Children’s Ministry University Online

I spent some time this evening on www.cmuniversity.org, an online accredited children’s ministry learning program. Founded by Dick Gruber and Jason Rhode, the program is affiliated with Valley Forge Christian College.

Having browsed through the site and poked around in their demo course, I think there is a lot of potential with the site. I am curious to know how many students are enrolled and what their experience has been so far. It is very evident that the two founders bring a great deal of passion and expertise to the enterprise. Notably they have assembled what appears to be a highly qualified staff of instructors. They have years of experience and advanced degrees as well.

I wonder whether any of them have much experience in an average size church (75-150 people)? Based on their faculty profiles, most seem to have large or megachurch church experience. This is not necessarily bad as it may indicate a high level of ministry effectiveness which has helped them to grow their respective ministries. But I wonder how well they will translate their expertise to mid-size or small church ministry contexts? For example, do they have extensive experience as volunteer children’s ministry leaders who also work full-time and are raising a family? Perhaps they do. It is hard to tell from their profiles. This is not a criticism. It is simply a point of curiosity since some of their students may not necessarily minister in megachurches or even large churches.

The credit hour costs of the courses seem to be very reasonable. And they have developed a site which seems to integrate seamlessly with the blackboard.com interface. I especially appreciate the use of video, audio and powerpoint for synchronized presentations. I did not spend any time on their message boards, but I suspect they are fairly typical. There is no live text chat feature that I could detect. Perhaps I missed it.

One of the big questions marks is the degree of application and accountability which is integrated into the teaching/learning process. How are the learning aims being applied into the learner’s ministry context specifically, measurably and realistically? Based on my limited experience (8 years) with online community, this may be the key point of success or something less than that. If I were involved in the site’s administration, I would urge users to have onsite mentors in their ministry context with whom they can interact pertaining to their specific situation. This may be a pastor, an elder or a key volunteer ministry colleague.

Some prospective students may be put off by the theological stance of the college. It is Assemblies of God. Notably this would imply pentecostal perspective. The specific AG doctrinal statement is located here. If a student is only taking the online course, I don’t expect that should be too much of an issue. However you probably would want to contact the administrators directly to ask any pertinent questions, especially if your own theological persuasion is not dispensational or pentecostal in general or Assemblies of God in particular.

Additionally I noticed at the bottom of their Instructor Application page the following statement: “CMUO/VFCC actively subscribes to a policy of equal employment opportunity and will not discriminate against any employee or applicant because of race, religion, color, creed, sex, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, mental or physical condition, or sexual orientation. AA/EOE.” Based on what I know about the Assemblies of God denomination, I seriously doubt they would hire anyone who is not a Christian or who practices homosexuality. I only point this out because it might give some prospective instructors or students pause. I honestly have no idea what the laws are regarding institutions of religious instruction.

Bottom line: If you are interested in upgrading your children’s ministry skills this may well be a good fit for you. I recommend test driving the service by using their free demo. Also, if you are interested but not convinced even after using the demo, go to their available message board and ask more questions. Perhaps the Lord will use this tool to challenge and inspire you to greater ministry effectiveness.

Blessings,

Glen Woods

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6 thoughts on “Children’s Ministry University Online

  1. Glad to see you came across CMUO!

    You mentioned that you would like to hear from CMUO learners first-hand what their experiences have been in the program. You can read a few first-hand responses from learners at http://www.cmuniversity.org/elearning/learnerexperience.htm

    I’ll also forward a link to your posting onto our CMUO learners and faculty to see if any of them would like to comment directly to you on their experiences with CMUO.

    I’m glad you discussed the importance of practical application, mentoring, and network-building in any children’s ministry training program. We’ve built in activities and requirements that foster all of these aspects into CMUO.

    One such element of the online learning experience with CMUO is CMUOnet – the personal learning landscape for CMUO. Because learning is not a solitary pursuit, we feel the real strength of CMUO can be found in the creation of learning communities. CMUOnet exists to promote student engagement in learning through collaboration and reflection in an academic and social setting. CMUO learners are able to meet fellow students, either online or face-to-face, without invading their privacy. While communications taking place within the framework of a given CMUO course only last for the duration of the course, learners can use CMUOnet to collaborate and build ministry networks that will last and be accessible long after the course(s) the learner is enrolled in have ended. More details are at http://cmuonet.org

    Onward!

