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Modern Parables - Living in the Kingdom of God, Volume I Review by Donna CamposThomas Purifoy, Jr. and Jonathan Rogers, Ph.D.
609 W Iris Drive
Nashville, TN 37204
Modern Parables is a film based bible study curriculum using Jesus' parables from the New Testament of the Bible. The program includes three DVDs and 1 Audio CD in a sturdy plastic DVD case, one Teacher's Guide, and one Student Workbook, all neatly organized in a glossy cardboard re-closeable box. Each DVD contains four lessons, including two parables in the two different lesson formats for each parable. The Teacher's Guide is a spiral bound 106 page book containing all twelve lessons, two Teacher's Overviews--one for each type of lesson, and an incredibly important "Read This First" section. The Teacher's Guide ends with six additional lessons on film style and content, entitled "Cinematic Theology." Quoted scripture is taken from the New International Version of the Holy Bible, except when indicated otherwise. The Student Book is a soft cover glossy book of 196 pages covering an Introduction, all twelve lessons, and an Epilogue. The lessons include six modern parables, each completed in two different formats: one for Understanding the Parable, and a second for Living the Parable. The Parables include Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44, 13 minutes), Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35, 13 minutes), The Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-8, 17 minutes), The Widow and Judge (Luke 18:2-5, 17 minutes), The Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 13 minutes), and the Prodigal Sons (Luke 15:11-32, 21 minutes). Each film is based on a style of six different famous directors, including Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Robert Mulligan, Frank Capra, Ingmar Bergman, and Frederico Fellini, offering theatrical study value. Additional Student Books will be necessary for students to take part fully in the study. No additional materials are required, although movie posters are downloadable or available for purchase in a professional format from the website to utilize as advertising for Bible studies. Additional teaching sequences are available on the website, including a guided study for middle and high school students, but were not working links at the time of this review.
Twelve dramatic studies are drawn from six DVD dramas representing six parables told by Jesus while he walked among us. The first lesson is Understanding the Parable and begins by watching the film. Then the study asks questions about the film, before the leader teaches the parable, and the group discusses the parable. The second lesson is completed about the same parable, but is in the Living the Parable format and begins with re-reading the original passage, watching the application video, then asking questions. The lesson completes by reviewing the film and discussing the parable again. The study is not designed exclusively for homeschoolers, as it is a Bible study for those interested in understanding more about the parables of Christ. Middle school and high school aged homeschoolers should understand the material, although it is essential that the program be taught as prescribed, merely watching the DVDs will likely leave young people with far more questions than true understanding of the parables. Each application video portion of the study is taught by a different pastor, allowing for variety in discussion styles and a better level of continued interest throughout the study. Modern Parables intends to be extremely biblical, very entertaining, and truly relevant, as they modernize parables in an effort to help a contemporary audience relate to the parables and how each of us fit into the Kingdom of God. The course begins when the parent/teacher reads the "Read This First" section as this is a new kind of study and should be understood by the instructor before viewing the film portion of the study. Leader preparation will entail about 45 minutes of study, viewing of the materials, and reading the corresponding portion of the student book and teacher's guide before beginning the study with students. A Teacher's Prep CD is included in the study and should be listened to before teaching the class as a preview to each lesson.
Modern Parables has packed an incredible amount of options into one small box of Bible study materials. The instructions are direct about the fact that this is not a study to be popped into a DVD player and viewed. I must say you will be completely lost if you attempt to utilize this study flippantly on any level. With preparation, it is an excellent study of the parables of Christ. Each parable is studied in two formats, allowing the students to digest the information between classes and come back fresh for a more full understanding of the information. The two formats are explained at length, with an education that could stand alone. With more than twenty pages explaining more about parables at the start of the Teacher's Guide, studying that portion of the study was a study in itself! The first lesson works through the simple understanding of the parable itself, after having it converted into a more modern format, bringing the stories of Christ right into our lives as if we were seated at his feet among the disciples. The second lesson is taught by six different pastors, offering application to our personal lives from the parable itself. And if you are left wanting for more, Director's commentaries are available on each film so that you can learn more about the theatrical aspect of each film. If you have students interested in theatrics and the direction of film making, the commentaries offer a great additional study in themselves. In a world of electronic media, raising Christian film makers has become a worthy calling for the Kingdom of God. Most lessons were expected to be approximately an hour long according to the teacher's guide, but we were never able to keep them under an hour, as discussion was lengthy and necessary to fully understand the material. The Widow and the Judge was difficult for our family to grasp, as two completely opposite things were compared and great discussion grew in effort to understand the comparison. The study stays true to scripture, but some of the material is rarely truly approached at this level, naturally breeding more questions than answers at times as we worked through the study. When followed completely, the study will bring you to a much deeper understanding of God's Word and the modernized presentation of the parables more easily placed me in the shoes of those following Jesus, which was a tremendous eye opener.
Impatience is rarely a good thing, and it may completely destroy this study as many of us find it hard to truly prepare for bible study and much of our homeschool curriculum. This study requires it! I purposely watched one of the parables unprepared, and had my daughter do so as well, and it was disastrous. Students will feel lost, will wonder what on earth the creators of the program were trying to get across, and may shy away from the Word of God in the process. Be prepared with this study, follow the study and take the time to get into the Word of God every step of the way. There is tremendous value in understanding parables coming from Jesus Christ, take the time to teach them thoroughly to your children. The films will convict, enlighten, and empower you in your walk. It may be easy to get lost in the modernized twist of the story, rather than the goal of understanding the original parable, students will need guidance to stay on track. The instructions at the start of the Teacher's Guide will teach you more as a leader of this study in some ways than even the lessons themselves; read it all. I appreciated the time taken to comment on director information and the various styles portrayed by the different films. I wish more time had been spent focusing on the value of good directing, I hope that more homeschools will continue to bring up God fearing adults who are prepared to lead our ever changing film industry, as it is a tremendous influence--be it for the world, or for Christ. This study moves students from knowing the parables told by Jesus, to living the points presented within them. That level of Christian maturity regarding the parables is rarely attained today, in our churches, or our homeschools. More reference should have been given to the information on the website, as it should be reviewed thoroughly as well.
The proper use of the Modern Parables Bible Study will add an enjoyable and educational aspect of film watching to your homeschool or Bible study time. Planned properly and studied well by the leader, this study will aid students in a better understanding of six parables told by Jesus Christ. As our example it is imperative that we understand His teachings. Modern Parables will assist us in doing so. The specific instructions included for Living the Parables and Understanding the Parables, as the two formats for the lessons, make this study worth purchasing in themselves, as they will shed unbelievable light on a difficult area of understanding. The film making is well done and the additional directing information will be well used by students with a blossoming interest in the film industry. I am hopeful that quality programs like this will help our students fill positions as they become adults in the world of cinematography reaching the world for Christ. Parents will learn alongside their children as they study before, during, and after the bible study, as this program focuses on the Word of God. We are actively raising a generation of media motivated young adults, programs like this will enable us to keep their attention while correctly teaching them a biblically based education. Outside of our homeschools this program offers a quality Bible study that will lead many Christians to a better understanding of the parables of Christ. Packaged in an excellent presentation box that will be stored well on a library shelf, kept ready to be drawn out for another study for another student, the entire program will stay organized. The Teacher's Guide and Student Study book will become reference material as students refer back to them in coming years when questions regarding the parables arise. The modern film versions of the six presented parables will be instilled into the viewer, bringing a personal exposure rarely understood by Christians regarding the parables. Our family looks forward to additional volumes of Modern Parables becoming available with more material in the same presentation style.