The updated edition of GriefShare ships in July. Sam Hodges, executive producer of the new curriculum, explains why you shouldn’t waste any time choosing to upgrade.
* This blog was originally posted on the GriefShare blog. I am excited to have contributed to the new GriefShare curriculum and hope this post allows my readers to become familiar with this and other excellent resources from Church Initiative.
Q: Tell me some of the things that excite you most about the new GriefShare. What makes you the proudest?
Sam: I’m excited about connecting hurting people with comforting truths. I’m also excited about the new experts that we have, the new dramas, and the new testimonials. We’ve heard that people want to hear more of the stories of the people who are featured in the videos.
This time, we highlight 19 people who tell their stories. We went to many of their homes and shot footage of them in their environments, and we incorporate photos of them and their loved ones. People will really appreciate getting to know these individuals. We tried to pull out stories that we think people will really identify with.
Something else that’s new: at the beginning of each workbook chapter, we feature a different story of someone whom we interviewed for the new GriefShare. The previous workbook didn’t do that. For example, at the beginning of a week you’ll hear a little about a person’s story. Throughout that week, you’re also reading her quotes and thoughts. At the end of the week, we summarize what she learned and what God taught her. Those stories and insights make the workbook more helpful and interesting.
There is also a new section in the workbook called “My Weekly Grief Work.” That has practical exercises—different each week—to help people do what we call “grief work.” In the current version of GriefShare, we give people a lot of truths and we leave it to them to make application, but in this new version, we’re giving people specific tasks that they need to complete in order to heal.
Q: What are some of the top reasons that GriefShare leaders should upgrade?
Sam: One of the criticisms we heard from leaders about the current version of GriefShare is that the gospel is presented awkwardly. This time, we used drama to present the gospel, to help it feel more natural and in a way group members can relate to.
Each time the gospel is presented in the new GriefShare, you’ll see dramatic presentations of leaders talking to a group participant about how that person is wrestling through what the Bible says. The actors express concerns many participants have about what it means to have faith in Christ. And they engage in raw conversations that address the implications of grieving as a Christian.
Beyond the new gospel presentations, this new edition is just richer overall. In the last version of GriefShare, we introduced new ideas and new concepts. What you have this time, though, are interviews with people who’ve applied what they’ve learned from the current version of GriefShare. They’ve experienced them. So in the new version of GriefShare, you’re not just hearing experts tell you what to do; you’re hearing people who have been through it say, “I’ve done this, and it works.” That’s exciting for me to see.
Q: What are some lessons you’ve learned personally through the process of producing and updating GriefShare?
Sam: It has helped me to appreciate my family—the time I have with them. You just appreciate life more. You don’t take it for granted. It makes you want to take better care of your health. Life is short. It’s a good thing to know that.
Another important lesson is that the Bible is sufficient to address man’s problems. The people we’ve interviewed are proof that God’s Word can help people deal with deep, deep pain. There is a richness to God’s Word, and it really is effective.
Everyone’s loss is unique, but people can experience similar losses, and two years later, each person can be in completely different places—emotionally and spiritually—just based on the effort that they put into healing and how much they depend on the Lord.
Q: Having led the creation of the current version of GriefShare in 2006, you’ve now been involved with two production cycles. What are your biggest takeaways?
Sam: God is real. That sounds trite. But He helps people deal with incredible loss. Sometimes I can’t believe what people have suffered. So it’s encouraging to see them depending on God, laughing, and enjoying a new normal.
Q: What do you hope will happen in people’s lives as a result of the updated GriefShare?
Sam: That participants would recognize that God invites them to cry out to Him. That He encourages them to weep and be honest about their pain. But at the same time, I want to see people grow in their understanding of who God is.
In the new version, we really try to help people see how Job asked the same kind of questions that they ask, but we also want people to find comfort in the responses that God gave to Job. As some of our experts point out in the new GriefShare, the story of Job is not that he gets his stuff back at the end of the day. The story of Job is that he gets God back. He has a new vision of who God is. Job doesn’t get the answers that he necessarily wants, but God, in revealing who He is, provides Himself. And at the end of the day, that’s better than what we think will sustain us.
Another goal I have is that participants would trust in God’s character—to have people know that God is good and caring and that He demonstrated His love in sending His Son. That is the chief demonstration of God’s goodness, not our stories working out the way we want them to. I want people to understand that.
Ultimately, my hope is that grieving people will, one day, be able to comfort others with the comfort they’ve received from Christ. This version of GriefShare helps them get to that point.