Sparkhouse’s animate:faith has one major flaw. And it’s a glaring one.
It’s marketed for young adults.
I was an early adopter of animate:faith. And by early adopter, I mean I signed up to be notified as soon the series became available for purchase. If memory serves, I ordered the series, if not the first day it was available, then pretty close to it.
As a youth director, I sift through a lot of curriculum, and it is always a crapshoot as to how much crap is actually in it. Because evangelical megachurches have the most financial resources, publishing houses tend to skew curriculum in their theological direction. I cannot begin to describe the relief, gratitude and excitement I felt when I saw the line-up for this animate.faith series and watched the sample clips.
For the first time, I had no doubt about a series’ theology, style, or presenters. The only thing that gave me pause was that it was marketed for young adults and wasn’t included in Sparkhouse’s options for youth (resources which skew a little young in my opinion).
But I took a chance anyway, and I’m glad I did. In retrospect, I think animate.faith was undermarketed. It is a phenomenal resource for youth ministers. One of the things I have learned is that teenagers are smart and thoughtful and are wrestling with their faith, and if you treat them like adults, they will often respond in kind.
If you are a youth minister, and looking for a solid curriculum, don’t be spooked by animate’s target audience. This is a fantastic resource for high school students. And don’t skimp, if you don’t have to. Purchase all the resources, not just the videos. Get the journals and hand them out. They are beautiful and engaging. Get the facilitator guide. The questions and structure it suggests are solid and helpful.
This is the only curriculum (I feel bad using that word because this doesn’t even feel like curriculum) I have ever used in which I did not need to spend two hours editing bad theology, rephrasing awful cultural references attempting to be hip, or cutting out entire sections of nonsense. Animate means I can spend my energy engaging with students and their thoughts rather than spending my energy making bad curriculum tolerable.
As the year came to a close, I invited our students to evaluate our past year and to make plans for our coming year. As it turns out, we’ll be purchasing the next set of Sparkhouse videos: animate:bible.
I think animate:faith was a good start, and I am looking forward to how the producers will develop the series. I deeply hope that there will be meaningful engagement with social issues in a future series, to fold in dedicated conversations of social justice, anti-racism, equality and feminism. In many ways, this series reminds me of Manna and Mercy in its aesthetic, and it is my hope that as in that book, animate’s engagement with the Bible will open up such conversations.