Flip the classroom, flip the church.

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In the past, schools and universities gathered people to a central location so they could access information from the “expert”. Lessons were given as lectures, and students were given extra work to do at home, by themselves, to extend their learning.

In an increasing number of classrooms around the world, this model is being turned on its head.

Today’s technology means that students can watch a pre-recorded lesson at home, when it suits them, and use the valuable class time to extend their learning through collaboration, discussion, and hands-on learning. The teacher stops being “the sage on the stage” and becomes “the guide on the side”. Students no longer have to flounder through hours of “homework” without access to support and role models. The “flipped classroom” is making the most of the time learners spend together in the same room.

Can you imagine the potential this model has for the church worldwide?!!

Most churches spend the bulk of their financial resources on mortgages and salaries. When God’s people gather each Sunday, they spend the majority of their time together sitting in rows and listening to a monologue, instead of looking each other in the eye, sharing their lives and stories, and ministering to one another.

What if someone started up a kind of TED Talks / Khan Academy venture for churches; where gifted communicators condense big ideas into short soundbites; where well-resourced churches used their creative departments to produce engaging video presentations; where we can build up a free resource of high quality, easy-to-understand talks to replace sermons?

Imagine the implications!

– People could watch the “sermon” at home to get them thinking, then use their gathered time to learn and explore ideas at a far deeper level.

– Leaders could become facilitators, using their communication abilities to listen to and empower others, rather than doing all the talking.

– God’s people could make the most of their time together, meeting face-to-face to impact one another.

– Meeting together would be more likely to inspire real change, real action, and real community.

– New churches wouldn’t need to put all their money into hiring professionals and buying venues.

– The world would have access to thought-provoking, life-giving messages about Jesus and His ways.

Can you think of any other advantages (or potential disadvantages) to flipping churches?

11 thoughts on “Flip the classroom, flip the church.

  1. Interesting concept, however this proposed change is not likely to happen. I have found that almost all significant changes in the traditional church only happen when the leader is on board.

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

    • You’re quite right, Mark – this isn’t going to happen in most churches, especially those with a professional pastor in place.

      It’s just an idea with interesting implications. It may apply in churches which are “between” ministers, or small groups of Christians who want to start meeting interactively, but have grown up valuing monologue teaching by “experts”.

      There are also a lot of frustrated pastors out there, tired of “preaching at” people and not seeing any real growth or change. Some of them are ready to move away from performance to facilitation.

      It is a big deal for people to change their mindset – but once they do, they rarely go back.

      Blessings,

      – Kathleen

  2. This idea has some merits, but what we really need is not more or better teaching, but to see each one contributing when we meet, all using their gifts and bringing whatever the Spirit gives them to say. (1 Cor 12:4-11)

    That is how the church will be built up, as everyone takes their part.

    In terms of online resources for teaching and so forth there is already quite a lot of good stuff out there.

    • You and I are on the same page, Chris. The real “magic” of flipped classrooms is not the online teaching material, but changing classrooms to be all about collaboration, participation and helping one another. I think this has implications for some churches as well – particularly those personality types who have been conditioned to place great importance on a weekly sermon (not you and I, obviously).

      I’m not so sure about lots of great online resources being available. I’d like to see more stuff at the quality of TEDx videos (clear, concise and condensed versions of game-changing ideas), or as systematic and thorough as Khan Academy. It would be easy for the right people to put in place, and it is the language of the day for many people. Sparkhouse are doing some good stuff (short, thought provoking, with good speakers) – although it’s intended for adult Sunday School and it’s not free.

      These are just random thoughts, and not the model I personally am interested in. I do think we need multiple strategies to empower the majority of churches to move from “rows” (monologue) to “circles” (dialogue, participation and interaction).

      – Kathleen

  3. Great ideas about making church more interactive, more about fellowship, eye to eye and less about storing up knowledge, sitting in rows. I’m definitely on the same page there.

    However, how would a mass-market approach to the word of God deliver a relevant message to each church? As we read in Revelation Jesus says different things to different churches, the ‘now’ word for my church (Greek word “rhema”) may not be the ‘now’ word for yours.

    • I hear what you’re saying about a “mass-market approach”, Aidan – but I actually think this approach could make the message even more relevant to each church. Having access to a large library of pre-recorded, high-quality teaching would give the congregation more input into what they would like to learn about/discuss. In most churches, the pastor is just “guessing” what the people need to hear – when you speak in monologue, you don’t get much real feedback; you don’t get insight into where people are really at. Sure, the pastor is able to hear from the Holy Spirit – but the other 99% of the church are able to, as well. All teaching becomes more relevant and contextualised when people are able to explore it, discuss it and apply it to their own lives and circumstances.

      Another way of applying this concept – get the church pastor to pre-record his message, then facilitate discussion and hands-on learning activities when the church gathers. Make the most of our time together. This can result in deeper learning, a wider range of insight and perspectives, and more application/action/spiritual growth.

      In the future, we will be amazed that God’s people used to gather together and then only let one person speak. Today’s technology means we don’t need to use our precious gathered time to listen to lengthy lectures, which we could access at home, 24/7.

      – Kathleen

  4. Kathleen, the Q website is a TED like setup. http://www.qideas.org. Conferences, books, etc.
    The idea’s got merit, though it takes a large shift to move from preaching to facilitating. I can think of some preachers who’d never manage it. But I believe it’s an important shift.

    • Thanks for the link, Gaz – I hadn’t come across it before. Some great articles and thought-provoking talks there, I look forward to reading/listening to a few, and I’m sure Kevin-Neil will love it.

      I also know many pastors who will never manage to shift from preaching to facilitating. That’s ok. Plenty of people won’t want to move out of pews, and they need someone to listen to! I’m grateful for the few who do “get it” and I’m quite sure the shift will happen eventually. Thanks for your encouragement and input,

      – Kathleen

    • Great post, Gavin – I’ll share that on Twitter as well. I completely agree with you that we have something that other great inspirational speeches don’t – access to the Holy Spirit when we gather in community and seek God’s truth.

      Blessings,

      – Kathleen

  5. I love this! I was just brainstorming with my wife on this very idea. Recently I heard an interview with a pastor of a VERY large church with a long history. This pastor was asked what the future of the church looked like in the U.S., and he said, “At this rate, I see larger and larger facilities reaching fewer and fewer people.” Our model of church, like the classroom, has lost it’s effectiveness. Ultimately, the typical Sunday service is not effectively or efficiently creating disciples. Our response is not to radically change the paradigm, but instead to create slightly new twists on the same old methods. My wife is a teacher and has seen incredible turnaround and growth in her students as she’s implemented the “flip class” model. So together we’ve started mapping out an answer to the question, “What would a flip church look like?” It is radical, and you definitely can’t put new wine in the old wineskin. But this is a challenge I believe we must face in our generation. Thank you for sharing!

    Since you posted this 3 years ago, have you seen this being modeled?

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