52 Ready-to-use Discussions
For ages 14-18
Grand Rapids, Michigan
A collection of 4 volumes (2 on the Old Testament and 2 on the New Testament) of 52 mini-lessons each, this resource offers a modular, topic-driven, consistently-structured, and personal-focused approach to Scripture.
The main advantage of the resource is that every lesson is photocopiable for a specific setting; these lessons can provide a connection between a curricular topic and the Scriptural foundation. For example, looking at the topic of Covenant, a teacher could pull lessons on David's election and use them at the beginning of the unit. Every section has 4 specific Scripture passages and 1-page activities, and so students could study one lesson as a class or be divided into groups to study different passages on the same theme or character. In this way, it is a convenient tool to incorporate regular use of Scripture, even on a daily basis.
The TalkSheets themselves feature around 5 evocative questions of diverse types - sentence stems, True/False, Checklists, scenarios - which open up to various learning styles. The Leader's Guide provides a well-structured and self-contained lesson for each passage to guide discussion, featuring a context-setting script to read, the actual Scripture reference for students to look up, an essential question, guidance for each of the discussion questions, and a final summary. Each lesson could be completed quickly in 15-20 minutes, or discussion could continue to spill over into the curricular topic. While emphasis is placed on personal significance, the consistent direction back to the text of the Bible passage means students will expand their exposure to and understanding of Scripture.
The material, based in a Christian youth group model, is quite accessible and appropriate for teenage audiences. A conscious and sustained effort is made to express the religious truths of Scripture in terms that young people understand and connect with. Some slang will be dated in time to come, but the overall tone promises to continue to engage young people through its avoidance of "Churchy" language.
All material is based on bite-sized chunks of significant passages in Scripture, and in doing so points otherwise unfamiliar students towards the Bible. The wide variety of topics from across the Scriptures, in this volume and in this series, means it can serve as a recurring resource to tie course concepts to Scripture.
In general, controversial topics are treated fairly and with sensitivity, while still not drawing back from the counter-cultural vision of the Biblical imagination.
One concern is the non-Catholic perspective this resource is written from. The educator will need to be critical of the teacher script for occasional expressions which do not always represent the fullness of Catholic teaching, and instead take for granted other assumptions in its reading of Scripture.
An example of a positive expression is on page 38, "Being a follower of Christ is what matters - Protestant or Catholic," but later on in the text, in response to "Only Christians will be in heaven," the answer, "Not at all. Before Jesus there were no Christians. Christianity is not what gets us into heaven. A right relationship with God by faith in Jesus is what saves us," seems to miss the subtlety of CCC 1260.
Also, on page 20, in reference to Samson and Delilah, the claim is made that "God knew then (and now) that marrying outside of the faith usually leads believers away from faith rather than outsiders to the faith." This statement seems not to take into account the story of Ruth, in which the ancestor of David and Jesus comes to the faith from the outside. The importance of putting God before dating relationships seems obscured.
Ultimately, the concern seems limited to the Leader's Guide pages, and not the actual TalkSheet which is to be provided to students; use of a teacher's judgment in leading discussion with students should be sufficient.
Written for a Youth Group setting, the text presumes at least some commitment to Christ on the part of its student audience. This does not mean it cannot be presented to non-Christian or non-practising Christians, but the teacher will need to frame this resource for the students and anticipate how non-believers can still be invited to participate. For example, a question about God's role in one's life could be re-framed as Love, Truth, or some other transcendental value.
Ryan LeBlanc, B.A., B.Ed., M.A, is a career classroom teacher, learning leader, and workshop facilitator. Now, his cutting-edge educational methods and years of practical experience with thousands of learners are available through his comprehensive online courses.