New Small Group Resource Sparks Spiritual Conversations

Bestselling author Donald Miller has joined Christian entertainment companies to produce a new small group curriculum that would appeal to the younger generation.

Titled "Convergence: Where Faith and Life Meet," the DVD series steers away from the traditional learning, memorizing and Q&A format and offers more of a conversation starter.

"I see society changing, culture changing and the methodology with which we reach people is going to have to change with it," Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, says in the series. "So that's going to move a little bit from a more academic to a more conversational, relational style of communicating with people."

"Convergence" is a series of 15-minute videos featuring living room interviews between host Miller and Christian authors, theologians and pastors rather than a single person speaking and teaching. Guests delve into conversations on such topics as spiritual discipline, frustrations and daily faith.

Drs. Dan Allender of Mars Hill Graduate School and Tremper Longman of Westmont College were the first guests to be interviewed and taped for the small group series. They addressed the issue of frustration, disappointment and people looking to the Bible as a magical solution to their problems.

"We don't like a God who is as wild and mysterious as we seem to have, so how do we paper train Him so that we've put Him in a position to be our servant in a way in which He's not as dangerous to us as He seems to be," Allender says in the video.

"We have a problem with control," he continued. "We really want mastery over this life and we really presume that the Bible is in many ways an answer book that if we read it for the 4, 7, 12 principles and do those principles as they are laid out in this particular manual then we will have the product – abundance – as we so wish."

The DVD series was designed to examine the intersections between faith and real life with the goal of sparking deeper conversations and stronger community within small groups. It was developed in response to the shifts in the American church and culture, including the aging of small groups. While small groups are considered by many as the backbone of the Church and are utilized by the majority of American churches, the creators of "Convergence" believe many of the existing small group guides and curriculums are outdated.

Erick Goss, managing partner of Creative Trust Media and creator of Convergence, says the new series offers something "a little different than what has been done previously."

Goss sees great teaching on the Bible or on theological subjects in existing curriculum but he says they seem to "miss the mark in regards to 'how does this address my life.'"

"The former 'What do you know?' gives way now to 'What is your life about?' and 'Who are you?' he noted. "The shift is from teacher-student to shared spiritual formation."

And that's what the younger generation seems to be looking for.

Miller observes, "A lot of kids want to know God but are embarrassed by the Church as they see it. They're not giving up their Wednesday nights for a study guide and a highlighter. But tell them who you are, speak to their honest questions from your own life and, believe me, they make time."

According to Goss, Miller was brought in to host the "Convergence" interviews because the author is seen as a "Christian everyman" and is increasingly the voice of the next generation of believers.

"I think people identify with him and he's good at taking complex issues or issues that are challenging and saying them in a way that's very understandable and accessible," Goss explained.

The first three DVDs of "Convergence" were released last month by Creative Trust Inc. and EMI. The other two DVDs address "How to meet God in the everyday" and "Learning to share our stories" with authors Lauren Winner and Phyllis Tickle, respectively.