Last night we tried something new with our confirmation class: emoji theology.
It was inspired by the brilliant Twitter account @emojitheology, which communicates Bible stories and religious ideas through emoji—those little pictures we include in text messages. Here are some examples of those awesome tweets:
We are learning about the Ten Commandments in our Confirmation class this fall, and most recently the Third Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy" and Martin Luther's explanation of it in the Small Catechism, "We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God's Word, but instead keep the Word holy and gladly hear and learn it."
Inspired by the work we are doing in my class Catechism as Platform and conversations on experiential learning with Bethany Stolle, I decided to craft a Confirmation class that was an experience of Sabbath, rather than just a discussion about it. It turned out to be a great mashup of premodern and postmodern, ancient and digital.
Luther's explanation of the third commandment, as I understand it, is about taking time to encounter the Word of God, whether that's on the traditional Christian Sabbath of Sunday morning, where we gather for worship and engage with the Word in Scripture readings, sermons, and the liturgy, or simply time apart from our busy routines in order for rest and renewal so that we can encounter God in the Word—which, for me, can be Scripture, or another person, or nature, or any number of ways people encounter and experience God.
When I introduced the session and told the kids that I just wanted them to relax and there would be time for them just to chill, they were pretty shocked. They are so programmed, just like adults, they weren't expecting to get permission just to be kids—really, just to be.
So, here's what we did, including links and resources. The entire experience lasted 90 minutes.
How are you cultivating experiential learning in your ministry? Share your good ideas in the comments.
Today I begin co-teaching, along with Martin Lohrmann, a new online class at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia called Catechism as Platform: Teaching the Catechism in a Digital Age.
Here's the course description:
Luther's catechisms were written to invite parents, youth, teachers and pastors into a way of life built upon the good news of Christ crucified and risen for us. In 21st century terms, his catechisms were more like a "platform" than a "page." This course will study Luther's Large and Small Catechisms, with an eye on the many ways they continue to inform faith, worship, prayer and daily life. At the same time there will be a focus on developing fluency in today's digital technology, learning to communicate Luther's "platform of faith" through various social media resources. The course assumes that the catechisms are assets for public theology, sharing the faith both inside and outside our churches.
Needless to say I'm excited about the class, mainly because I think we are charting some pretty new territory when it comes to teaching the catechism in a world shaped by digital social media.
Technology pervades nearly every aspect of our daily lives—especially those of our teenagers—and yet we rarely talk about it in our churches.
People carry powerful smartphones, wonderous tablets, and they work daily on desktop and laptop computers. They are continually plugged into the internet and social networks—technologies which have completely saturated our daily lives and work.
And yet, as pervasive as these technologies and digital media are, we don't really talk about them in church. Why?
Perhaps there is an unspoken presumption that these devices and networks don't have anything to do with our faith. In fact, they powerfully shape our faith in ways we are often unaware of—both by the information we receive through them (how we are formed), and how we live out of faith in digital spaces (how we enact our faith). It may also be our own relative discomfort with understanding and operating these technologies ourselves. We can feel less than knowledgable and outpaced (read: intimidated) by our teenagers.
In this digitally-integrated time, churches need to take seriously and engage in conversation at the intersection of faith and technology for all ages, but especially youth. As our youth live more of their lives online, they will also live out their faith there too. If we don't engage it, we will miss out on a huge part of their lives...and leave them without spiritual guidance.