Tales of the Unexpected

Tales of the Unexpected: Stories told by Jesus from Luke’s Gospel
Pete and Anne Woodcock, The Good Book Company, 2009, reprinted 2015

£20.96 (Approx)
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What does it say on the tin?

Everyone likes a good story, especially when there’s a surprise at the end. Jesus is famous for the stories he told. Tales of the Unexpected aims to help us rediscover four of these simple but startling stories. This straightforward, four-session course is designed to bring the reaching of Jesus to a broad range of people, including those who normally have difficulty accessing the Christian message. No previous Bible knowledge is assumed. Each session is based on a modern, easy-to-understand translation of the Bible.

Using the down-to-earth skills of two experienced Christian communicators – Pete Woodcock and Lizzie Smallwood – the DVD presentations explain and apply these stories of Jesus in a colourful and memorable way. A real-life story at the end of each session shows how the teaching of Jesus still changes lives today. Use the Tales of the Unexpected DVD and booklet to unpack some truly unexpected words of Jesus, and introduce ordinary people to this most amazing man. Here is an opportunity to discover who Jesus is, why he came, and the difference he can make in our lives.

What do you get?

Glossy A5 booklet and DVD; free downloadable Leader’s Guide, posters and invitations from www.thegoodbook.co.uk/jesus-and-you. 4 sessions:

  1. The rich fool.
  2. The runaway son.
  3. The stay-at-home son.
  4. The Pharisee and the tax collector.

Who is it for?

Enquirers, Beginners, adult, small group, youth


Starter pack £20.96


  • What is the overall quality of the material?

    Attractive and welcoming pack, DVD and booklet. Leader's guides via download are not as pretty, but are clear to follow. Generally an imaginative and creative resource, aimed at a particular audience (see further review notes).

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    Clear aim: ‘To see people grow in their understanding of the Christian message by looking at Jesus in the Bible, so they will come to trust in him as their personal Saviour.' Material is specifically designed as an alternative to ‘sermons and services, books, Bible studies and mainstream evangelistic courses.'

    How accessible are the leader's notes?

    22 pages of leader's guide to print out – or read from a tablet, perhaps (plus another 14 if you want the DVD scripts too). Clear and functional. Additional downloadable guide How to run a Jesus and you group gives good advice. Lots of ideas for the kind of answers to the group questions that the leader is looking for, to steer towards if necessary.

    Who could lead it?

    This is primarily designed as an outreach course to introduce and explain the basics of the Christian faith, so a leader would need to be both comfortable with and passionate about that.

    How helpful are the participants' resources?

    See aims – material is aimed at a low-literacy or non-English-speaking cultures. Super clearly laid out with boxes to fill in with simple answers to straight-forward questions. Bible text included.

    How good is any digital material?

    Engaging and well-presented DVDs to intersperse through each session. Choice of presenters too: Lizzie Smallwood or Pete Woodcock present the same material, give or take a variety of illustrations. Presenters talk against various outdoor backgrounds. They both come across really well, though it is a shame that some filming was done far too near the sound of traffic. A particular strength is the inclusion of others telling their stories of becoming Christians, which illustrate brilliantly the point that each chosen parable is making. Moving and memorable.

    How much prep will I have to do?

    Watch the DVD and familiarise yourself with the material in both the downloadable Leader's Guide and the Participant's booklet.

    Is there website support? Links?

    See above – downloadable guides.

    Is it dated?


  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    Mix of filling in own book and working in pairs or discussing in the group.

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

    Aimed to be a bit different, and appeal to those who appreciate being taken step-by-step through the session. Bitesize chunks of material keep up the pace with a variety of listening, watching the DVD, responding, working together, discussion. Bible stories included in the booklet, laid out verse by verse. Effective methods of understanding and engaging with the biblical material are used in the booklets, which would work extremely well with the target audience. These include filling in the blanks, rehearsing material, memory ‘tests' etc.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    This is a friendly, straight-forward resource that nevertheless pulls no punches in explaining the Gospel – it looks like it would work really well with its targeted audience. But it is thought-provoking and well communicated beyond this; it could suit a wider variety of people easily. It does begin with the parable of the rich fool which may be a bit in-your-face for some groups – the implication that those who do not consider God are actually fools destined for judgement may be rather strong for an introductory session. Have a look at the samples on the good book company website and see what you think.

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

    Honest discussion encouraged.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    Each session is completely based around a parable of Jesus'.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    The text of the parable is included in the booklet, in an easy-to-read format, and presented in its entirety and then repeated in order to engage with it. This latter involves a variety of simple ways to help people to listen and remember the story, before applying it to themselves with questions and discussion.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    All the biblical material is thoroughly grounded in how it might apply to us in the everyday. Accessible and challenging.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?


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

    As straight-forward introduction to the Christian faith, this is an accessible resource, with a lively approach.

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

    Lots of interaction with the biblical material is encouraged, in a variety of creative ways.

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

    Using the parables as a way in to the Gospel works well, with perhaps the proviso that the opening ‘rich fool' might be perfect for some audiences (the ones they are aiming at) yet too hard-hitting for others. Have a look at the samples on the good book company websites and see what you think. Despite being designed as an outreach tool, this would suit new and established groups too – some may really enjoy the step-by-step approach.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    The Leader's Guide encourages very practical answers to the questions which are related to real life. The people stories on the DVD would emphasise the relevance of the material to real life. Really good.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    This course is designed to be run as part of personal evangelism – to an often over-looked section of the community.

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

    Not a particular focus, but is in itself an outreach resource into the community.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Not a direct focus.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    Not a focus within the material, but in itself it is designed to be suitable for those for whom English is not their first language.

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