Being on the Leadership team here at Christianity Today International, I hear a lot of complaining from pastors when it comes to preaching about money. And I'm sure they have a legitimate point. I wouldn't enjoy telling hundreds of people that God has commanded them to give money to the institution that pays my salary.
But when it comes to the awkwardness surrounding stewardship issues, I think preachers take a back seat to small-group leaders. After all, it's one thing to stand in front of a crowd and talk about money. It's a whole different thing to do it face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder with people you consider close friends—people who can just look around the room and see how much you've invested in your television, furniture, DVD collection, and so on.
Thankfully, the team behind the Liquid video-curriculum series has just given all of us an invaluable tool when it comes to broaching a biblical discussion on the subject of money. It's called Money Talks.
"Money Talks" is the first mock-umentary produced by Liquid—meaning it follows the structure of NBC's hit comedy The Office. The storyline centers on the day-to-day interactions of the Penders, a wealthy but clueless family living in Southern California. The main characters are James and Rebecca Pender; their teenage daughter, Tiffany; Svetlana, the nanny; and shiftless Uncle Brett.
Here's a quick summary of the five episodes:
- Investment. In an effort to teach them the value of a dollar, James gives each of his family members a $100 bill and challenges them to invest it for the next two days. The story reflects Matthew 25:14–30. Preview the "Investment" episode:
- Stuff. James is tormented by his neighbor's new sports car and comes up with a full-proof plan to best him once and for all. The story reflects Luke 12:13–34.
- Leverage. After a poor report from his daughter's teacher, James uses Tiffany's school candy sale as an opportunity to "help." The story reflects Luke 16:1–9.
- Charity. After his "Christmas in July" celebration doesn't work out very well, James remains in the holiday spirit by bringing a struggling band into his home. This story reflects 2 Corinthians 9:6–15.
- Priorities. James and Rebecca visit a marriage counselor to work through all of the issues their dealings with money have caused. This story reflects Mark 10:17–31.
Each episode is between six and eight minutes long, and is followed by a shorter teaching segment from Jeff Pries and John Ward. In addition to the videos, the packet contains a Participant's Guide with discussion questions for all five segments.
- Everything about "Money Talks" oozes professionalism, including the audio and video, graphics, locations, acting, and storylines. If you were to see one of these segments on network television, it wouldn't seem out of place.
- The stories are genuinely fun to watch.
- The video segments provide good discussion opportunities for small groups, and the teaching segments are a good transition into discussion time.
- The Leader's Guide provides useful discussion questions, commentary, tips, and activities to help the group dig deeper after the videos.
- In the teaching segments, Jeff Pries and John Ward sometimes use stories from their personal lives, which can get a little confusing when combined with the action from the mock-umentary sections.
- Purchasing the Leader's Kit gets you the DVD and only one Participant's Guide, so you won't have anything to hand out to group members. Additional Participant's Guides can be purchased separately, but they include the Leader's Guide section, so group members would be able to peak behind the curtain at the questions/activities you use.
Money Talks is a great way for small-group leaders to initiate a solid five-week study on stewardship and financial issues. Be sure to watch all five episodes before you introduce the study to the group. That way you'll be able to facilitate the conversation each week and alert group members when a particular issue will be covered in greater depth in the future.
—Sam O'Neal; copyright 2008 by Christianity Today.