Big Questions
Pete Townsend, Kevin Mayhew, 2017

£10.99 (Approx)
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Overview

What does it say on the tin?

If you’re looking for simple, straightforward answers to the really Big Questions in life, then this is the wrong place. Why? Simple: Big Questions isn’t about providing a straightforward answer. Instead, it’s a resource to help you look at issues, examine the evidence and, with the help of the Bible, gain a better understanding of what’s involved and hopefully to draw your own conclusions about the following Big Questions:

  • Does God exist?
  • Is creation random or is there a hint of design?
  • Is climate change for real?
  • Why do we have the rich and the poor?
  • Why is there suffering in the world?
  • Is there life after death?
  • Who was Jesus?
  • What is the purpose of questioning?

What do you get?

A 91 page book, outlining teaching sessions for young people on 8 wide-ranging questions. Also available as an ebook.

Who is it for?

Aimed at youth in a church setting, probably best for the 14+ age group, and for young people who like thinking about issues and are happy to discuss questions. Small group.

Review

  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    This is a great resource for groups who are keen to look at some different questions about faith and the world over a few sessions. Each session stands alone so it could also be used to dip into for a one-off session from time to time.

    The material is simply laid out. Each session conforms to a prescribed layout:

    Snippet – Quote or thought to make people think
    Act 1 – Brief activity designed to stimulate ideas and questions
    So? – Follow-up thoughts and questions, based upon the activity
    Act 2 – More in-depth activity, examining the question in more detail.
    And so? – Questions and Bible references to help summarise the topic
    The Chatter – Written in a newspaper-style format, the ‘evidence’ or case study is examined and discussed, along with appropriate Bible passages and commentary
    More Qs! – Four questions to discuss together
    Thought spot – Prayer or thought that provides a focus on the topic
    Further stuff – Ideas to extend the topic and how to find out more
    Extra, extra – Further information and resources that can be used during the session.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    In the author’s introduction, he states, ‘Big Questions is not about answering questions but about looking at the issues, examining the evidence and, with the help of the Bible, gaining a better understanding of the topics and even arriving at some answers yourself.’ The sessions do meet this objective, as each session raises lots of questions and encourages the participants to draw conclusions.

    How accessible are the leader’s notes?

    The session outlines are simple to follow and easy to understand. If resources or materials are needed for an activity, for example, these are clearly listed.

    Who could lead it?

    Anyone with experience of leading young people in discussions, and with a good understanding of the topics.

    How helpful are the participants’ resources?

    There are some photocopiable handouts within the sessions. They are clean in design, which will mean they won’t date, but it also means they aren’t the most interesting design either. For some groups, leaders might think about designing their own handouts (which might be easier than trying to photocopy from the book anyway).

    How good is any digital material?

    n/a

    How much prep will I have to do?

    Quite a bit. In order for the session to go well, the leader needs to spend some time with the material first. It is important that they understand the arguments expressed, the line of questioning to take and how to make the material work with their group. This is especially true for the main teaching segment, ‘The Chatter’, which is written like a newspaper. It would be best to take the information here and use it either as a short talk (not merely read out) or broken down into chunks to get different people engaging with.

    Is there website support?

    Links? No.

  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    Each session starts with an interactive activity, of which some help the group get to know each other, and some are just for fun. This sets the atmosphere well for having more open discussions during the session.

    How well does it cater for a variety of both learning and delivery styles?

    The material assumes participants want to discuss and are interested in the questions raised. This may be difficult for people who prefer a more kinaesthetic way of learning.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    This is down to the leader considering the most appropriate discussion questions to use with their group.

    How well does it encourage people to work together in applying the material?

    The material aims to get people to discuss their answers to the different ‘big questions’. This is done well and will encourage debate.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    Each session has several Bible passages to read, which help contribute to the discussion and are relevant to the question. Often included in ‘The Chatter’ teaching section, there are also opportunities to discuss Bible verses in other parts of the sessions.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    Clearly and with an expectation that Scripture has something to offer us for all questions we try to answer.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    The focus is specifically on answering the session’s question, and so the biblical material is used well to do that, but it doesn’t look to take it further.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    Bible centred.

  • How well does it inspire people towards whole-life discipleship?

    By exploring the questions, the resource helps people to realise that questions are to be encouraged, as is trying to discover answers. We should not be afraid to have questions.

    How well does it encourage and enable people to grow in their faith?

    People grow in their faith as they discover how the Bible does have something to say on all areas of life. It helps them to want to explore the Bible more.

    How well does it stretch faith and vision of God and his purposes?

    Similarly, it shows how God is in everything and that no questions are without a God-perspective. Whether it is climate change, or the rich-poor divide, God is involved in all.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    The eight questions asked are all relevant to young people and encourages them to ask further questions as they mature.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    Not a focus.

    How well does it encourage local or network-based community involvement?

    Not a focus.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    The sessions on climate change, rich-poor divide and suffering are all pertinent to the world, and are explored as such. These sessions help participants connect with the world around them and to see how they can make a difference.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    Not a focus.

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