Explore Together
Lianne Semans Smith and Lee Herdman, Scripture Union

£8.99 (Approx)
4.2
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Overview

What does it say on the tin?

This fantastic resource book gives you the opportunity to put the principles of Explore Together into practice. It contains 12 sessions for you to use in any context, helping groups of any and all ages to engage with the Bible.

With access to all the multimedia resources you need to run your Explore Together session, this resource offers you a tried and tested method for helping every member of your community to hear from God and learn from each other.

What do you get?

Resource books with 12 sessions available to buy from Scripture Union.Green book and Blue book reviewed here. The Journey also available for £6.99 which explains the background and concepts behind the resource. Access to all downloadable resources also available at www.exploretogether.org. Downloadable resources can be accessed by registering with the site for free, and then using the access code on the last page of the resource book.

Who is it for?

All ages of a congregation/ community to take part in together. This resource provides options for children and adults to engage in the same session regardless of age or background.

Cost?

£8.99 for Resource book. A5 “The Journey” also available for £6.99 and explains the background and concepts behind the resource.

Review

  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    Very good. Clear layout with helpful icons and subheadings. Appealing matte A4 exterior with glossy imprints.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    A list of themes are given for each session but no explicit aim is stated as these sessions are intended for people to explore the topics and their own thoughts themselves. The focus of the session is given in each session title though.

    How accessible are the leader's notes?

    Very accessible for all leaders. Language is easy to interpret, and notes act as helpful prompts without giving away all the answers. The instructions for running the session do not require an in-depth knowledge of the Christian faith necessarily, and this is in line with the resource objective of being accessible to those who have an extensive experience of church, to those who do not.

    Who could lead it?

    Church leaders, youth group leaders, kids leaders and other adults enthusiastic about exploring themes in the Bible.

    How helpful are the participants' resources?

    Very helpful. Available at www.exploretogether.org, resources range from music, audio files and prayers, to stories and questions to answer. Participant resources help to focus each section of a session, while providing engaging material for younger people as well as adults.

    How good is any digital material?

    Digital material is relevant, recent and offers a range of material per session to cater for all learning styles and attention spans!

    How much prep will I have to do?

    The sessions in EXPLORE TOGETHER are intended to support the whole community growing in faith. This means preparation is quite extensive and may seem a little intimidating to those churches going out of their comfort zone. During the 'Explore' section, setting up the different 'zones' means gathering lots of materials and finding appropriate spaces. Depending on your group size, a larger area may be needed to accommodate for all zones. Running these sessions should be a group effort in order to make the task of preparation more manageable. You may also choose to incorporate or remove certain options, for example, having someone do a brief talk would require extra planning. Leaders and helpers should also ensure they are familiar with the session before running it, in order to prep for any questions which may arise from the community/congregation. Online materials need to be downloaded and printed, other materials may need to be bought but are listed in each layout.

    Is there website support? Links?

    Yes, resource and guidance support available at www.exploretogether.org

  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    Very well indeed. Interaction is encouraged by giving opportunities for group prayer, a 'chat zone' to talk through the teaching and a time to share thoughts and personal conclusions. There are many other opportunities for interacting too in other 'Explore' options but these give a choice of sharing learning with each other, or for an individual to contemplate themes themselves.

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

    Extremely well, learning style is very much a focus for this resource. Participants are given options to learn in the 'Explore' section of every session. This accommodates for people who learn by seeing, hearing, thinking aloud, reading, doing and reflecting. There are many different stimuli to allow all people to access the teachings.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    The resource is aimed at all-age community groups or congregations. The layout is adaptable for all ages and all cultural backgrounds and levels of knowledge of the Christian faith. As the aim is for people to explore together, participants are encouraged to help each other grow in faith. The sessions require quite a lot of preparation so a strong team to support would be best with larger groups. In some cases, there may need to be quite a bit of space for activities to be separate from each other, but within the same space. This resource may seem a little daunting for churches which have rigid structures and routines, but these sessions perfectly encompass a balance of Biblical truth with innovative approaches. This resource can be used for all people, young and old. Sessions can be tailored to last between 60 minutes to 90 minutes.

