Last week I posted a list of ways congregations can use digital media and web technologies to enhance their faith formation offerings. I believe there were roughly eleventy-twelve items on the list, which makes it a bit unwieldy. Fortunately, those fine folks at Faith Formation 2020 have come up with a handy-dandy visualization to help us wrap our heads around the relationship between physical places and virtual spaces when it comes to faith formation.

They say there are two ways to envision the relationship between  face-to-face and virtual faith formation, between the physical and virtual:

  • The first approach begins with people’s participation in face-to-face learning activities (small group, large group, whole church, community/world) and then uses virtual online spaces with learning activities, print/audio/video resources, and social networking to extend, deepen, and support the learning that began in the physical program.
  • The second approach begins with people’s involvement in online/digital learning activities and leads them to participate in face-to-face learning activities.

From what I understand of online learning, this strategy of face-to-face supplemented with online/digital activities and online/digital activities leading to face-to-face encounters is a real winner. And when you break those online/digital resources into the seven areas listed in the chart above (audio/video podcast, print resources, user-generated content, online courses, website links for further reading, online community, and topic-specific blog), a seemingly daunting task becomes somewhat easier.

The goal is to use the church’s website as a online spiritual development/faith formation center with a variety of existing resources. One example: the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) has been offering a monthly “Global Chalice Lighting” on their website since September of 2003. I could imagine a spiritual practice page on a congregation’s website offering a place for visitors to light a virtual chalice and reflect on that month’s chalice lighting words. (You can experience just how thoughtful an online spiritual experience like this can be at www.gratefulness.org.) Other online resources include the Tapestry of Faith curricula series, the complete texts of all the current UUA pamphlets, and the Worship Web.

The point is that any congregation can have a fairly robust online faith formation presence using existing resource. And with a little effort, those resources can be turbo-charged with contributions from the congregation’s leadership, as well as user-generated content from the its online community. To demonstrate just how easy it is, here’s are some closing words I just grabbed from the Worship Web:

May the quality of our lives be our benediction, and a blessing to all whom we touch.

—Philip Randall Giles

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