Where do you turn and what do you recommend when someone asks for help choosing resources for their small group? There’s a plethora of material out there, and so much of it seems to be much of a muchness: read a Bible passage, read some introductory notes to set the context, ask and answer half-a-dozen blindingly obvious questions that simply reflect what you’ve just read… stretch and yawn… comfortable armchairs with cosy Christians falling asleep in them because there’s no challenge to stir them into action…
Today I’d like to introduce some small group resources that I think break the mould. There are others, of course: these are simply a few that stand out and have been featured in the Small Group Resources pages of the UKCBD Reviews Section. The first two series have links with London School of Theology (LST), and I make no apology for that: LST is far more than an educational institution for its own students, it’s a resource centre for the entire church. I invite you to consider these, just some of the resources that have emerged from LST in recent years… and to post your own suggestions below.
Scripture Union’s Deeper Encounter Study Series — written by John Wilks, Director of Open Learning at LST — was launched with the four volumes shown on the right in 2006. Each volume includes an audio CD and photocopiable worksheets. Originally priced at £12.99 per volume, the price has now dropped to a much more affordable £4.99.
Dianne Tidball — at the time of writing her review minister at North Bushey Free Church but now a Regional Minister for the East Midlands Baptist Association — commented:
John Wilks is stimulating and provocative and yet there is a pastoral concern to build people up and encourage them even when the teaching of the Bible is demanding and makes us only too aware of our weaknesses. There is a breadth to the illustrations used – from classical music and literary allusions to Star Trek and other films.
Next up I’d like to highlight the Christian Life &… Series, a DVD/Video series produced by LST’s own Productions Department, LBC Productions. The first title, Christian Life & Work, was produced some years ago but is still in demand and widely appreciated for its insights into what it means to be a Christian in the workplace. Normally priced at £25, it’s now featured in Scripture Union’s ‘Church Resources 2008’ catalogue at £20.
Clem Jackson reviewed Christian Life & Why It Makes Sense in Christian Marketplace magazine last year, describing it as “One of the best teaching/training resources for ordinary church members I’ve seen.”
For any groups wanting to move to a level beyond Bible studies I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton series. The aim of the series is to lead participants “on a journey toward personal spiritual transformation and a more contemplative and peace-filled life” and I dare say that anyone taking the plunge will indeed find that transformation taking place. I reviewed the first volume, Entering the School of Your Experience last year:
In a marketplace flooded with Bible study materials, this series stands out as a radical alternative, a much-needed and valuable opportunity to focus on spiritual formation — not, it must be said, in any disconnected sense of spirituality but firmly rooted in reality. Merton’s writings, we’re told, “take people into deep places within themselves and offer insights into the paradoxes of life. They wrestle with how to be contemplative in a world of action” (p.8).
This is by no means a comprehensive round-up: as I said earlier, please do feel free to post your own ideas and suggestions below…