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

    Very well, in 'Share' sections of each session, and in all of the zones for exploring the passages.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    40% directly Bible based, on the passages and extra reading presented. The rest of the session is made up of activities to interpret, understand and apply the teaching.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    Biblical material is presented by means of reading passages, listening to short talks, reflecting on topics and many many more. As mentioned previously, this resource thrives in its ability to be accessible for people who learn in all sorts of differing ways.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    Each session has a set of questions presented early on to focus the thinking of participants, this may be broad for example “How do you know Jesus is alive?” or it may be more personal to each individual present, for example “Do you recognise yourself… as a character in the story?” Either way, these questions directly link each topic to a real, perceivable aspect of everyday life, and challenge those taking part to think about how they live and who they live for. This is more focussed on adults, children are encouraged to take concepts and apply them to their activities.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    This resource is open, with a positive focus on prayer and Jesus being good news for all people.

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

    Green book: Whole-life discipleship is indirectly and consistently presented by confronting participants with the truth of Christianity, and then encouraging them to respond by how they live daily. Session 10 'In all you say or do' uses the story of Paul in Acts 18 to personify honouring God in all circumstances, and encouraging participants to do the same. The teachings highlight that being a follower of Jesus is a full-time commitment.

    Blue book: Session 9 specifically focuses on whole-life discipleship by the use of Paul's letter to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:31. The session encourages participants to see how Paul taught that whatever we do, we should be doing it for the glory of God. There is also a session on Paul's letter to the Galatians, where he similarly encourages them to live for God day by day. Adults and young people are encouraged to consider this, and question how it can apply to their lives.

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

    Regardless of stage in faith or uncertainty in truths, this resource opens a platform for honest conversation and firm answers backed by biblical text for those who are older and can engage. For children and young people, they learn key principles of Christianity and being a Christian to grow in a way appropriate for them. As this is all-age material, this also means that parents and children can discuss the content, fully aware of what was covered, back in their own homes and environments.

    Blue book: The community learn about how much God loves them and why this is relevant to how they live day to day. They learn the characteristics of God, and are taught how to root their lives in Him.

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

    The resource covers 4 topics linked to God and His purposes throughout - 1) What is God like? 2) What has He already done? 3) What will He do? and 4) What does he want? By first identifying who God is and what it meant sending Jesus to die for mankind, participants then discover have the opportunity to ask what is He doing now? And What does He want from me? This chronological approach allows individuals to piece the puzzle together themselves.

    Blue book: The resource does two things, 1) teaches about the characteristics of God and who He is, and 2) presents participants with ways He has instructed us to live which will help us as human beings to flourish and to glorify Him. Participants learn that the greatest command is to love the Lord above all else, and that the actions we take should be in response to that.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    Green book: Each session includes questions on obstacles that all people face, for example the concept of Worry. It also includes open questions to allow people to call upon their own personal struggles and bring these to the passages presented. This resource makes the Bible relevant for everyday, whether young or old, big or small.

    Blue book: Many real life issues are drawn out by this resource; can God heal the sick and make me whole? How should we pray? What does God think of ME as an individual? These questions are all relevant in western society and work to remind people who they belong to and why they matter. They can then engage with trusting that God can be there throughout their trials.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    Green book: Gently in order to accommodate for people of all stages in their Christian journey, the importance of evangelism is mentioned and explained indirectly throughout, but there are not set guidelines or activities on how to do this well.

    Blue book: The second session explicitly outlines the importance of 'Making Disciples'. With reference to Matthew's gospel, participants are faced with the truth that all Christians are called to go and tell others about the good news of Jesus and what it means. The group can then discuss and share their thoughts on how to do this well in the community around them.

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

    Green book: Encourages people to think about God as the Creator and what that means our role is on earth with His creation. The session on Simeon and Anna in particular challenges people to be a light that draws people to it, and asks how the community doing the session can be a light that draws all those around it to God.

    Blue book: As this resource is intended for communities, it does this by encouraging people to share their reflections, and to pray with and for their community in the “pray” section of each session. Community involvement and sharing the gospel are encouraged throughout the sessions.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Green book: Not a main focus.

    Blue book: Not a main focus, but teaches that God is for everyone.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    Green book: Not a main focus.

    Blue book: Not a main focus, but again implied by the session on 'Making Disciples' to go out and share the news of Jesus.

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