Zotero, known in academic institutions as a research tool for students, faculty, and other scholars, has tremendous potential for use in faith communities as a place to store and share nearly any type of digital information encountered in congregational life. This paper opens with defining the role of information in congregations’ lives, followed by a discussion of religious literacy within a metaliteracy framework. It continues with the use of Zotero at Liberation Christian Church, covering its benefits, including a more fully-integrated intellectual presence in the congregation’s faith life. It also discusses generating interest and skills within the congregation about Zotero through marketing and educational efforts, which provide congregational members greater opportunities to benefit from the resource. It concludes with the potential issues, such as ethical and copyright concerns, of using Zotero within faith communities, as well as a summary of Liberation’s current Zotero use.
Faith Thinking Foundations: Online Religious (Meta)Literacy Education Within a Congregational Context01/01/2015
Online religious literacy education framed within metaliteracy in a congregational context is a little-researched topic. Congregational religious education often focuses on in-person educational opportunities regarding static religious content and facts or devotional materials and methods. As such it seldom provides members with the educational processes, tools, and frameworks needed to explore their faith questions and other theological and religious topics for lifelong learning from an integrative critical-devotional perspective. Available literature within the subject area of online religious and theological education generally focuses on the educational endeavors of seminarians, clergy, and students within K-12 educational institutions, thus leaving unaddressed the unique concerns and potentials of serious online religious and theological education for congregational members. The current study addresses this omission via qualitative and quantitative evaluation of an online religious metaliteracy course, Faith Thinking Foundations, at Liberation Christian Church in St. Louis, MO, through narrative research, interviews, and surveys of course participants and other interested parties in their attitudes and experiences regarding the course. The author examines available literature for online education within the areas of religious and theological studies, including evaluation and assessment of online courses, religious, and theological curricula. The author proposes that serious online religious and theological education is worthwhile for laypeople as well as seminarians, clergy, and other religious scholars. Such education allows people of faith to further discover, affirm, and live out the purposes to which they are called in God’s realm. This project, by examining the role that the Faith Thinking Foundations online course has in the lives of its participants, offers new insight on the potential of online religious learning for all of God’s people.