Ideas! need some advice


In 3 weeks I am leading a min-Retreat to kickoff a lenten scripture study on the Gospel of Mark…(Yes I know that this year is Luke for most Lenten SUndays).

I plan on giving a basic outline on the synoptics and zero in on Mark in particular. In order to avoid an all out powerpoint lecture, I am wondering if anyone here has some great ideas to adapt our kickoff session into somthing “interactive”. The mini-retreat is very very short only 4 hours. For the “academics” I am using a combination of Hahn’s ignatius study, Raymond Browns work on the Gospels, a tiny bit of the Little rock series and some of the stuff that I am pulling from my recent Graduate level scripture class.

THe group will be consisted of 30-60 year old lay Catholics. I really need some great ideas that would move the group along and keep the people engaged. I have used the “lets break down into small groups” process before and it seems OK. But I need some fresh Ideas.!!

You’re probably miles ahead of me in your knowledge of Scripture background. And I have no teaching qualifications, but I know how to string a short segment together.

First of all, what are you trying to emphasise? The generally accepted history of the Gospel? How it differs from other Gospels? Who wrote it? The emphasis of Mark? Or are you going to try to ask what various bits of the the Gospel mean?

There’s no way you’re going to cover all that ground in four hours, so the first thing you have to do is decide what you’re going to concentrate on.

Then break it down into a couple of two hour sessions (or even more) so that people can have a break. These are lay people, and if you get too technical, you’ll lose them.

I’d suggest a different them for each session.

These are only general suggestions, and I don’t think anybody can give you much help unless you first of all give us a general game plan, so we know what you are trying to communicate. Once we know that, there are bound to be qualified teachers here who could give you suggestions on how to get the message across effectively in a way that will appeal to 30 to 60 year old Catholics.

As it is your request is too broad.

Ok the first session is a mini retreat lasting 4 hours. The retreat is a kickoff to a 5 seek study of mark. The successive weeks are only going to be 40 minute group meetings and relection on assigned parts of Mark. SInce there are 5 weeks in our prgram Mark will be divided into 5 reading segments (which will be quite easy for the group members)

The 4 hour retreat will be basic coverage of

  1. the different types of Biblical Criticism

  2. Hitorical setting of Mark

  3. Overview (basic overview that is) of the synopitcs and their relationship to one another. I may even talk briefly about Q

  4. Focus on Textual criticism since Mark was translated a little more poorly than the other Gospels from Greek.

Don’t know if this would help or not but I always liked this commentary of Fr. Robert Barron’s on the three “particularities” or offbeat freakiness of the Gospel of Mark.

I never even really noticed them before but once your attention gets called to them. Mark’s Gospel becomes difficult to forget.


I would think the main purpose of the mini retreat isn’t to teach so much as to make them a group. As such, what are called bonding exercises are very important. Basically, you stretch them a little with the goal of increasing their commitment and trust of each other.

Bonding exercises are by nature very much interactive.

Jeez, you’re covering a lot of ground in 4 hours.

Some suggestions I’d make are -

  1. Relate Biblical Criticism to modern criticism of modern literature, so that they can get a feel of what critical analysis is about. Use a few modern examples of literature eg. compare Solszehnitsyn’s literature to modern US literature, and show why they’re different. One is deep, the other generally frivolous.

  2. I think the historical setting and authorship go together, since authorship is partly dependent on the historical situation. Had Solszhenitsyn been American, there is no way he’d have written “The Gulag Archipelago” for example. But he would still have been the same basic man or author, personal experience aside. In short, he probably only became an author ***because ***of his personal historical situation.

  3. When you’re talking about Q, try to present some evidence it existed.

  4. I’d only give a couple of examples of textual criticism. Josh McDowell wrote a couple of books on defending the Bible. Whilst I found elements of the first book fairly convincing eg. historical references to Christ, I only managed a few pages of the second before I became comatose. It was all about Biblical Criticism. I suppose these days I could probably stomach it a bit better, but this is the area where they’re most likely to switch off, particularly since it will be near the end if the mini-retreat.

Other than that, I think you’d be better served by those who have teaching qualifications, and who can give you concrete ideas on how to present the material to your particular audience.

All the best. I don’t think I can say much more.


4 hours is a short amount of time.

Also, a retreat implies some form of self examination.

With that in mind, I would totally drop textual criticism, it’s too cerebral and has nothing to do with ones ‘internal guidance systems’. I mean whose adopting a more self-less God-and-others-first attitude because of theories about the Q source? Drop Brown and Q.

This will open up time for more sharing and dialog, which is probably one of the reasons why people are entering into this.

You gotta open up some time for the holy Spirit to work.


OK I have revamped the entire 4 hour session. I am going to do an extremely BRIEF overview of the criticisms and the background of Mark. I am going to do this in 1 hour.

The Remaining 3 hours my group is going to do an ignatian type relection on selected Texts from Mark. My aim is to provide experience and refelction in a group setting. If anyone here has done theological reflection in ignatian sytle knows that the participants are guided into visualizing themselves physically present in the text they are reading. It is actually quite fun and very illuminating. I want to teach these folks the basics of theological reflection in scriptures. I hope to give them basic tools fior use in the remaining 5 weeks of Study. After our initial 4 hour session the subsequent weeks will be dviding the Gospel in 5 segments (one for each week) and meet for 45 minutes and reflect and discuss as a group. Seems pretty simple doesn’t it? 6 weeks to study mark seems to be enough time for me. ANy thoughts?

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