The Workshop Rotation Model After the Pandemic
Using "Rotation" and "Workshop" concepts and planning strategies to create online and at-home outreach, resources, and teaching.
2020's COVID pandemic has disrupted everything in the church. Eventually, many of our families and children will return, but as the article and links above note, some will not return as much or at all -- and pre-COVID attendance trends in the U.S. will likely continue in the wrong direction. That makes me sad, but I'm also hopeful because I believe and have personally experienced how crisis really is the mother of invention.
For the last couple of years, I've been thinking a lot about "the future of the Workshop Rotation Model" in the face of daunting trends. And I've concluded that "the WoRM" is still THE BEST model for teaching kids in a classroom setting at church and will continue to be a blessing to those who embrace it.
- Because the BRAIN SCIENCE still tells us that teaching one story through many creative approaches is the right way to teach. It's also better for memory formation -- more brain science!
- Because the workshop concept is a fun way to teach and learn and design inviting spaces.
- The Rotation Model is scalable up or down, and its design and schedule can flex during the year and over the years with attendance.
- Rotation.org! No curriculum has a bigger creative resource base or a greater variety of lessons, creative ideas, and community support than we do.
But then COVID shut down our churches and classes, and it forced a lot of us to both scramble AND begin thinking about the post-pandemic future, the new normal.
I know there are many people who are exhausted and don't want to hear any of this now. They wish for a return to pre-COVID programming. But you and I and everyone reading this knows, the ground was beginning to shift underneath us long before we'd even heard of coronavirus.
This shutdown and our creative responses to it have REKINDLED a gut feeling that "in-class Christian education" is only PART of the teaching picture, and that we need to looking at adding other ways of connecting and teaching if we want to be part of the future instead of a relic of the past.
In fact, I don't know a serious Christian educator who doesn't ASPIRE to reach and teach kids and families BEYOND Sunday morning and their buildings.
"How" and "what" to change have always been the hard questions, not "if."
- How to do it in a way that complements our in-class offerings, not cannibalize them.
- How to do it in a sustainable way without killing ourselves or creating a competing program.
- What teaching should look like outside the classroom and online.
- And what methods, technologies, and creative content should we be using.
We've been here before... The Workshop Rotation itself was created to address long-standing problems and make room for new methods of teaching, and I believe can help us tackle these new problems and needs. The meaning behind the terms "Workshop" and "Rotation" are organization concepts that we can use to address our post-pandemic attendance challenges, at-home aspirations, and online opportunities.
The "ROTATION" part of the Model can address one of our biggest problems -- the trend toward irregular and less-frequent Sunday School attendance.
By teaching the same major story for weeks at a time, the "Rotation" in Workshop Rotation Model makes sure irregular attenders are exposed to the MAJOR stories of the Bible, rather than having them show up for one of the less important or more obscure stories plucked from the Lectionary -- which is what happens when you change the story 52 times a year.
As it becomes harder to get more regular in-class attendance, the need to prioritize "teaching the majors instead of the minors" when the students ARE in-class sounds like a genius move -- but it's not enough. Just teaching the majors in-class would be the equivalent of burying the master's talent in the ground.
That's why in addition to harnessing the prioritizing power of "rotation," we also need to focus on NEW ways to reach and teach outside our classrooms and church buildings. Of course, I'm talking about online and at-home outreach, but like most good ideas, the devil is in the "how-to." And that's where another fundamental concept in the Rotation Model comes into play. "Workshops" are traditionally thought of as special media-centered classrooms in a church building. but what if every story rotation had one workshop that did NOT take place in the church building, and instead, focused on outreach and teaching the rotation's story online and at-home?
Traditionally, we defined "workshops" as in-class creative teaching techniques led by a teacher who LIKED that method of teaching and did so in a classroom space designed and decorated around that medium. (The Bible Games and Drama Workshops, for example.) But what if we designated one of our workshops in each rotation as the "ONLINE & AT-HOME" Outreach Workshop, resourced it with for sharing the Bible story through a variety of online and at-home techniques, and assigned a teacher(s) for this workshop who had online and outreach skills , and let them do their reaching and teaching outside the classroom throughout each rotation.
The "Online-At-Home" Outreach Workshop would complement the in-class offerings so that irregular attenders were getting the same stories online or at-home as the in-class attenders, and our resource teams and teachers could stay focused. This would also help when irregular attenders showed up in-class. If we had reached them with our "outreach" effort, they'd be familiar with the in-class story.
The "Outreach" Workshop could be many things and methods. It could be a "virtual class" over Zoom or YouTube. It could include ideas for families to do at home. It could include personal outreach with resources such as sharing a music-video clip, fun photos from church, and "mini-lessons." In other words, its content and its method of sharing would be varied and tailored to the needs and timing of the students.
The Lord will provide...
Like many of you, we here at Rotation.org have already been resourcing this idea -- thinking we were merely providing a temporary solution to the pandemic shutdown. At Rotation.org we developed 2020 At-Home resources, adaptations of Writing Team lesson sets for home use. and just launched our new Advent 2020 forum. But all these resources could also be the kind of thing an "At-Home & Online" Outreach Workshop could continue to tap and expand on.
As well, our Bible lesson forums are already full of "small" ideas and socially shareable content, and capable of collecting much more.
Create an Outreach Workshop for each Rotation
My gears are turning, how about yours?
Note: This "After the Pandemic" topic will be expanded into a special forum for Supporting Members later this year.