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OPINION, online learning website, 'multiplies our efforts'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
COCHRANE, Alberta, Canada (BP) -- A free online learning community is capturing the training provided at many conferences and workshops throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and archiving it to view at any time.
Advertisement was initiated by the Canadian National Baptist Convention about a decade ago to meet a need among leaders whose schedules or locations kept them from attending various training opportunities.

Today, offers hundreds of videos so that anyone anywhere can watch presenters and follow their PowerPoint presentations as if they were sitting in a conference room together.

The traditional method for training leaders is to designate a time and a location and to coordinate schedules and travel plans to ensure that everyone is present to receive the material as it is delivered in person.

But with modern technology, such presentations can be captured on video for people to access online. Gerry Tallion, national ministries team leader for the Canadian convention, said this type of training doesn't replace face-to-face training, but it does suffice when such training is not accessible.

"Bivocational people who don't have time to attend conferences could do this after work. Students could do it after school," Tallion said. "Professionals who are tied up with all kinds of engagements and commitments could actually do this anytime they want. They could even have training on their vacation if they had some kind of an Internet connection. Anyone could have access anytime, anywhere."

About 15 state conventions partner with the CNBC to supplement the site, which is supported with Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program funding. State convention partners contribute material to the learning community, and they each have their own versions of the site, which they can promote within their conventions.


"Whenever a partner publishes a presentation, every other partner can add that to their site if they want," Tallion told Baptist Press. "If they don't want to, they don't.

"So each partner has their own site, and the stuff that's on their site is the stuff that they want on their site. They can take it from what they do or from any other partner," he said. "So it multiplies our efforts. We don't have to do all of the training right here in Canada. We can use what Ohio does, what Michigan does, what Arizona does.

"But there are some things that just don't apply. For instance, the Arizona site does a thing for income tax every year. Well, that's completely different in Canada, so we just don't put that presentation on our site," Tallion said.

Bobby Gilstrap, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, said has become "an essential part" of training leaders in the state convention. In Michigan, leaders are pointed to, and they can view the videos or listen to the podcasts individually or in groups with other people.

"It is rare that I am with a group or visiting with a pastor when I don't direct them to one of the workshops on our e-quip training portal," Gilstrap told BP. "With hundreds of top-quality workshops available, almost every leader in a church can find training to help them reach their God-given capacity in the role God has given them in their church."

Workshops by Gilstrap, for instance, can be accessed on the site on guidelines for pastor search committees, on what churches should consider regarding constitutions and bylaws, and on a plan for financing a church plant. The Michigan convention adds 10 to 12 workshops to the site each year, he said.


"Our e-quip training portal is featured in most everything we do. Links to training workshops are included in virtually every publication distributed by the convention," Gilstrap said. "Our approach has been that if it is worth promoting as a 'live' workshop, it is worth recording and promoting to our people.

"Having online training is essential to our ability to resource the needs of many of our leaders. With over half of our pastors being bivocational, our training portal allows them to attend quality training on their own schedule," Gilstrap said.

John Coin, pastor of Anchor Baptist Church in Walker, Mich., has seminary training but also takes advantage of

"It's kind of like if you have a building and you want to support the roof of the building, you need to have pillars to hold it up," Coin told BP. "It seems like when it comes to training and education, that site adds pillars to a ministry. You can get further insight, building more pillars to make a more solid structure."

Because is supported through the Cooperative Program, it is free to all users. Anyone, even those who are not Southern Baptists, can utilize the material. But if users register on the site, they gain additional options.

"People can go to the site and just watch videos if they want," Taillon said, "or they can sign up and ... get more privileges," Tallion said. "They can mark the videos where they left off, they get to bookmark things. They can evaluate things and comment on videos if they want."


Among the topics addressed in videos: theology, leadership, marriage and family, sharing Christ, starting churches and strengthening churches, worship and preaching. Several videos are in Spanish.

"I really think this is the future of training, not that face-to-face training isn't important," Taillon said. "It is important, but the key issue here is that we want to get training out to as many people as possible.

"When you can't do it face-to-face, this is a great way to do it."

Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email (

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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