By Elizabeth Prata
I received an inquiry asking me to look into the ministry founded in Georgia called Big Dream Ministries which produced a Bible study called The Amazing Collection. Since I’m in Georgia, the inquirer thought I should know about the influence of the ministry, which is large and growing.
I did research it and was surprised at how large the ministry is and how far it has spread. For this essay, I read their web pages, previewed their materials, read the About, read the Beliefs, watched to two of their videos- Genesis and Revelation, and read their Facebook pages. (I believe how a person teaches Genesis and Revelation, two of the foundational books of the entire Bible, reveals their doctrinal stances and hermeneutic).
The ministry was officially founded 18 years ago but has been informally active since 1996. Their About page states,
“Under the direction of Pat Harley, a women’s ministry was initially formed in Roswell, Georgia to provide excellent Bible teaching and encourage women in their roles as women, wives, and mothers. The teaching team of Pat Harley, Eleanor Lewis, Linda Sweeney, and Margie Reuther taught the Bible in a sequential manner, in a study called The Amazing Collection.”
The Amazing Collection’s purpose is to teach the word of God sequentially, going through all the books of the Bible so that women, and the ministry is aimed at women, learn how the entire Bible hangs together. Founder Pat Harley realized that the women in her church were learning lots of bits and pieces of the Word, but not the overarching story. The word of God is the Word of God, and thus worth knowing all of, they say.
The Books of the Bible are an “Amazing Collection”, and people should be amazed by His word. hence, the ministry name. The “Big Dream” of the ministry is that women learn the entire Bible.
Mrs. Harley noticed that though she had participated in many mass-produced studies, some quite popular, she was remembering very little from them. And if she remembered little, she wasn’t translating what she had learned into practical Christian life and pursuit of holiness. She writes:
Why was I unable to recall so little from all of the studying I had done? I began to ask many other serious students of the Word. I would begin by asking what Bible studies they had taken. The response usually included a fairly lengthy list of popular studies. Some of those were considered “light” while others were very detailed and “deep”. More often than not this was preceded by a few words on how wonderful the study was and how very much they enjoyed it. But when I asked the question “What did you learn that you remember?” I was often confronted with a somewhat blank stare. It was then that I realized that I was not alone. Somehow we were learning much but remembering little.
Therefore, I was relieved to read that their foundational motto about the Big Dream and Amazing, isn’t the usual “You go, girl, you have big dreams to fulfill because you’re amazing” kind of motto. Instead, the ministry seems entirely God-focused.
Available materials are the original book-by-book lesson series, and there are additional focused series of topical studies such as the Life of Jesus, The Pentateuch, and a series based on Titus 2 for women which includes “lessons on character, relationships, and the care and management of the home. Practical topics covered include finances, hospitality, meal planning, and parenting.”
The study materials are translated into 4 languages so far, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Russian. The lesson in Genesis I watched on Youtube displayed Arabic captions. There is a children’s series of materials, too. The ministry has extended into 120 other countries via television, and there is a team on the ground in Brazil.
In the Genesis lesson I watched, the following doctrines were covered:
Evolution explicitly rejected
Literal creation affirmed
Literal word meanings in the original language
An emphasis that scripture interprets scripture
Affirmation we all have a sin nature
Genesis is usually a test case for me, because it’s the beginning and all other doctrines flow from that seminal book. That the lesson didn’t wiggle or waver on the above doctrines is a good sign. So is the ministry’s premise, that God’s word is amazing and women should know all of it, because it is God’s word.
I especially liked the founder’s thought process as she described. She realized that the canned studies she was going through were not giving her an overall biblical worldview, but were only fleetingly giving her a sense of purposeful study, but she was not retaining it. She then went one step further, and did something about it, developing the lessons from which we now have the Amazing Collection. All 66 DVD lessons have recently been completed.
The ladies listed as teachers are all teachers of women or otherwise active in their home churches. I appreciated that they seem grounded at home and in church, rather than gallivanting all over the world solving social justice issues, making sales on book tours, or preaching at conference events, as so many of the women’s ministry teachers do nowadays.
From what I’ve seen and read, the Big Dream/Amazing Collection seems solid. Thank you to the sister who brought it to my attention.
Big Dream Ministries (includes links to Bible studies, Leader resources, materials Previews, and their online store.)