’ve made many intimate and rewarding friendships online, many of whom even across distance by technology have been actively diffused into my “local” and daily emotional life. Sometimes, though, fusing these two realms has been difficult for me. I know in-person witness and online activity would both be greatly improved if I were able to figure this out better.

What is challenging about hosting and participating in theological conversations online? What is exciting about it?

Many things excite me here: the ability to participate in progressive theological commentary in the public square (not just micro-echo chambers), how this space can help infuse values of ecumenism, feminism, antiracism, and the friendships that can emerge from this cataclysm of pixels and passion.

I was in what I would now call a spiritually abusive faith community in college – when I was eventually placed under discipline for my “spirit of division,” I was asked to sign a contract asking me to stay off of Twitter and my blog for 16 weeks while I read church-selected texts instead. Looking back, their fear really reflects what can actually be a liberating dimension of these spaces, sharpening each other, broadening horizons.

Throughout history, Christians of different traditions were never able to engage each other so immediately. This can bring insight, but also venom…of course, much of the world’s poor is still without Internet access, and for them joining many of these “exciting new” questions is not an option…

There are plenty of other dangers. Of course our culture’s hyper-individualism is a constant threat. I know many people who embody compulsive and extremely unhealthy activity encouraged by constant beeps and pings of news somewhere else. Disputes online are often quickly vicious. With the bridle of personal responsibility clouded by anonymity, people aren’t often as accountable for our words. This manifests in hate speech very frequently, especially directed towards women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, sex workers, etc.

You think and write a lot about the intersection of race, sexuality, gender, theology, and the public sphere. What have you learned about the practice of online discourse and community around these particular topics? 

For one, I see learning from others through pointed conversations on social media as an active part of my own theological training. Twitter in particular has supplemented and improved my ability to think theologically by introducing me to the work of many diverse and faithful people with whom I otherwise never would have encountered. Given the racial insularity of most Americans’ social networks (especially true for whites, especially true in worship and church spaces), by connecting with the theological insights of other people of color online I have been able expand the tiniest bit further outside of my own social/ethnic bubbles.

In my experience Twitter, as a digitized urban space where anyone is able to connect with another without shared physical location (in-person) or prior relationship (Facebook), serves a unique and educational purpose, as well as a movement-building space for those interested in doing theology online in a just way. Again, this engagement has been personally helpful for not uncritically producing unconsciously racist white or myopic theology in my own life and work.

Something to watch out for is that all the dynamics of race, gender, sexuality, and power as manifested in physical interactions between people are all still at play in virtual spaces – often without being named as such.

What advice do you have for other faith leaders who want to participate in public theological conversation?

Hop in, with both feet! Ask questions and create content that you are passionate about, that engages pressing theological issues. (This could look like collaborative projects like @ThirtySOL or public conversations like #PresbyIntersect or #SlateSpeak or something entirely different). Form relationships, do not just push your project. Especially if you have a larger platform, boost and share content from people who are experiencing harm in concrete and overlooked ways. There are plenty of people with a public platform that will influence many people who have less than nothing to do with helping create imaginative and liberative theological content.

As encouraged in your course syllabus, I would suggest reflecting on and creating a personal “rule of life” around social media engagement/consumption to limit unhealthy behavior. This is an area in which I struggle, and would like to grow further. I would be eager to hear from others how they are able to increasingly honor their own physical community as well as lend a voice to broader conversations.

There is something unique that you have to add to this conversation. The cosmic cocktail of DNA consciousness flesh ancestors spirit that produced you has never before appeared, and never again will. You can bring your unique perspectives to the living questions of how to heed the call of Christian discipleship in the midst of awful social woes. You can help keep the same voices from dominating the theological conversation. Each of us is impoverished to go the journey without you.

January 2017 e-Formation Digital Media for Ministry Bootcamps

e-Formation is excited to announce two digital media for ministry bootcamps in January 2017!

The quick details:

January 17, 2017 at DaySpring Episcopal Conference Center in Parrish, Florida, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida

January 21, 2017 in Columbia, South Carolina, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina

Registration and workshop offerings coming soon!

 

eFormation january 2017

The Center for the Ministry of Teaching and the e-Formation advisory group are committed to bringing digital media for ministry training and learning opportunities to faith communities and leaders across the nation.

Interested in learning more? Contact Sarah Stonesifer, Digital Missioner, for more information.

 

 

Announcing digital giving webinar

The Center for the Ministry of Teaching is pleased to announce Wisdom from the Field, our new webinar series. This monthly gathering brings the resources of the CMT live to your computer screen.

Wisdom from the field webinar
Each webinar will focus on critical issues identified by our Building Faith or
e-Formation subscribers. Through these webinars, participants will gain fresh insight on faith formation as well as digital media for ministry. In November, the CMT launched with a focus on Epiphany and intergenerational formation opportunities – the recording of the webinar is up on the CMT YouTube page. 

In December- questions about digital giving are among the most common we receive ourselves and see asked in the various practitioner groups we belong to.

online giving webinar

So we’ve asked Kyle Oliver and Carolyn Chilton to join the CMT’s Wisdom from the Field series for a session called “Digital Stewardship: Churches & Online Giving.” Join us for a 45-minute webinar at 3 pm Eastern on Wednesday, December 14. [RSVP here]

We know that our community is busy – so the webinar will also be recorded for later viewing and will be posted on YouTube for reference. The conversations will continue on Facebook and through our e-Formation and Building Faith communities.

We know how hard it is to feel connected to a continuing education community. We hope that these webinars will meet your needs by providing wisdom for lifelong, life-wide, and life-deep faith formation.

We invite you to join us for the Digital Stewardship webinar and to be a part of our e-Formation online learning community!

