Have you ever been to a large church where the pastor is teaching through a sermon series and everything is visually stunning? From the slideshow & videos all the way down to the handouts that they give you to take notes, everything is cohesive and simply amazing. Given the size of those churches, they have plenty of staff that is able to work on getting that kind of stuff together every week. What if you’re a smaller church and you wanted to give your congregation a similar experience? The costs too high? Understandable. But, what if you could do it just once for two months at minimal cost to you & your congregation?
This is what Logos Bible Software had in mind when they put together their debut church curriculum package titled Abraham: Following God’s Promise. This eight week curriculum gives a church everything that it needs to dig deep into the life and faith of Abraham as an entire congregation.
Let’s start by talking about what this curriculum is. First, it is broken into two different products, a full package for leaders ($84.95) and a workbook for students ($19.95). The complete curriculum package comes with everything that a church would need to teach this material to a church, both from the pulpit and in a small group setting. The package includes: a copy of the workbook (that students would buy for $19.95), a leader’s guide that contains information for teaching in a small group & 8 sermon outlines, 8 sermon handouts, 8 lead-in videos for each sermon/lesson, 8 slideshows for teaching & preaching, 8 handouts for small group discussion, as well as graphics files for your media team (if you have one). As you can see, you get quite a bit for your $85. With this material in hand, along with some study & preparation, you have sermon and small group material for 8 weeks worth of teaching (or longer, if you choose to stretch it out further than what’s outlined). Likewise, those who purchase the workbook get a wealth of information about the life of Abraham that will aide in their Bible study and preparation for each week’s sermon & small group.
Since the workbook is really the heart of this product, let’s spend a moment to talk about it. To start, I’ll simply quote Logos’ copy from their website:
Each chapter of Abraham: Following God’s Promise is structured to maximize your church’s study:
- Setting the Stage:
- Theme: Introduces the meaning and relevance of an event in Abraham’s life
- Literary Context: Illustrates the conditions surrounding that event
- Historical and Cultural Background: Presents relevant data about the ancient world
- A Closer Look: Gives a walk through of the event while exploring issues of interpretation, original language, and theology
- Throughout the Bible: Examines discussion of the event elsewhere in the Bible
- Beyond the Bible: Treats references to the event in ancient documents and extracanonical texts, as well as references by theologians, the church fathers, and contemporary thinkers
- Application: Concludes the chapter by exploring the event’s relevance to your journey of faith
You’ll also find Quick Tips on difficult passages and Quick Bits of historical information, original language wording, and ancient thought.
As you can see, you get a great depth of information in this workbook, making it a great resource for those that like to dig deep into their Bible studies. Even for those that may not be accustomed to such depths of Bible study, they are sure to learn much more than they ever could have imagined. Alongside this wealth of knowledge, you are also presented with stunning infographics that help to bring the material to life for the reader. For those that learn better visually, these inforgraphics do a superb job of presenting high level snapshots of the important principles that you need to walk away with after studying each lesson. Accompanied with the infographics are also maps that help orient you to the Ancient Near East as it was in the time of Abraham, which is important for helping to set the scene and picturing his travels.
One of the things that makes this such a unique product is that it is entirely digital. There are no physical parts associated with it (minus the DVD of the videos, for an additional fee, if required). As such, Abraham: Following God’s Promise was created with the intent of fully integrating with your Logos Bible Software or Faithlife library. This is true for both leaders and students alike. All of the written materials are Logos ebooks that function within their desktop software & mobile applications, even to the point of allowing you to answer study questions within the resource, much like you would in a print book. About the only thing that is physical are the handouts when & if you choose to print them. We’ll discuss the implications of this below.
Now that I’ve given a broad overview of Abraham: Following God’s Promise, what are my thoughts on it? As a whole, I have to readily admit that I am a fan of this type of resource. I have recently moved to becoming completely digital when it comes to my books, so something like this is right in my wheelhouse. Not to mention, the integration into a Bible software package like Logos means that I can study at my computer or on my mobile device just the same, while also having things like Bible references hyperlinked for easier reading & cross referencing. From a Bible student’s perspective, I love the depth that this study goes to; it makes me feel as if I’m a fly on the wall in Abraham’s life. Without being too overbearing, this provides a wealth of knowledge without going over anyone’s head. Even if I’m not going through this with a church or small group, the workbook is more than adequate for use in personal Bible study. Finally, from my teacher’s perspective, the teaching materials & aides are simply amazing; they make teaching & walking through this material almost effortless. While it still takes time to study & prepare, your work is cut in half because of everything that Logos gives you in the Leader’s Guide.
With everything that this product has going for it, I’m not without my own reservations & concerns. While I love living in the digital world, my first complaint is that this resource cannot be found in print. This will be an obstacle for a church that has members who are not tech savvy or tech enabled. Or, what about the person who only has a desktop, but no tablet? It becomes difficult for them to follow along in a small group setting. There needs to be the option for those that want a physical copy of the workbook to buy one. Along those same lines, how is a church supposed to use the Leader’s Guide amongst several small group leaders? Since Logos resources are tied to a user’s account, that would require each small group leader teaching the material to purchase a full copy of the curriculum for $84.95. Otherwise, you’re forced into wasting paper by printing out a copy of each lesson plan for each small group leader, which destroys the benefit of being a digital product, nor is it cost effective for churches.
There are also concerns about the length of the material. Even though I think the material is fantastic and great for personal study, I think it is a bit too in-depth for use in a small group setting. There is a lot of material to get through in an 8 week period of time, if that is indeed the timetable that is set for going through the material. People have busy lives and you can easily spend several hours going through a single lesson, if you’re doing it at any depth. I just wonder how many people would get through it each week & have all of the questions answered. Along those same lines, the lesson plan for teaching the lesson in a small group is quite extensive. I don’t know how most small groups operate, but we can spend a lot of time studying the Bible and not get very far into a structured lesson plan. I don’t see how anyone could feasibly get through an entire lesson plan in a single small group gathering, especially if it’s a larger group. If it were broken up into a 16 week study, I could see it being done, but not at 8 weeks.
My final concern is the exclusivity of the curriculum. I am fully aware that this product is created by Logos Bible Software, but it would be great if this curriculum were available in other Bible software platforms as well, at least the workbooks. The concern is that it forces an entire congregation or small group into using Logos’ software, whether it be Logos or Faithlife. I understand that this is partially the point in selling such a product, but it does a disservice to those who may already have a favorite Bible software platform that they use on a regular basis. What if someone has built a substantial Bible study library in a software package like Olive Tree, WORDsearch, or Accordance? If they want to participate in the study they are forced to download yet another software package just to use this single product, not to mention having to now purchase their favorite Bible translation so that they can follow along in the app with something other than the Lexham English Bible (that again, isn’t in print or widely used). I can understand making the Leader’s Guide something that is exclusive to Logos; but, it would be beneficial to the Church overall to have the option to use this workbook in their favorite Bible study platform.
There’s only one question that remains: would I recommend this product? Yes, but not without the concerns that I mentioned above. If your entire congregation or small group is tech savvy, then I don’t see an issue with using such a product; but, I fear for those handful that may miss out because the workbook isn’t available in print. Overall, Logos did a great job in putting this package together. After using this product, you cannot help but walk away knowing more about the life of Abraham and how he followed & believed in God’s promises. Even if you’re not in small group or church that would use this product, the workbook itself is worth picking up for use in your own personal studies. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with future products.