Present Over Perfect
Shauna Niequist, Zondervan, 2016

£29.00 (Approx)
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What does it say on the tin?

Leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living.

In this five-session video Bible study, New York Times bestselling author Shauna Niequist invites you on a journey that changed her life. She will walk a path with you, a path away from frantic pushing and proving, and toward your essential self, the one you were created to be before you began trying to prove and earn your worth.

Shauna will help you begin leaving behind busyness and to rediscover the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection. She offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey, and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people who matter most to us.

What do you get?

Glossy group member book, video with five sessions.

The study guide includes first thoughts, video notes, group discussion questions, practicing presence reflections, and solo work for you to complete between sessions.

The five sessions are:

  1. Pain Points
  2. The Roles We Play
  3. Yes, and No
  4. Unflashy, Unspectacular, Good
  5. Living the Love

Who is it for?

Adults, women, small groups. Enquiring, Beginning, Growing.




  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    Not-to-be-missed invitation to join Shauna Niequist on the road to greater freedom in our relationship to God, ourselves and others. Great DVD and accompanying book. Could be life-changing.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    Open layout with clear aims. Each chapter connects with the accompanying video.

    How accessible are the leader’s notes?

    Typical Zondervan clear layout with lots of white space and leaders’ guide notes printed in blue. Each session includes: Overview; First Thoughts icebreaker; Video Notes; Inviting Others In, questions for discussion; Practicing Presence, a closing liturgy; Solo Work, for between sessions. The blue leader’s notes advise as to how to use each section. Some Zondervan group material has too much material for each group session; this one looks just about right.

    Who could lead it?

    Niequeist recommends that the leadership is rotated around the group members. The material is good enough for this to be possible; the only challenge would probably be keeping an eye on the time and being proactive about moving the group along. There may be some deep issues that come up; though the material keeps very grounded throughout, it would be good to be prepared for this.

    How helpful are the participants’ resources?

    Each group member needs a copy of the study guide with contains both leader notes and material. Beautifully laid out, with plenty of space for responses, and clear font, headings etc. The Solo Work section at the end of each chapter is an incisive and crucial part of the overall input – group members would do well to commit themselves to completing it between sessions. It is recommended that group members obtain the book of the same title in addition to the DVD and leaders’ guide. However, this study would stand alone without that.

    How good is any digital material?

    Each session has an accompanying video, about 20 minutes long. Niequist talks us through the session topic, alternately sitting in a (rather covetable) house or walking through the nearby forest, by a lake, plus a few other cutaways. The settings are peaceful. Niequist is an accomplished communicator, speaking with clarity, passion and honesty. The twenty minutes fly by. Her topics are compelling and she draws us in to being honest ourselves in response.

    How much prep will I have to do?

    Familiarisation with the material; some thought as to timings.

    Is there website support? Links?


  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    The introduction and the icebreaker question immediately invite participation; this is picked up straight after each video, though members may benefit from a few moments to record their reactions first. Around four questions delve into the pertinent topic, inviting engagement on a deep level – yet not insisting on it.

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

    Good mix of video, chat, reading, a sprinkling of poetry and Scripture.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    This is a resource designed for women. The only reservation might be that it is geared towards the majority who have too-busy, too-full lives; those who live heavily boundaried, or empty, lives might find it hard to relate, no matter that the underlying principles would be just as relevant.

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

    Brilliant, both in group questions and in the Solo Work between sessions. Warm and loving but no punches pulled.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    Each session includes a Bible story or passage or two, in the video and in the questions; there is more in the Solo Work.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    The Message is used throughout, though it is up to you if you wish to use other translations as well. The resource is biblically based throughout.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    Superb. Could not be more applied. Niequist has been through deep life transformation herself, in relation to her faith; she invites us in to the same, where relevant for each of us. Biblical material is also explored through Lectio Divina, the Ignation approach and others.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    Broadly evangelical with reference to a range of traditional Christian spiritual practices.

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

    Thorough and inspiring input that invites deep engagement with universal unhelpful ways of living – in order to both understand and choose to change. It deserves a five rating plus a few stars.

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

    All material is in the context of a relationship to God. Niequist has been on a journey into this herself and willingly shares it with us in appropriate ways. She starts where many of us do – in rather a messy, functional place with many misunderstandings about who God really is. Then she leads us to better ways of being and doing.

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

    We are invited to respond to the material in very personal ways – though up to us how much we share. We are also invited to take steps on the journey to greater wholeness in God, a freer, more honest and peaceful place; by dropping our inadequate coping techniques and picking up God’s ways, step by step. Brilliant.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    Utterly. Day to day life should not look the same after this course. Even those with tricky life-controlling issues should find understanding here; even if just the encouragement that they are not alone, and that healing is possible.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    Not a focus.

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

    The out-workings of discovering or rediscovering your secure identity in God will doubtless be of benefit to all those around you.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Not a focus.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    Not a focus.

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