Archive for June, 2011

why disciple21?

i grew up with the Bible. i memorised the verses and passages for points/sweets/prizes/McDonalds visits; i learnt the stories and answered the quiz questions; i knew the songs made up of the Bible books; i understood the salvation story, the foretellings of Jesus in the Old Testament, the lessons we should learn from key characters along the way.

but i learnt all this within a framework that told me that i was essentially sinful, that the God i had been told loved me would condemn huge swathes of people to an eternity of torture, that homosexuality was a hateful sin, and that evolution was questionable at best. those around me considered the bible to be (on the whole) literally true. they were fully expecting the world to end in a similar way to what you read in the book of Revelation. women didn’t do sermons because of 1 Timothy 2 v11-15.

everyone is entitled to their opinion. and i will be eternally grateful for the solid grounding i was given in the Bible; for the discipleship, love and community that i was offered; for the amazingly selfless individuals who gave me opportunities to develop my gifts and understanding.

but when i started to ask questions in youth groups, prayer meetings and over coffee it was not well received. i love reading and did a lot off my own back – of the bible itself, and of various commentators. i discovered that there were different points of view on various doctrines and passage interpretations, and i wasn’t sure that i completely understood the rationale behind those that i’d grown up with. then i spent 3 years at theological college, studying youth and community work with applied theology – adding to my knowledge of the bible and its application, but also discovering how the bible was put together, by who, and the political and cultural situations that helped shape the church doctrines we take for granted today. 

from my very conservative evangelical beginning i now find myself firmly on the liberal side of the Christian faith. i don’t have it all sorted, but i am confident that God is big enough to encompass debate and hard questions.

i’ve been an empoyed youth worker for 6 years (and a volunteer one for much longer!) and have often struggled to find resources that express a more liberal viewpoint; especially when dealing with the Bible. i have spent a lot of time writing my own material, and thought that other people might find it useful as well.

disciple21 exists to provide and signpost resources that will help youth workers present a more liberal faith understanding in a discipleship context whilst providing a solid biblical understanding, and to promote the following principles:

critical thinking

understanding the importance of historical and cultural contexts

keeping your eyes open about the influences on the church and its doctrinal decisions throughout its history

encouraging engagement in the community/culture and the wider world


sharing different ideas and perspectives

please use my stuff if you think it will be helpful, and let me know where you’ve used it and how it went! i’d also love any feedback on ways you think different resources could be improved, or subjects you’d like me to write resources on! i love debate and would love to hear from you


in a lot of the churches that i’ve worked in the way we deal with the old testament is a bit weird.

either we ignore it pretty much completely in our teaching; focussing instead on the gospel stories in the lectionary. or we pick out a few key stories/characters that we use over and over again – like moses and the burning bush, joshua and the wall of jericho, noah’s ark – and talk about them in no particular order. i’ve worked with a lot of youth groups who haven’t got a clue whether abraham was around before or after daniel, or who on earth jacob was. and these are teenagers who’ve grown up in the church and gone to sunday school since they were born! it’s almost as if we think that as long as people know about jesus then they’re sorted. but jesus worked, taught, and interacted within a cultural context which was very much informed by our old testament. without having some idea of how the story unfolds we’ve only got half the information we need to understand him.

so, i’ve developed a series of youth group sessions which not only emphasise that the old testament can still have much to teach us about jesus, god and human nature; but also set out the narrative arc of the first part of the bible, and how it fits in with the whole of god’s story. it begins by encouraging young people to use critical thought when looking at the bible – being aware of the different genres of literature that are used, exploring the historical and cultural context in which different texts were written, and not being afraid to question traditional interpretations. it then travels through the old testament, following the main narrative of the people of israel, ending with a session highlighting the cords linking the old testament and jesus. it’s designed to be a whistle-stop, big picture tour, but you could easily adapt it for a more in-depth course over a longer period of time. the outline is below, followed by links to pdfs of handouts and leader’s notes for each of the 8 sessions, and then a useful reading list for you or your young people! I’ve done this course with a group of 13 year old confirmation candidates, and with some 16-18 year olds – making changes for both, so you’ll need to know your group and go into as much depth as they can handle. But I’ve found that we often underestimate the intelligence of our youth groups – be bold and they’ll surprise you!

Session 1: Biblical Narrative:
a.       Different ways of reading the Bible
b.       Concepts of Biblical narrative and key events
c.       Types of literature in the Bible
Session 2:  Creation Story:
a.       What Genesis 1-3 tell us about God
b.       Comparison to other Creation stories
c.       What the Jewish creation story tells us about mankind
Session 3:  The Beginning of Israel:
a.       The patriarchs
b.       Egypt and the Exodus
c.       The Covenant and the 10 Commandments
Session 4:  Conquering the Promised Land:
a.       Seeing the Promised Land
b.       Joshua
c.       The Judges
Session 5:  Like Other Nations:
a.       Wanting a King
b.       The Kings of Israel
c.       The fate of Israel
Session 6: The Old Testament Prophets:
a.       Prophecy
b.       The Old Testament Prophets and their messages
c.       The Church’s role in Prophecy today
Session 7:  Waiting for Jesus:
a.      Prophecies
b.      Israel under Rome
c.      Jesus’ alternative path
d.      Jesus’ mirror of the 3D Biblical narrative
Session 8: Summary:
a.      Things to remember about the Old Testament

b.      Where now?


    Session 1: Biblical Narrative – Leader’s notes

    Session 2: Creation Stories – Leader’s notes

    Session 3: The Beginning of Israel – Leader’s notes

    Session 4: Conquering the Promised Land – Leader’s notes

    Session 5: Like Other Nations – Leader’s notes

    Session 6 – The Old Testament Prophets – Leader’s notes

    Session 7 – Waiting for Jesus – Leader’s notes

    Session 8 – Summary – Leader’s notes