The president of a national network of inpatient treatment centers called me in early 1990 and asked, "Do you have a leader's guide for teaching Relief for Hurting Parents?" "Not yet," I replied. "We have to have one," he said. "If you are not going to write it, we are. Do you want to write it? Or do you want us to write it? One way or the other, we have to have a leader's guide... and fast!" "I will go to press with it in three months," I replied. "Fine," he responded. "That date will be factored into our plans." Their first order was for 1,200 copies. Later, in 1995, I decided to expand the The Leader's Guide. I wanted to provide additional information to my leaders of groups and teachers of classes. On the first page of each lesson, I wanted to have an inventory list that would make it easier to keep up with everything needed to teach Relief.
Making the lists shocked me! I didn't realize how much equipment I was maintaining, TV, VCR, extension cord with multiplug, equipment table, videos, audiocassette player, audio tapes, overhead projector, screen, overhead projection sheets, blank sheets, marking pens, marking board, marking pens, eraser, homemade posters, easel, and the lists went on and on. I thought, I don't like keeping up with all this stuff! And how many leaders and teachers will be able to purchase or borrow and maintain all this equipment? This is not acceptable. I decided to design an innovative, user-friendly teaching tool of professional quality that would be complete in itself. And one that would incorporate all the feedback that I had received from those who had taught Relief.
Designing a new and improved The Leader's Guide
The new and improved leader's guide would be a resource volume that would contain 78 predeveloped posters that would coincide with what is being taught and would automatically be displayed as pages are turned over (a built-in easel). Miniatures of the posters would be printed on the leader's and teacher's side to enable them to see what their audience is viewing. How large are the posters? Imagine two 8 1/2" by 11" pieces of typing paper lying side by side. That's the size of the posters and it's the size of the three-and-one-half-pound The Leader's Guide and Teacher's Resource Volume. An audience of seventy-five persons can easily read the posters.
Feedback had indicated that since leaders and teachers equate Relief with an artesian well and teach it over and over and over, they would like to have a place to keep their notations so that their notes would always be readily accessible each time they taught the series of lessons. Therefore, I printed an 8 1/2" by 11" ruled pad next to my lesson plans/teaching outlines. Now leaders and teachers keep their notes beside the topics they are teaching.
Feedback had indicated that leaders and teachers would like a to-do list for preparing each lesson. Therefore, I included a to-do list on the first page of each lesson in the form of a checklist with extra blanks. For example, the to-do list from Lesson 1 is:
Feedback had indicated that leaders and teachers would like to know what they have permission to photocopy. Therefore, I included photocopy masters to use for making quality copies. In the to-do lists, I indicate when to photocopy them and when to distribute them to participants.
Feedback had indicated that leaders and teachers would like the lesson plans/teaching outlines to be more specific about what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Therefore, I rewrote the lesson plans to be more specific and user-friendly. I've found this has enhanced the confidence level of teachers and facilitators.
Feedback had indicated that churches who use Relief as an elective in their Sunday school programs wanted the lessons to match the number of Sundays in a quarter of a year--13 lessons. Therefore... well, I wasn't able to accomplish that. There are 17 lesson outlines. That number fits the pace of a support group. But feedback now indicates that church officials are creatively adjusting the lesson plans to fit nicely within their programs. I applaud them!
Feedback had indicated that leaders and teachers wanted additional information about how to start a support group or class without making painful mistakes. Therefore, I included additional information.
Feedback had indicated that some parents were hovering over their teens and smothering them so much that their teens were rebelling just to get some "air." These parents were actually causing their kids to rebel. That was very troubling. Therefore, I included an article, for photocopying and distributing, that I had written for Christian Parenting Today magazine. The article's title is: "At ease, parents: You don't have to fix everything." The article is fun. I reveal some of my own mistakes in parenting. However, I have a warning: Do not distribute this article until Lesson 17. Some parents have read it during the early sessions, relaxed too much, swung too far to the other extreme, decided they didn't need support or training, and dropped out of the group or class. Distribute the article when it is appropriate: at the end of the series of lessons.
Feedback had indicated that leaders and teachers wanted to display the Seven Commandments for parents in the location of their group or class. Therefore, I included a beautiful two-color poster of the commandments for removing from the The Leader's Guide, trimming, and displaying.
Feedback had indicated that leaders and teachers were teaching Relief in every conceivable setting: at home in their living rooms or dens, classrooms, fellowship halls, community centers, etc. Therefore, I built versatility into the The Leader's Guide. It can be used at a speaker's stand, at a desk, on a table, on a coffee table, and on a lap.
Finding a printing company that could print a book so huge was a difficult effort. Finding a binding company that could place a 17" spiral in a book was a substantial task. And finding a company that built displays and could manufacture the built-in easel was a significant assignment. But everything came together to produce an excellent tool of ministry for leaders and teachers.
I am very pleased with the results: The stress of keeping up with inventory is at a minimum, preparing to teach is much less laborious, and creative energy for caring about families is at a maximum. Enjoy.