Animate: Kickstart Your Adult Discussion Groups

Animate Faith Course

This title of this post is misleading, but misleading in a good way. It’s misleading because I have used the seven-session Animate Faith education series for adults, college students and youth. Of course, I’ve tailored it for each group, but the DVDs and leader materials are so multipurpose that I’ve found really cool uses of this curriculum with many different groups that I work with.

Animate Faith came out last summer, and our church used it as we kicked off our Adult Education class. We had a great turnout, and people really loved the curriculum. The videos were engaging and way more interesting to watch than some other theologically progressive Adult Education curriculums that I won’t name but are essentially just a collection of old, white, liberal men who just come off as talking heads.

We bought the personal journals, leader journals and the DVD, but (and I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this) you really don’t need the personal journals. I love the personal journals – they are engaging, filled with great Paul Soupiset artwork and a breath of fresh air from other “fill in the blank” type of participant materials that other curriculums might use. But not many of our folks used the journals very much. We could fill out time by simply watching the DVDs and having discussions.

The facilitator guides were super helpful, and were filled with way more topics, questions and discussions than we had time for in our 1 hr class period.

And that’s another thing I’ll mention. It is seven sessions, and so we planned to spend seven weeks on Animate for our Adult Education Class. But, we were limited to about 45 minutes on a Sunday morning before worship. And you know how classes go on a Sunday morning. By the time people showed up and were all there and ready, it was about 9:10, we probably started showing the videos around 9:15am and then really started to get into some good conversation around 9:25am. At that point, we only had about 20 minutes before the pastors had to go and get ready for worship.

There are many ways to use Animate. If you choose to use it for a Sunday morning class where you have limited time, I’d recommend setting aside two Sundays per lesson. Others might use it for a small group program, where they have more flexibility and more time for each of the lessons, and then perhaps one week would be fine.

As I mentioned above, I’ve had good success with showing the videos to college students, as well as some of my older youth in youth group. Each time, they get different things out of the video presentations, ask great questions and we’ve had really good conversations.

I think that Animate really stands out as something new and different in the world of Christian Education curriculum. Part of it could be the fact that I love everything that sparkhouse has been coming out with. But I think that the Animate series allows new voices to enter into the conversations in our churches today.

I was having a conversation with someone this past week about Marcus Borg. Now, I like Borg. He’s a nice guy, and I agree with him on many things theologically. But…to be blunt…he connects with an older generation. I think he, and all of those Jesus Seminar guys, are part of the “old school liberal theologians” who still have a place and who have done a lot of good theological work, but I think there are new voices coming into the conversation that connect with a broader audience.

I know some people who don’t like Borg, but will listen to Brian McLaren speak and read his books. I think McLaren and Borg are asking a lot of the same questions and trying to get people to a similar place theologically, but I think it’s much easier for some folks to listen to and hear from a McLaren, Scandrette or a Bruce Reyes-Chow.

So go check out Animate. You won’t regret it.

Or to see more posts about Animate over at Patheos, go here.


  1. says

    We used this at my last church and I think it went well although I didn’t have anything to do with it. I’d like to use it at my current call. Right now we are using Nooma videos for our new young adults class.

    When we talked about Animate at my last call, some of the older folks thought that the journals would be difficult for older adults because of the style. Not to take anything away from Paul’s art but just the style was not something they were familiar with.

    I’d be interested to hear thoughts from folks who have used it with adults who are 50+.

    • says

      Yes, I will say that some of the older folks in our congregation didn’t really know what to do with the journals either. I love them, and think they give space to doodle, reflect on the lessons at home on their own time, but…I think some of them just looked at them, thought they were cool looking, but didn’t really know where to start.

  2. Tracy says

    I’d really love us to quit using “old white guys” as a stand-in for critique. I’ll give Adam credit, he seems to suggest there is something wrong with their thinking, (Borg, et al, and not simply with their age) but honestly, I think ageism is becoming the new fashionable prejudice in church circles. In the name of critiquing the failures of recent years, we simply indict whole generations.

    When it is “much easier” for a congregation to hear things from a man than a woman, that’s a problem. We should challenge it. When it is “much easier” to hear conversation about family life from a straight person than a gay person, when its “much easier” to hear things from an old man than a young man — that’s a problem. Simply turning the tables does nothing to address the root problem of lazy, prejudicial thinking. Dear God, I hope people don’t think they are receiving more wisdom from these videos because the people in them wear a lot of black.

    And oh — some of my young adults got into the journals, some absolutely did not. I happen to think its something more akin to a right brain left brain thing, then a generational one. Some people doodle when they take notes, some make careful outlines. Some are aural learners, some visual. Some may be inhibited about expressing themselves in ways that are new and different–old and young. Maybe It was always so. The only way this makes sense is if our educational system has recently trained people to process information somewhat differently. But that doesn’t explain it all. It doesn’t explain the college students I know who weren’t engaged by the journals. The artist himself is not 30, so what are we talking about?

    Brian McLaren is 57, Phyllis Tickle (featured in the next animate series) is 79. So really, is this all about age?

Leave a Reply