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Resource Review: Modern Parables

Resource Name: Modern Parables: Living the Kingdom of God

URL: www.compasscinema.com

In Short: Modern Parables takes six parables of Christ and present modern retellings through high quality cinematography and innovative lessons.

Cost: $60 for the whole curriculum

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Review 

A couple of years ago, Compass Cinema‘s released a video based groups curriculum called Modern Parables. The curriculum had six video lessons that took some parables of Jesus and recast them into a contemporary (or modern) setting. In creating and releasing these parables, the leaders at Compass Cinemas made having high quality cinematography along with high grade acting as vital to their effort. 

The six parables which are considered in this series are: (click the links for trailers)

Each parable has its own unique story which is retold in a way that captures a group’s attention and identifies central points. Each video is between 13 – 21 minutes long, though they generally stay within the 15 minute time frame. This is helpful for group discussion. Also, as part of their approach the group lesson plan uses two sessions to talk about each parable. The first session is a viewing of the film with a brief discussion and the second session explores the themes a bit deeper. You can check out some of the film trailers on their Vimeo site. (Also, if you check out YouTube you can preview some of the full length videos I believe.)

The curriculum content is rather good and provides a good lesson path for each video. Facilitators, or teachers, can easily navigate the sessions and draw out some important points. Biblical content is central to each lesson and it is handled maturely by the curriculum authors.

As I’ve used the content, the reception by twentysomethings and adults through age 45 has been excellent. The videos are rather engaging. They mix humor with serious drama. Various films aren’t afraid to confront difficult topics: a Middle Eastern man is the Samaritan, racism is still prevalent in another film, and other important themes. In the Shrewd Manager they get behind the seeming contradictory message to the deeper issues in a timely way. The Sower will make you want to become a farmer. Perhaps the only film that doesn’t clip along is the Prodigals video, but for good reason, it is the longest video because it is the longest parable. However, the authors nail the point about that Jesus was making.

Overall this is an excellent curriculum piece. I have not used the two session approach for the videos but opted for one setting with the video up front. This does compress the discussion time depending on your group setting. My only complaint in the videos is that there is some superfluous content in several that adds minutes to the video but not much to the story. This is a minor complaint.

Also, I’m still waiting for volume 2…but don’t expect that too soon. Check this series out for your groups, especially if you’re working with 20s and 30s who are discussion focused and desire high quality, well developed curriculum pieces. In every scenario group attendance maintained with the anticipation of each coming week.

Finally, check out everything Compass has to offer. They’ve diversified their approach since this initial release and have some great content for families, homeschoolers, and regular classroom stuff. I don’t necessarily agree with all their points in the various videos, but the content is well presented. Though it isn’t in stores yet, their video series for learning Klingon will certainly help us prepare for our new alien overlords. I for one welcome our new Klingon overlords, and would likely to remind them that I, a trusted minister and counselor, can be trusted to round up others for their Klingon work farms. But seriously, check out their other stuff.

Have you used Modern Parables? What did you think? How has this kind of content been helpful or unhelpful for your groups?

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Resource Review: RightNow Media

One of the post conversations I’m hoping to provide through ProEcclesia is a weekly resource review of a curriculum or content piece which I have used or evaluated. Please check out the gallery below and see my review which follows.

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Resource Name:  RightNow Media

URL: www.rightnowmedia.org

In Short: RightNow Media provides video based groups content from leading communicators through a web-based delivery system for groups and individuals along with leadership and training events.

Cost:  Depending on size of the church, it can be a bit pricey.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, excellent resource

Review:

Since I’ve been out of seminary and in full-time ministry the category of video based small groups and teaching curriculum has exploded. I remember going to Christianbook.com as a college minister in my first church and seeking out video content for my media based college students. The selections, at the time, were slim and way too many were still offered on VHS. (I didn’t graduate from seminary that long ago.)

As we began developing and distributing groups across college campuses in Atlanta, we recognized quickly that bringing fresh, cutting edge video curriculum was difficult. YouTube and Vimeo were in their infancy and there weren’t good options to push content through secure channels on our website…not to mention the legality issues of doing this. We ended up having a weekly resource collection and distribution point which worked okay, but it wasn’t ideal. As I moved into young professionals and life groups ministry at another church this challenge increased as we pushed our groups into homes away from our campus.

Then, about a year or two ago, I discovered a resource called RightNow Media and our staff decided to join up with them. Since then our experience has been outstanding.

By partnering with publishers, conferences, and media outlets, RightNow Media has been able to deliver a web based video site that will bring leading communicators and world class video content into the homes, rooms, and lives of your group members. Since I’ve been using RightNow they have updated their video library about three times, each time adding substantial content.

In RightNow you can search videos based on your: stage of life, Bible study type, topic, what is most recent, what is most popular, group type, and so forth. You can search videos based on communicator or title as well.

The video content includes videos from: Andy Stanley, Matt Chandler, Dave Ramsey, Francis Chan, Drs Les and Leslie Parrott, Margaret Feinberg, and many others. These are excellent communicators. There are also videos from conferences like Catalyst, Verge, Send, The Nines, etc. As RightNow is set up it is providing outstanding content for a church and its members. The videos and content provided are safe evangelical resources that won’t provide any significant theological or philosophical challenges for most evangelical churches. I’ve been impressed with how RightNow has kept this content within theological boundaries.

Added to this video experience are customizable leadership training sessions. This is an interface where a leader can link in (from YouTube, Vimeo, or other video sites) or use existing RightNow content to develop short leadership training sessions for staff and leadership as well as group members. This has been a great addition that I’ve been able to use to continue to develop and train up leaders. Honestly, if the only piece that was included was the leadership library and this customizable training tool, the whole site would be worth it.

Finally, adding new users and administrators is pretty easy. Sometimes the emails get snagged by spam folders for different providers, but that hasn’t been as big an issue lately. This morning I received an email update that owners (the master admin for the church) can go in and remove content if it doesn’t work for you church. For many  leaders who have a pulse on the content going out to our people, because they will view it as being endorsed by their church, this is an important tool.

Okay, that is my basic review. I’ve probably left some holes and missed some stuff. Please note: I am not a paid promoter of RightNow (I pay them actually) nor have I benefited by receiving a discount or free resources from them. This is an objective review from a groups leader in a local church.

So what do you think? What questions do you have about RightNow?

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