I received a review copy of the Christianity Explored SOUL course back in 2010, when it was first released. This is my review. It’s taken me a while to get round to it, but I have waited until the materials were tried and tested.
We have run the course three times now. Once with our youth group. Once with a home group and as a result, most recently, with 24 folk in church on a Sunday afternoon, over half of whom were newcomers, and just the number we prayed for. The course is beginning to multiply and so I hope what I write gives others encouragement to run with it.
Our Sunday afternoon format goes like this:
4:30pm meet for refreshments in church, with Christian rap, R&B and worship videos on the screen. The music helps break down the Victorian feel to church when newcomers arrive. One said “Is that Eminem?” The meeting time works well because Sunday afternoon is dead time for most people, the church is warm and the rolling start allows people to tip up a bit late and still have time to hang out before we start.
5:00pm move to tables, welcome folk and start with a testimony. Some testimonies we give live. The first night we use a DVD to keep the format consistent with the course DVD and the music videos.
5:10ish first part of study led by discussion leaders at tables.
5:25ish – DVD
5:40ish – last part of study
Finish before 6pm.
A number of people on the course have said “it’s not long enough.” The hour and a half we are together flies by. Seven weeks, on the other hand, seems to be the perfect length of commitment for most people.
The format of the study guides carries the bible studies well. The guides are not too intimidataing but leave lots of space for scrawling answers. The studies follow the English Made Easy version of Christianity Explored, covering the gospel essentials in seven sessions.
The course is aimed at 14-21 year olds but we had a couple of ladies in their seventies on the last course and most are late twenties to mid forties. The format and DVDs work really well for us, because of a high number of folk for whom English as a second language and many who didn’t stick it at school, who are bright, but not academic.
The DVDs are brilliant because Nate Morgan Locke comes across as fairly classless, and the content of his presentations matches this classnessness. There are no rugby or lawyer stories. Nor will the DVDs date too quickly as cultural references are timeless.
The gospel is really clear and Nate’s fairly dour demeanour, which works well when talking about the seriousness of sin or the horror of the crucifixion, comes alive when he speaks about grace. This makes the joy of the gospel really evident in his life. Men also particularly like the grungy, contemporary, serious feel to the DVDs.
We now have nine “table leaders” which means we can host up to 50 people at our next course, starting on May 12th, and this is the number we are praying for. We’ll keep this course rolling until after Easter 2014 as a follow up to A Passion for Life 2014, when we hope there will be more leaders on tables, then see where we go from there.