A while back I wrote a post called “flipping churches.” It was one of my first ever posts for ChurchMag and one that I was really interested in writing about. I didn’t think I had really heard anyone discussing the idea and thought it could be interesting to share some of my insights from the world of education. However, since then, I’ve heard nearly nothing on the topic and written nearly nothing too. So I thought it was time to poke the bear a bit more.
What is Flipped Education?
Flipped education works on the basis that in the traditional education model we learned in class via a lecture (or reading a resource) and then we went home and practiced or applied that learning in the homework. The Flipped classroom swaps (or flips) these two activities around via new learning resources such as videos/podcasts/websites etc. So now, students learn about a topic at home, then come to class to practice and apply that knowledge and ask the teacher questions when they have direct access to them, rather than having questions when the teacher isn’t around.
This idea gained more popularity with the spread of screen casting tools and the growth of resources like Khan academy which helped popularize the ideas. The church too has access to these resources and can create videos/podcasts etc to help build the church…so why aren’t we doing it?
Why Aren’t We Doing It?
People don’t know about it
Well, you no longer have that excuse, but it isn’t surprising that many people haven’t heard about the idea. Fair enough, that’s a good reason, but it is also something that is pretty easy to solve by simply sharing the idea. If it’s a good idea, then it should spread easily.
It isn’t easy for visitors
One of the points I’ve heard made is the question, “what if someone new comes to the church, how would they feel?” There’s validity to this point. Imagine turning up and being “behind,” then again it depends how the application part would look. For students in a school it is often exercises, but could be a project applying the skill. The latter case might be easier for a person to come in and participate in. Further, there will be other members who are more knowledgeable and could help the new members get more integrated.
It’s a possible issue I’ll agree, but there are certainly ways round it that may have some great benefits.
I’m too busy to learn at home
To me, this is one in the same as “I’m too busy to help out at X event.” We live busy lives, I get it. I only recently got married and I’ve already learned that time is tricky, I can’t imagine how much more so it is with kids. However, there are some people that manage to handle it well. Maybe we just need to adjust our priorities. Furthermore, think of the benefit, if we can find 30-mins to listen to a podcast (on a commute, before the kids wake up etc) then we’ve free up a time when almost everyone is free on Sunday.
There are few resources
I don’t think this is true, I think it is more about where we can go to get the resources. Many great preachers have put full sermon series online for anyone to access. Then there are free study and reading plans from groups like YouVersion and that’s not even mentioning premium resources. I think it’s more an issue with selecting and knowing where to go for resources.
It devalues leaders
I don’t think this is true either, but it does mean they need to readjust their roles. Maybe they still preach, but do it when fewer people are around and then share it via a recording. Maybe they find sermons or study tools by someone else. But certainly it allows them to spend more time with members of the church on Sunday instead of standing on a stage.
It’s not new
This is certainly true, teachers have long set students with a reading task to learn on their own and then practice in class so it’s not anything new. Your church may have done something similar for years. If so great! But that’s not necessarily a reason not to do it.
Not all my members can access
Some places have poor Internet or simply can’t access a certain resource. But as I mentioned, written resources are still there and maybe the church can help make some of these resources more available. This is something to be aware of when choosing resources for sure.
We do it in home group
Brilliant! It doesn’t surprise me that this is the model for some home groups, I think it makes a lot of sense to study out of the home group and then bring questions, ideas and activities whenever everyone meets up rather than spend 10+ minutes reading aloud together. However, some people use this as a reason not to do it on a Sunday. I don’t really get that. Fair enough if you don’t want to do it for some other reason, but simply because you already do it in one place doesn’t mean you should rule it out in another. Just because I eat at home doesn’t mean I shouldn’t eat lunch at work.
There Are Better Ways to Learn
I am a half believer in this point, the basic premise of the flipped classroom in education is that information is learned by passively consuming it. This could be via reading, listening to someone speaking, or watching something. This is one way to learn and has a lot of merits, but isn’t the only way. In fact, personal discovery, interacting with a subject and knowledge can be more powerful ways of learning (especially when combined with a guide). Many “flipped” resources focus on producing information sources where a person passively learns rather than actively investigates and learns. It’s okay some of the time, but isn’t necessarily the best all the time.
I’m not saying that flipped learning is only this form of passive learning, but they can be. It is something to beware of.
I think this is a big reason really. Some of us love or are just used to preaching. Imagine a church service with no sermon when it happens…what would you use that time for? For more worship? To discuss the practical application in our lives this week? To ask questions about things we’re not sure about? To go out and evangelize?
I don’t want to say we should never have sermons at all but what if just one Sunday a month we used the time we would normally use for a sermon for something else? Furthermore, by putting sermon time outside of our physical gatherings we could make time for more sermons.
What Do You Think?
I’m not saying we should change over completely to a flipped church approach, but I do wonder if occasionally implementing it in some ways could be useful for you.
If you have implemented some forms of flipped church I’d love to know below. Also if you have reasons against using a flipped church model I’d love to know about them too.