I’ve been hosting a weekly podcast for over six years now and I get one question in the mail more than any other: “Jim, I’m leading a (men’s group / women’s group / youth group) at my church and I want to teach apologetics. What curriculum should I use?” It’s tempting to simply purchase something that has already been developed for this purpose, but it doesn’t take long to discover the selection is rather thin. When I was a youth pastor and decided to become a full-time Christian Case Maker for my students, I struggled to find appropriate curriculum. While there were some great materials on the market, the more I examined each offering, the more I suspected it wouldn’t “work” for my group. Today, as a writer and speaker, I’ve tried to personally address this problem by providing free curriculum materials at PleaseConvinceMe.com and by writing Cold Case Christianity in such a way that it can easily be taught in a small group setting. But if you’re leading a group right now and searching for appropriate small group “apologetics” curriculum, I want to encourage you to stretch out and write your own curriculum for these important reasons:
You Don’t Want to Miss the Opportunity to Address the Needs of Your Group
If you’ve been working with your group for some time, you’re the person who best knows their needs and best understands their “quirky” attributes. That’s why you’ve had such a hard time finding appropriate small group Case Making materials in the first place, right? Most of us find ourselves altering the curriculum we purchase so it will “fit” our group. I’ve also done this in the past, and there were times when the alterations probably took as long as the original authorship of the curriculum! With all the free material available on the Internet (from reliable sources), it won’t take long for you to find something you can modify and use in your unique small group setting. I you decide to begin with curriculum that’s been produced professionally, take the time to re-write it so it will fit your needs.
You Don’t Want to Miss the Opportunity to Master the Material for Yourself
It’s virtually impossible to write curriculum without mastering the subject matter. As a youth pastor, I knew I needed to be several steps ahead of my inquisitive young students if I hoped to survive the inevitable questions they would ask. I couldn’t fake this; I needed to master the material. It’s hard to do that when you are relying completely on the work of others who have written the curriculum for you. If you want to become a competent Christian Case Maker, you’re eventually going to have to master the evidence, and writing the material “from scratch” is an excellent way to learn the material deeply.
You Don’t Want to Miss the Opportunity to Familiarize Yourself with the Experts
If you’re going to master and create your own curriculum, you’re going to have to become familiar with the people who are experts in the field. I’ve never considered myself to be an expert witness. Instead, I am a translator, trying to make the case accessible to people who need the information to defend what they believe or make a decision for themselves. I wrote Cold Case Christianity with this priority, but I had to spend a lot of time researching and reading the experts (I provided a complete list of “expert witnesses” in the “case notes” at the end of the book). This was time well spent. I learned a lot, and I now know who to turn to when I need more information. If you write your own curriculum from expert sources, you’ll also become familiar with the great thinkers in each field.
You Don’t Want to Miss the Opportunity to Create New Content
Every week, as I studied and evaluated the evidence so I could write my own curriculum and craft my own presentations for my youth group, I started to develop a library of messages and materials. I eventually decided to post everything online so my work as a translator might benefit others. That’s how PleaseConvinceMe.com was created in the first place, and that’s one of the benefits of writing your own curriculum. There’s never enough online material. Each of us is shaped differently and has the ability to reach a different segment of the population. Start writing, teach your group, and then post the material for others.
It’s a lot easier to simply “make do” with curriculum written by someone else; I understand that temptation. Creating new material is labor intensive, but there are important benefits that result from the process. If you’re interested in successfully equipping your particular group as you master the material and model effective Case Making, you’re going to have to make the decision to be more than a consumer of materials. You’re going to have to become a producer of materials and write your own “apologetics” curriculum.