Thinking Out Loud

September 9, 2013

Preview A Dozen Small Group Resources at One Low Price

A few months ago I reviewed a unique small group resource from Hendrickson Publishing, The Best of Small Groups DVD with host Brett Eastman. You can read that review here. Last week Hendrickson kindly sent me a copy of the second in the series, The Best of Small Groups Volume 2. Once again I was able to sample the first group session in DVD curriculum series from a variety of independent filmmakers and distributors. The DVD is also an end in itself, as home study groups can cycle through the material with a study guide that is sold separately. I really wish Zondervan or Thomas Nelson had a product like this. Failing that, I honestly can’t understand why they aren’t striving to get their product included in video samplers like this one.

Best of Small Groups Volume TwoThere are three repeat teachers from the first volume, Francis Chan, John Piper and Chris & Kerry Shook. Piper’s contribution, like the one in the previous edition is simply sermon video from a conference. It’s indicative of the range of the quality of material you find in a mixture like this, with variances in audio and video quality and overall length. I’m never sure that the Shooks know which camera they’re talking to, and at about four minutes, the Pete Wilson segment is less than half of the shortest video clips in the package and really isn’t fair to users who would be expecting something longer.

There are also variances in the amount of scripture content. On this front, I really enjoyed Bill Hull, author of The Disciple-making Pastor, one of two clips I would watch again. The other one was Nancy Guthrie, one of the three women featured in the DVD, ostensibly teaching on Genesis, but opening the first session from the perspective of Jesus’ appearance to two disciples (not among The Twelve) on the Road to Emmaus. Like Piper’s sermon, it was filmed with her standing in place for 30 minutes, but later I wished I had been paying more attention.

In terms of production values, it’s hard to beat Mark Batterson’s segment. He tracks with someone hiking across Antarctica against all the expected weather challenges. A little light on scripture, but we have to remember that (a) these are simply first episodes, and (b) we don’t know what is covered in the various study guides or leaders’ guides.

The strangest segment is by Dr. Byron E. Crute teaching on the opening to the Lord’s Prayer. People seem to get up and leave in the middle, and the segment ends with someone teaching a song, giving the whole thing the appearance of an outtake from a Christian television network. Mind you, it’s a nice song.

Tom & Chaundel Holiday from Saddleback have a segment on energy management, and Eastman’s wife Dee, also from Saddleback Church, teaches on health. James MacDonald doesn’t miss a beat in his segment, and after all these years, I finally found out who Cynthia Heald is, after being aware of her books for several decades.

Would I seek out the full curricula for some of these? Definitely the Bill Hull, Francis Chan. I’d recommend the Nancy Guthrie for women’s groups and for a younger demographic, possibly the Mark Batterson. Although I have mixed feelings about the whole patchwork quality of this and the first volume, I have to admit I hope there is a third edition, as these form a valuable service.

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July 21, 2013

An Excellent Small Group Resource

You have three small groups doing the same curriculum, but one of them had to cancel one week due to illness and another is two weeks behind. So the problem is, how do you fill in the space for the groups that are ahead?

You find the glut of DVD study resources a bit bewildering and you want your individual leaders to be able to select their own studies, but the challenge is, how do they gain familiarity with the different authors, pastors and speakers?

Best of Small Groups DVDEnter a product from Hendrickson Publishing called The Best of Small Groups. This weekend I’ve been watching and listening to Volume 1 in the series. (Volume 2 is now also available.) The DVDs contain 12 samples — the full first week’s episode — of a number of DVD curricula from a variety of producers and publishers and can also be used with a study guide that is sold separately or available in a single copy in a packaged edition with the DVD.  Brett Eastman serves as a host creating continuity for the series through is introductions and closing comments for each one. The actual DVD presentations range from 16 minutes to the dramatic story of 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, which is 38 minutes.

Some of the videos are recorded before a live audience, some are shot on location, one is done like a Christian talk show format, but all represent the finest Bible teachers including Francis Chan, Kyle Idleman, Max Lucado & Randy Frazee, Chip Ingram, Erwin McManus, John Piper, and others.

The “cut and splice” nature of the product means there are some mis-matched audio levels, and not all the material is going to be of interest to every group, but generally speaking, this is a resource that deserves much broader recognition.

I’ve watched eight of the twelve sessions as I’m writing this and looking forward to hearing the rest, and hopefully somehow getting my hands on Volume 2 at some point in the future. Even if you’re not involved with small group ministry in your church, this product represents excellent value-for-money in terms of inspirational teaching and getting to know some great writers and speakers.

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