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The three basic components of the course
As the course leader, it's important to understand the three main components or strands of the material and how they fit together.A. The seminars
The nine seminars are where the core content is delivered. They are designed to contain around 90 minutes of content, although you may want to add discretionary time at the beginning for drinks/snacks and chatting, plus some informal time for talking and packing up at the end.
Exactly when and how you run the seminars will obviously depend on the people doing the course, and how many there are of them. If your participants are workers, you may wish to run the seminars from 7-9 pm and start with some finger food (so that people can come straight from work if they wish). If you’re running it with college or university students, you may want to put the seminars on at the end of the day (e.g. 4-6 pm) and conclude with dinner.
Each seminar includes various Bible research activities as well as some video-based input that summarizes and pulls together the ideas. Using these video segments has some obvious advantages—it makes the course easier to run, it maintains a consistent quality, and it allows the group to interact with the material a bit more freely (because they’re disagreeing with the person on the screen, not the person standing right in front of them).
However, please feel free to teach some or all of these input segments yourself. The video scripts are provided in full in the leader’s guide, so you can use them as a base for preparing your own talk. PowerPoint slides for the diagrams are also available for leaders to use.
Some of the Bible study and discussion activities are best done in smaller subgroups (and you will see suggestions on the way through where this is the case), but these groups do not have to be the same each week. If you have less than six people doing the course, you will do better to stay in one group for most of the activities.B. The intensive
The course includes an intensive between seminars 8 and 9. In most contexts, this will work best as two full days away together. A Friday and Saturday works very well—that is, arriving on Thursday evening or first thing Friday morning, and then going home after an early dinner on Saturday. This allows people to be back for church on Sunday and not to be away from their families for the whole weekend.
It is also possible to run the intensive as two separate days (e.g. on consecutive Saturdays), or to run it without going away somewhere—that is, to work through the material on consecutive days, with participants going home to sleep. But if you can manage to stay at least one night together in a venue away from home, it really is of enormous benefit. It builds relationships, and allows more time and 'space' to think and talk.
However you decide to run it, make sure that those who are going to participate in the course are committed to the dates you have set down for the intensive before they agree to do the course. The intensive is a vital component. It brings all the material together and allows people the time to think it through, to integrate the ideas, to talk about the implications and to pray together.C. The one-to-one meetings
For the duration of the course, participants meet together regularly for an hour or so in pairs for Bible reading and prayer. So once you have finalized the group numbers, sort people into same-gender pairs for these one-to-one meetings (and as the leader, you should be in one of the pairs, or more than one if that is necessary). Do your best to pair people up according to where they live or work, to make it easier for them to find a convenient time.
The one-to-one meetings serve three important functions:
➡ They provide a different level for getting into God's word. The seminars work through lots of different Bible passages, pulling together some of the major themes and topics of the Bible. But in the one-to-one meetings, participants work through just one book of the Bible (Colossians), which provides the opportunity to delve more deeply into individual passages. Many of the ideas that come up in Colossians supplement and support the material in the seminars.
➡ They offer an opportunity for mutual encouragement and challenge. As participants get to know each other in the one-to-one pairs, they can talk and pray together about what they are learning in the course.
➡ They teach a basic ministry skill. By the end of this course, the participants will have learned how to read the Bible one-to-one with someone else. The ten one-to-one readings are really a mini training course in different ways to read the Bible one-to-one. Without realizing it, participants will have gained the skills, knowledge, experience and confidence in how to get together with another person and build them up in Christ through one-to-one Bible reading and prayer.
How to run the course
Exactly how you weave these strands together, over what period of time and in what combination, is entirely up to you. You need to make a judgement about what will work best in your particular circumstances with your particular people. The leader's guide suggests three alternatives and their pros and cons:
i. Over nine or ten weeks
➡ Each week, participants come to a seminar (around 90 minutes).
➡ Each week, participants also meet one-to-one with someone else in the group for around an hour (at a time and place of mutual convenience).
➡ Between seminars 8 and 9, you conduct the intensive as a two-day event (away for a weekend together, or Friday-Saturday).
This is the most time-intensive way to use the material, but is also usually the most effective. By doing the one-to-one meetings concurrently with the seminars, the content of the readings reinforces the seminar material. And by having the seminars follow one after the other each week, a real momentum is built as one concept builds on the next.
If you think your people can rise to this level of commitment, then we would strongly recommend using the material this way. It communicates that the subject matter of the course is something special and serious—something worth devoting extra time to over a nine-week period.
ii. Over 18 weeks or more
[See leader's guide for more details.] This is a less demanding way to run the material, and it allows you to fit all the content into a normal week-by-week timeslot. You won’t gain quite the same synergy and momentum of doing it all concurrently, but then again there is more time to digest the material and let it soak in. This comes down to a judgement about what you think will work best with your participants.
iii. As a week-long conference or camp
[See leader's guide for more details.]
Again, these are three suggestions that could work well for you depending on your circumstances. But feel free to take the strands and the framework and come up with your own creative way of utilizing the material.
If you've read all this information, you might be thinking something like this: "That's a reasonably big commitment of time and work for those doing the course, whether it's done in 10 weeks or spread out over a longer period. I can't even get my people to come to low-bar things. They'll come to church, and their home group, but I really struggle to get people involved in anything more." We have some comments on this issue we'd encourage you to read.
What you’ll need
You will need:
➡ a workbook for each person
➡ a leader’s guide (the leader does not also need a workbook—the leader’s guide contains all the material in the workbook (black printing), plus notes and scripts for the leader (blue printing))
➡ a leader’s DVD (assuming you want to use the video input clips).
For each seminar, you will need access to a computer/projector or to a decent-sized TV if you are going to use the provided video segments.