Curating Faith Formation
Curation may be a new word for many, but it has a long history. The term curator comes from the Latin word curare meaning “to care for.” Every time we visit a museum we experience the work of museum curators who acquire, care for, develop, display, and interpret a collection of artifacts or works of art in order to inform, educate, and entertain us. Museum curators are subject-matter experts who guide a museum’s overall art collection.
An emerging form of curation is digital content curation. A content curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes, and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific subject to match the needs of a specific audience. Content curators provide a personalized, high-quality selection of the best and most relevant content and resources available. They do not create more content, but make sense of all the content that others are creating. Curation is an evolving idea that addresses two parallel trends: the explosive growth in information and our need to be able to find information in coherent, reasonably contextual groupings.
The new model of faith formation requires that the faith formation leader become a curator. We are moving from the resource as curriculum to a curriculum with many resources—in all types of media formats. In this new approach we move from need to content area to programming to resource. Resources are essential, but they are the last step in the design process. And we will need a wide variety of resources to bring to life a curriculum that is now seen as a lifelong journey of discipleship--a process of experiencing, learning, and practicing the Christian faith as we seek to follow Jesus and his way in today’s world.
In the new digital world of abundant resources, the role of the faith-formation leader is shifting from providing religious content and programming to curating religious content and experiences for all ages. The convergence of an abundance of content, the variety of programming on a faith formation network to address the diverse needs and interests of people today, and the online platform for delivering programming and connecting people is creating the impetus for faith formation leaders to reimagine their primary role.
So what is a faith formation curator? A faith formation curator is a trusted guide who continually finds, groups, organizes, and connects the best and most relevant content and resources on a specific subject to match the needs of a specific audience. The subjects can be one of the eight faith forming processes, a life stage issue, a family faith practice, parenting knowledge and skills, missional programming, and more. The resources can come in many forms: people resources, programs at church and in the community, and media resources (print, audio, video, online, digital). Curation is the way that faith formation leaders connect programming with high quality resources.
We can identify four primary roles in the process of curating faith formation: 1) research and organize resources, 2) identify potential resources for the curriculum, 3) evaluate resources, and 4) connect the resources to network programming. The research and organize phase of the process is continuous. Good curators are always searching for new resources and organizing them for future use.
Preparation: Build a Curation Support System
A curator relies on a support system of people, online resources, and communication to locate resources for the faith formation curriculum, and to stay up-to-date on new resources. Here are several important elements in building a curation support system and getting organized for the work of faith formation curation.
Step 1. Research and Organize the Resources
The first step in the curation process is researching and reviewing resources. This is the collection phase. There’s no need to select or evaluate resources at this stage—the key is to collect as many high-quality resources for faith formation in all areas and age groups. Selecting potential resources for a particular curriculum and evaluating resources comes later. Every congregation needs a “library” of resources to draw upon for programming a faith formation curriculum and network. Step 1 is a continuous process—faith formation curators are always researching and organizing resources so that they are ready to match resources with programming for a new season.
Step 2. Identify Potential Resources
Using the seasonal plan for your target audience, identify potential resources to use in implementing the programming. Take each content area and identity resources that could be used in each program in the content area. No need to select the ones you are going to use at this point. Just catalog them. Once this is done, the resources can be evaluated for inclusion in the curriculum and then published to the website.
Step 3. Evaluate Resources
Every faith formation curator needs standards for evaluating faith formation resources that reflect their Christian tradition and the needs of their congregation. A set of evaluation standards needs to be developed locally. Consult denominational resources for evaluating curriculum resources. Most denominations have evaluation standards for assessing educational resources or textbooks. This can serve as a basis for developing the congregation’s evaluation standards.
Step 4. Select the Resources and Connect to Programming
Select the best resources for the faith formation curriculum and connect them to the programming. Publish the programming to the website. Sometimes this involves a description of a program with dates and times and locations; other times it will be actual content on the website for people to experience (watch a video, read an article); and other times it will be a link to the content on another website. In each case it is important to describe the relationship between the content published on the website and the learning needs of people so they can see the connection to their spiritual or religious needs, interests, concerns, or life issues.