As the summer holidays draw to a close and small group leaders look for fresh midweek material, help is at hand. Here are our top recommendations.
COURSES FOR SEEKERS
More than a million people in the UK have been on an Alpha course, so the chances are you know exactly what the 11-week course is about (and may even have come to faith as a result of it). But Alpha is changing. The new and improved version is titled the Alpha Film Series (run.alpha.org) and is free to run. Most of the teaching remains unchanged, but the packaging has been re-imagined as the documentary-style short films transport the viewer all over the world to hear stories that bring faith to life. The result is a stunning production that isn’t only aesthetically pleasing, but makes the case for Christianity in a culturally relevant way.
A popular alternative to Alpha is Christianity Explored (ceministries. org). Rather than dealing with individual topics or doctrines, the course is based around Mark’s Gospel. The creators of the course hope participants will ‘meet Jesus through the pages of scripture’. But they’re also aware that among the millennial generation, there is a lack of biblical literacy. It was for this reason that Life Explored was created (life.explo.red). Rather than starting with the Bible, Life Explored features short, original videos that explore our ‘longing for more’ (see here for more information).
If you’re looking for an outreach course that will draw in young people, you may wish to consider either the 12-session Youth Alpha (alphayouthfilmseries.com) or the seven-session Changing Lanes (changinglanes.org.uk). Both are evangelistic courses containing short videos designed specifically with teenagers in mind.
The Freedom In Christ Discipleship Course (ficm.org.uk) has already helped 300,000 Christians grow in their faith. It aims to set Christians free from addiction, anxiety and guilt that can hold them back. The creators of the course explain that there is also a ‘clearing out the rubbish’ section, which helps Christians repent of past sins.
Freedom in Christ is an excellent resource for Christians who are struggling with sin or shame, but how should we respond when life falls apart through no obvious fault of our own? That’s the question Patrick Regan seeks to answer through his book and DVD, both titled When Faith Gets Shaken (whenfaithgetsshaken.com). The DVD is perfect for small groups and can be run over a six-week period. It features personal testimonies and moving interviews that unpack the theme of trusting God when trials and tribulations strike.
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
Many churches have found marriage and parenting courses an excellent way to reach out to the local community. Sila Lee, who, together with her husband Nicky, developed a series of courses including The Marriage Course, The Parenting Children Course and The Parenting Teenagers Course (themarriagecourses.org), says the Christian principles of love, sacrifice and forgiveness underpin the teaching.
Sila says church communities are ‘the most welcoming and loving places’, and because of this they’re well placed to reach non-Christians by holding marriage and parenting courses. ‘Through meeting people’s needs relationally in using these resources, it’s sending an incredibly powerful message to society and the local community: the Church cares about you and your needs,’ she says.
There’s no doubt that Christian marriage courses have helped save many struggling relationships, but not everyone has access to good pastoral help. According to the Office for National Statistics, 42% of marriages in England and Wales will end in divorce. The Restored Lives course (restoredlives.org) was launched to help support people through the painful process of divorce.
Erik Castenskiold, who oversees the course, says: ‘We see people arrive lonely, broken and often isolated from their community, and we witness the transformation to hope, confidence and, in many cases, joy and freedom, which is the testament of God’s Spirit at work.’
PUTTING FAITH INTO ACTION
We know that Jesus’ final commandment to his disciples was to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19), yet many of us struggle, for a variety of reasons, to share our faith. J.John’s The Natural Evangelism Course (canonjjohn.com/the-naturalevangelism-course) aims to fix this problem and help Christians share their faith. The six sessions carefully define what the good news is, explain why we need to share it and advises Christians on how they can share their story with others.
Prayer can be another area of struggle for Christians. Founder of the 24/7 prayer movement, Pete Greig, has spent years explaining how prayer is at the heart of Christianity. The Prayer Course (prayercourse.org) is Greig’s latest attempt to help deepen our prayer lives. The six short videos, which look at prayer as adoration, petition, intercession, perseverance, listening and spiritual warfare, are ideal for small groups.
Looking for something a bit meatier? You may want to try NT Wright’s online courses (ntwrightonline.org). These are on the more expensive side, but given that Wright is one of most in-demand theologians in the world today, that’s to be expected. They contain video lecture material, textbook recommendations and an opportunity to enter discussions with fellow students online. These courses are
better suited to individuals rather than groups; however, organisers are offering churches and small groups discounts of up to 75% off the normal tuition price.
While most Christians appreciate that studying the Bible, praying and evangelising are all part of the Christian walk, there can be uncertainty about where our nineto-five working lives fit into the big picture. Ken Costa’s God at Work film series (Godatwork.org.uk) and London Institute of Contemporary Christianity’s Transforming Work (licc.org.uk/tw) are excellent resources for any small group whose members are currently in work.
Have we missed something? If you have a Christian course to recommend, let us know. Email email@example.com with ‘Feedback’ in the subject line. We’ll print a selection of your recommendations in next month’s issue.