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Online Communities for Non-technical Church Functions

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Online Communities for Non-technical Church Functions

#1Postby aaron.mosiah.curtis » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:48 am

Are there plans (for either lds.org or LUWS 2.0) to incorporate more online communities to help lay church members grow into their callings?

At the last two stake leadership training meetings I've attended, the stake leaders have been trying to make the breakout sessions more idea sharing across units rather than simply providing top-down training from the stake. Thus, in a room full of executive secretaries, the Stake executive secretary spends some time training, but spends most of the time helping the other executive secretaries in the individual wards to share ideas and experiences that have been helpful to them in carrying out their callings. I know the same pattern has been carried out with the ward mission leaders with the idea that, although each ward has unique challenges that require stewardship-based inspiration from the Spirit, a lot of the issues we face, especially when growing into a new calling, have been dealt with by others. The results have been very helpful.

I've heard that one of the major improvements to be released in the new FamilySearch is the inclusion of forums that will allow experienced genealogists to provide guidance to those just learning family history in general or how to conduct research in specific localities. Such a resource will surely complement the more hierarchically-produced knowledge that the Family History department has made available on the familysearch.org website.

Similarly, although I've been very pleased to see the growing body of knowledge available on the Serving in the Church, section of lds.org, I believe this body of knowledge could be complemented by enabling a community-based approach to membership training. Thus, a new primary teacher could join an online community for primary teachers to get ideas for improving gospel instruction in his or her class. A membership clerk could learn tips and techniques from those with years of experience behind them. Emergency preparedness specialists, cub scout leaders, teachers, and other priesthood and auxiliary leaders could share ideas in a manner that preserves some of the insights that are frequently lost as members are released from one calling and another member is called to replace them. In business, they call these horizontal governance mechanisms--structures that enable cross unit collaboration.

Such functionality, might also be a means of motivating members to register for their ward website. Perhaps there might be some utility of keeping this collaboration on a stake level. I can see arguments for both keeping communities at a stake level and opening them up to members across geographic regions. Regardless, I see online communities as one way to meet President Hinckley's challenge to improve leadership training in the Church.

Such an effort would obviously need to be handled with care to distinguish between members ideas and suggestions and official church policy in the handbooks or instructions from local leaders. Such a feature would probably be best handled behind a secure sign in to prevent spammers and such, and to keep the "public face" of lds.org from turning into a garden of ideas of varying quality.

Does anybody see any problems or opportunities with such online communities among members of the Church? Perhaps these forums can serve as a testing ground for future community efforts in the Church. Any thoughts?
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#2Postby GreenwoodKL » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:57 am

I don't know the correlation between Internet access and Church influence across the world, but I could forsee in a situation where Internet access is more widespread and available than Church membership and units. In this case, isolated members can find friendship and unity across a technical community with other members and fulfill Pres. Hinckley's challenge that all converts (all of us for that matter) need friends within the faith where other members may not be readily available in person or face-to-face.
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#3Postby thedqs » Wed Feb 21, 2007 8:15 am

I think that this forum will greatly influence if other forums are created with different emphisis. The main problem that we have to keep a lid on is the negative talk about leaders and complaining about church policy.
- David
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#4Postby WelchTC » Wed Feb 21, 2007 9:32 am

Aaron wrote:Such an effort would obviously need to be handled with care to distinguish between members ideas and suggestions and official church policy in the handbooks or instructions from local leaders. Such a feature would probably be best handled behind a secure sign in to prevent spammers and such, and to keep the "public face" of lds.org from turning into a garden of ideas of varying quality.

Does anybody see any problems or opportunities with such online communities among members of the Church? Perhaps these forums can serve as a testing ground for future community efforts in the Church. Any thoughts?

These forums are a test bed of sorts on what type of help and input the community can provide. However one guiding principle that governs how the Church does it's training is that we do not want to give anyone so much prepared information that they don't have to go through the work and effort in order to be spiritually prepared for the revelation that they could receive. For example, I'm a primary teacher and I put a bunch of pre-prepared lessons with visuals, etc. on the forums. This makes it easy for someone to grab that lesson and without any thought, effort or prayer, recite the lesson. This robs the individual of the growth he/she could receive as well as the students the same.

Tom
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#5Postby PhillipsCJ » Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:22 pm

tomw wrote:...one guiding principle that governs how the Church does it's training is that we do not want to give anyone so much prepared information that they don't have to go through the work and effort in order to be spiritually prepared for the revelation that they could receive.
Tom


I have wrestled with the idea of how to provide appropriate Church resources while violating the principle mentioned above. I think that there are a few other questions and ideas relevant to the discussion:

  1. Many complete lesson resources already exist on independent LDS sites, in the future we can assume that there will be more of those same resources available from other resources and that they will be easier to access.
  2. With lesson materials more abundantly available from outside resources, what are other ways that the dependency on already prepared lesson materials can be avoided?
  3. What is the need that members have for a community around teaching resources? Perhaps an official moderated forum where certain types of lesson materials could be shared- i.e. stories, object lessons, relevant scriptures. These lesson snippets could then be used along with official lesson material to help teachers prepare. Similar to putting Lego pieces together to build something.


Other thoughts?
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#6Postby BlackRG » Thu Feb 22, 2007 5:28 pm

I think the only true cure for this particular problem is to help "spiritually educate" the members. At the end of the day, people always do what they're going to do. When you want to guide or direct them elsewhere, you need to give them a motive, a reason to change course. In this particular case, that would be working with them to help them understand the great spiritual blessings available not only to their class, but to them as they prepare to teach by the Spirit vs teach by the material.
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#7Postby thedqs » Fri Feb 23, 2007 12:33 pm

Going along with gblack, the need is for teacher's to realize the importance of developing a lesson and preparing yourself not just to transfer information, but to teach and adapt and more importantly to learn more about the subject as you teach. I remember a talk from a GA that told about going to a ward service block and one teacher, even though he read out of the manual and wasn't very eloquant. He had tried to prepare and the spirit was there. He then went to another teacher who was smart and would teach the deep insights but the spirit wasn't there.

Overall this example is to saw that the resources are alright, it is how the teacher applies the resources that will determine the spiritual growth that can be gained from the lesson.
- David
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