QUICK HIT: A must-have for any youth group, True U begins its series at the very basis of our faith: Does God Exist? This is a series that doesn’t talk down to high schoolers, but engages them at their level, dealing honestly with the challenges that science presents to faith and showing how science actually gives witness to the existence of God.
My primary concern with most modern Sunday Schools or youth groups is that they aren’t teaching much anything of substance. Kids never learn to own their faith, so when they make that trek to the great and vast world of university and find their faith challenged, their weak foundation crumbles. This is especially true of the issue of origins.
The first volume of the True U series, Does God Exist? tackles that problem with a depth, clarity, and focus that is unparalleled. The series is taught by Dr. Stephen Meyer, a Cambridge trained philosopher of science who is the director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
Each video lecture lasts, on average, between 25-35 minutes. Meyer presents the material in lecture-style before a classroom of 24 college-aged students, though the video does a great job of combining Meyer’s teaching with great visuals that illustrate the points he is making. The students in the film are often asked questions or ask questions of their own. I would encourage small group leaders to not be afraid to pause the video and poll the class for their own answers. If Dr. Meyer is asking a question, pause and allow time for discussion. In my experience, this process can lengthen the “video time” to 50-60 minutes, although it shortens the post-lecture discussion time as you are dealing with many of the video’s elements in the moment.
The ten lessons on this disk are as follows:
- What is Faith?
- Big Bang: Before the World Existed
- Big Bang: The Beginning of Time
- Big Bang: A Finely Tuned Universe
- DNA by Design: Surprises in the Cell
- DNA by Design: What are the Chances?
- DNA by Design: Mind behind the Matter
- So it was God After All
- The Moral Evidence: Right and Wrong
- The Moral Evidence: The Failure of Relativism
- Bonus: The Toughest Test in College
The lessons find the perfect balance of being understandable and yet not being superficial. Meyer teaches with clarity without dumbing down the information. I graduated from seminary with a perfect GPA and still found myself taking notes during the lecture time. In the time that I’ve been a youth pastor, the question of origins has probably been the third-most asked question I’ve gotten (the first two pertaining to moral/cultural issues and the historicity of Scripture). But I sometimes get the feeling that what I say doesn’t carry quite as much weight because, admittedly, I am not a scientist. I love being able to point to guys like Meyer who have Ph.D.s and say “It’s not just me saying this…look, they actually have the credentials in this field and they agree with me.”
The companion booklet for this series is also very well done in terms of content. Often, I buy just one study guide and then modify the material in the book to suit my needs. But with this series, I’ll have to break that habit. From quotes to quizzes to illustrations, the handbook has more information presented in a more eye-catching manner than anything I could ever prepare.
One criticism about the book, though, and it has nothing to do with the content. On occasion, quotes in the “What Others Said” columns are cut off by a graphic overlay. A gray rectangle meant to be eye-catching behind the text is instead placed over the text, obscuring whole quotes in some places. It’s a simple design error, but something you should know about. Google what you can see of the quotes in order to find out the words you’re missing.
While this series is intended for use primarily among high-school and college aged students, I see it as an invaluable resource for Christians of all ages. True U teaches students the history, science, and rationality behind their theology. It is imperative for building a reasonable faith. Whether you’re 14 or 94, you will learn an incredible amount from this series.
As a note, True U is intended to be a precursor to Focus on the Family’s more in-depth series The Truth Project. While I’ve not viewed this series, I have heard a number of good things about it and am considering it as a possibility to continue the series once we’ve gone through the True U sets. True U is not “The Truth Project for Teens;” it is a beginning to the material taught in the Truth Project.
To conclude, if you are a youth pastor or a small group leader, please consider True U for your group. No lie, it’s not easy material. It will be challenging. But the reward will be worth it. Let’s train up a generation that knows why they believe what they believe