I don't know about other clergy, but I struggle to find curricula for adults that engage, teach, and challenge. I can't seem to find very many curricula that do all three. Oddly, engaging people seems the be the most difficult thing to do. The readings are either too dry, too academic, too emotional and not academic enough, or they contain incorrect information and I won't buy them. There must be small group materials out there that invite people into the journey of spiritual and faith formation - materials that are substantive and real and wonderful. I want these materials. People need them. People deserve them.
Over the past few years I have been delighted to see an increasing number of books and curricula developed for questioning Christians. "Companions in Christ" and "Living the Questions" have tried to meet the needs of these kinds of folks. I've used both of these with mixed results. "Companions in Christ" has tried to speak into the spiritual vacuum left by many curricula that only address the mind. While being a Christian entails learning about the Bible, church history, tradition, and theology, there is more to one's identity as a follower of Christ. What about prayer? community? forgiveness? grace? and call? "Companions in Christ" has dealt directly with these and many other topics. However, I have only seen it be a partial success. Some men complain that it's a bit too feeling oriented; it feels too "girlie" for them. I know that men need spiritual formation; they need to delve into the mystery of God, too. I wonder what would work better for them. Additionally, like "Disciple Bible Study" and other similar curricula, "Companions in Christ" has homework for people to do. Most people don't want homework. There are too many people who just don't do it. However, I have seen this quite successful in small groups of women.
Another curriculum that I've used is "Living the Questions." This has, by and large, been more successful than "Companions in Christ" with the folks I teach. We've used this series extensively. We have tried almost all of the series in "Living the Questions." People like that it is video based, that it deals with relevant topics, and that it stretches their understandings of God. They also like no homework! More basic information and teaching aids would be helpful, though. In the newer series "Eclipsing Empire" they used maps and other teaching aids that assist the average person in more fully understanding the material. Because this curriculum deals with difficult to grasp concepts, basic introductory background information would really enhance the learning experience.
There are a number of good books to use in book clubs/discussion groups. Increasingly these books have discussion sections at the end of chapters or at the end of the book.
Last, the Teaching Company produces teaching videos that give excellent information. While they are dynamic as far as lectures go, they seem to fall a bit flat for the typical class. I have loaned videos the individuals who have found them very helpful, though.
What have you found? Do you have ideas that will promote a deeper commitment to discipleship, challenge the mind, engage the spirit, and allow room for big and wonderful questions to arise? I especially want to know if anyone has used "Journey Through the Bible" and if so, how successful was it?
Curricula I already know; some are worthwhile, some not:
*Adam Hamilton's various studies - doesn't work for the congregation I serve.
*Disciple Bible and its new shorter "Invitation" series: We're trying to get a group for "Invitation to Genesis" - we'll see how this goes. No one will make the all year commitment for the traditional studies.
20/30 Bible Study - Young Adults: Great topics but the form and some content are dumbed down for older young adults.
*NOOMA - good conversation starters.
*Living Faith with NT Wright - This was so promising. It is so boring (sorry to be blunt).
*"Beginnings" - reviewed it but never used it. Both format and content did not meet our needs.
Successful book studies that we've done:
*New Christianity for a New World by John Spong
*Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg
*Walking the Bible"
"John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Mind"
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