Digital Badging: Making Learning Visible

Kyle Oliver, Lisa Brown, and Liron Lipinsky gathered in Pittsburgh at the Religious Education Association’s 2016 Annual Meeting for a workshop on Making Learning Visible: Digital Badging in Faith Contexts moderated by past REA President Mary Hess. 

Sharing experience of digital badging within their faith communities, all three recounted the positive experiences and learning moments found within the process.

Check out the recording of the workshop:

Kyle, Lisa, and Liron challenged attendees (in-person and virtual) to earn the #SuperMench badge from Liron’s digital badging project at the synagogues she serves.

 

 

And some of the responses!

 

Have you tried digital badging as part of your formation program? How else do you help your congregation (and the wider public) see and hear the learning taking place in your community?

Come see us at REA 2016: In-person or online

Promo image for Nov. 6 Digital Badging workshop at REA.

The e-Formation Learning Community will be well-represented at the Religious Education Association Annual Meeting November 4-6 in Pittsburgh, PA.

On Friday morning, Kyle and Lisa (Kimball) will be giving a poster presentation on our Digital Media for Ministry Asset Mapping Project, including unveiling our map prototype and sharing some early analyses from our interviews.

On Sunday morning, Kyle and Lisa (Brown) will participate in free, public workshop called Making Learning Visible: Digital Badging in Faith Contexts. This session will take place 10:30 am – 12 pm on Sunday, November 6—and the CMT is offering web access.

To join the workshop via Zoom, visit bit.ly/rea-badging.

Hope to see you at REA 2016!

Update about digital badging program

Digital badges banner

Partners in ministry, I’m writing with an update about the e-Formation digital badging program. We’ve made the strategic decision to discontinue active development of this program for the time being.

For more than a year, we’ve been working to introduce and assess interest in digital badges. The basic idea: issue micro-credentials to document and celebrate the work of e-Formation Learning Community members and to motivate next steps after training gatherings.

As a part of this work, we described digital badging in a blog post and e-Formation 2015 plenary mini-talk, we gathered interested stakeholders for web calls and periodic feedback on our development efforts, we recruited badge mentors and explored content partnerships, and we did an online and in-person training push.

All in all, we launched 12 badges, including participation-, role-, and skill-based badges. We issued 7 skills badges, 12 role badges, and 104 participation badges to folks who signed up for the program. We also received feedback from 100 (yes, exactly 100) e-Formation 2016 participants through that event’s official evaluation.

After considering the feedback we’ve gathered, we have concluded

  • that most participants think the idea of earning badges is somewhat fun but not particularly motivating;
  • that most participants don’t believe the process of earning badges will help them talk about their skills or sell them to employers;
  • that the badge-issuing technology we have access to is confusing and complicated to use; and
  • that digital badges are a popular conversation topic in education and training circles but have not sufficiently taken root in the public imagination to be effective for our purposes at this time.

As you know, we try to practice and model action research practices throughout our work on e-Formation. We also want to be good stewards of the resources we have.

While this experiment has not taken off like we’d hoped, we are not entirely divesting of our badging infrastructure.

All e-Formation website accounts will remain active. We will continue to provide feedback to participants who submit applications for existing badges.

We may even continue to develop new badges, especially when we have training content that we hope participants will work through in a self-guided, project-based way.

Rest assured that we will periodically revisit this decision as circumstances change. For instance, we may pick up some best practices when we participate in this workshop with other digital badging advocates in religious education.

If you’d like to offer more feedback or advice on this matter, please email us at cmt@vts.edu.

Thanks for everyone who participated in this experiment, and for all your support of the e-Formation Learning Community.

Announcing upcoming e-Formation boot camps

Alexandria boot camp collaboration

At e-Formation 2016, we announced our new strategy of focusing on regional boot camps. We want to help expose more and different people to the training and inspiration this learning community has to offer.

Digital missioner Sarah Stonesifer has been working with regional partners to begin planning these events for the upcoming year. We are pleased to announce the following scheduled events:

Please mark your calendars for these events, and stay tuned for announcements about two more boot camps in the first half of 2017.

Webinar recordings now available

Webinar Access video screenshot

In case you missed last Thursday’s newsletter, we’re writing to let you know that all Webinar Access recordings from e-Formation 2016 are now available for free viewing on YouTube.

You can access the recordings from the Webinar Access page or the e-Formation 2016 playlist on our YouTube account. Enjoy!

Sarah Stonesifer new Digital Missioner

e-Formation Learning Exchange participants

e-Formation Learning Exchange, 2012

 

I am delighted to introduce to you Sarah Stonesifer, a participant in the very first e-Formation gathering and the new Digital Missioner and Learning Lab Coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching.

Sarah describes herself as “a life-long connector and helper, known for sharing information and making lives better through technology.” With formal education in cinema studies, art history and library science, Sarah was the much-valued librarian at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Potomac.

Sarah Stonesifer headshotSarah knows the church well. As a PK (priest’s kid), she is not intimidated by clergy. And her recent tenure as chair of the Standing Committee in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington demonstrates a sophisticated knowledge of church polity!

Her organizational acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, familiarity with educational technology, and zeal for effective digital communication equip Sarah to support and strengthen the CMT mission to provide resources and training for thoughtful, innovative Christian formation for all ages.

As Kyle Oliver, our original Digital Missioner, begins full-time Ed.D. studies in the Communications, Media, & Learning Technologies Design Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, Sarah is excited to inherit coordination of the e-Formation Learning Community and responsibility for CMT digital communications.

Please join me in welcoming Sarah (@sarahdigitally) to VTS!

Editor’s note: This post was adapted from Lisa Kimball’s July 1 Dean’s Commentary on the VTS website.