    Jason

    http://cmuonet.org/jrhode

  2. Hi Glen!

    You don’t know me, but I came across your blog today and noticed you had some stuff to say about CMUO. Well, I’m taking classes through their program and it has been a great experience so far.
    I am a 23 year old children’s pastor’s wife who was looking for some classes I could take on children’s ministry, and online was what I needed because of where I am located. I live in North Dakota, so as you can imagine, our churches are not very large. I have really appreciated the teachers, and how they have been able to take what we learn and apply to all church situations… big or small. Another thing that is nice is, to finish the program you are required to take a theological/doctrinal class, but you can take either an Assemblies of God theology and doctrine class, or a non-denominational one. It’s great because then people don’t have to feel pressured into taking a doctrine class that they are not comfortable with (if that makes sense).
    I think that the developers of this program made a good move on creating these classes. It is so helpful, especially for those who kind of “inherited” the children’s ministry in their churches. You know, those people who volunteered for so long, and eventually the church decided to hire them, whether part-time of full. This way they can get that extra training they need to feel confident in what they do (not that they didn’t before :) ).
    So, I’m glad that you came across the CMUO program and shared some good questions that we should all ask ourselves before joining in on something!

    Sara

  3. Hi Jason,

    Thanks so much for commenting on my post. I am honored to have you drop by. I am glad to hear that there is strong practical application, networking and accountability with your program. I am sure your website explained it and I just missed it.

    I have actually toyed with the notion of inquiring if there is a way for me to be a part of your faculty. Perhaps someday.

    I will pray for you and your team. Thank you for using your gifts to strengthen children’s ministries. I appreciate it! Feel free to drop by and comment on my blog anytime

  4. Hi Sara,

    God bless you and your husband as you serve your church in the children’s ministry. My background is small churches as well. I appreciate your diligence in taking advantage of CMUO.

    I am curious. Are you finding your course work to be directly applicable to your ministry situations? If so, can you offer my readers a specific example of how the course work has helped strengthen a specific aspect of your ministry? I do not mean to put you on the spot. I just want to learn from you is all. :) Thanks so much for commenting on my blog!

    Blessings,

    Glen Woods

  5. Hi!

    I’m back! Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you.

    I guess for me, the best example I could give off hand has to do with Christian Education. My husband and I are very much the “onstage” people when it comes to children’s ministry. Give us gospel illusions, puppets, object lessons, etc. and we’re great. Give us a classroom of children, all with different learning abilities, and well… we could “manage.” But managing is not what we want! We want to be excellent in all that we do with our kids.

    The last class to date that I completed was Intro. to Christian Education. We went through the history of Christian Ed. (which is helpful is some aspects, and just plain ol’ interesting in others.), what is used today in Christian Ed., and how we can apply it to our students today. From learning abilities, to teaching abilities, to… not just being an interesting teacher, but a teacher who makes things stick. Who makes things applicable to a child, in a small group setting.

    This was an awesome class, because… yes, I can learn about education in a state university setting, but Christian Ed. is so different. I’m sure you know what I mean. So I started making changes in my Sunday School class, and you would not believe the improvement! :) I mean, I thought I was a good teacher and all (haha), but yeah… it taught me a lot, and I’m thankful for it.
    Sara

  6. Hi Sara,

    It is great to hear from you again. I appreciate your enthusiasm for ministry to kids. I share your desire to strive for excellence, rather than simply getting by. It can be tempting to just “manage” but even those of us in small settings should be striving to be the best we can be. I think the word I am looking for is stewardship. God has given us gifts and he expects us to use them for his glory to nurture little ones (and not so little ones) in the faith, introducing them to Jesus and helping them mature.

    If you have been reading my more recent posts, you will notice that I am tackling this not only from a standpoint of church centered activities, important as those are, but also in terms of the home lives of each of the children. I welcome your continued thoughts on this and any other issue which interests you. Feel free to invite your friends from cmuonline as well.

    Blessings,

    Glen Woods

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