For several years my church has offered a parenting class as part of its mid-week programming. This class has looked at church-y books, secular books, and dvd-based how-to studies. Through it all, the main expectations from the parents have been: 1) keep it real, and 2) don’t expect us to read anything ahead of time.
This fall we’re using TED Talks as our curriculum, and we’re looking at these videos through the bifocal lenses of parenting and faith.
TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a non-profit organization committed to spreading interesting ideas through short (usually 18 minutes or less) talks by fascinating speakers on every subject imaginable. TED Talks are available free online. Our lineup includes talks by a professor of social work, a science journalist, and a cognitive neuroscientist, among others. (A list of the TED Talks we chose can be found at the end of this post.)
We begin each evening together with a brief scripture passage, watch the film, and follow it up with discussion questions geared to making the connections between the content of the TED Talk and our lives as Christian parents.
These secular TED Talks make for remarkably rich conversation partners with scripture. Sarah Jane Blakemore’s research into The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain, for example, reveals that neurological connections that are not being used are pruned away during adolescence, allowing well-used connections to grow stronger. While Paul probably knew nothing about synaptic pruning, his admonitions to the Philippians (4:8-9) to focus on “Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely …” make particularly good sense in light of this brain research.
Adult learners are especially interested in making connections between the world outside themselves and their own lives and families. With short films, excellent content, and brilliant speakers, TED Talks seem tailor-made to serve as curriculum for faith formation in the church.
Beth Lyon-Suhring, Director of Christian Education, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Suffolk, VA
The original version of this article first appeared on the website of the Instructional Resource Center at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, VA