How Much Content?

Here is the opinion that Calvin (of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes) holds regarding writing assignments:

That should not be the effect of your Apologetics writing assignments–i.e. your cards. Ideally, your cards enable you to refer to your research in-round, enriching your presentation with appropriate verses, quotes, and examples. Instead of being a hodge-podge which “obsure[s] poor reasoning and inhibit[s] clarity, your cards should be clear, concise, and helpful.

One question I am often asked is, “How much content should I have on my cards? Should I only have my research, unorganized? What about a basic outline along with it? Can I have fully written-out speeches on my cards?” Let’s examine the pros and cons of each of these three approaches.

Approach 1: Research Only—No Outline

This approach takes the least time of the three. Throwing information onto a card and printing it out is a very simple process. Also, this approach perhaps is the most like real life. When in a discussion about some theological matter, we don’t have prepared outlines in our heads. Rather, we have to take the information we know and organize it into a coherent whole on the spot.

While one of the purposes of Thoroughly Equipped is to help you save time, I do not recommend saving time at the expense of quality. Skipping the stage of preparing outlines in order to save time now will transform your four minutes in the competition room into a few harried seconds.
Moreover, preparing outlines now is a way of readying ourselves for later conversations in real life. If you have three points in response to the question, “How do you know there is absolute truth?”, you will be better prepared to address the question in an actual conversation.

Approach 2: Research with Basic Outline

This approach takes less time than a full sentence outline, but doesn’t sacrifice quality.
The ability to speak fluidly from an outline is an invaluable skill that is useful in every arena of life. Many of my cards have outlines with verses, a quote or two, and not much more. This forces me to speak off-the-cuff in a coherent and conversational manner. (As an aside, my Impromptu speaking ability has skyrocketed due to Apologetics.)

If you aren’t specific enough on your outlines, you can find yourself thinking something like this in prep time: “My introduction just says, ‘Family Picnic.’ What was I thinking about?!? And what does Psalm 16:11 say again? I didn’t include the verse!”

Approach 3: Full Speech Written Out

When utilizing this approach, students put the most thought into a card. Because they are writing an essay of sorts, the students must think through how to make the card flow well.
Having a full sentence outline can help increase the confidence of beginning students, for whom simply standing up and reading off of a card is an important first step.

While reading off of cards is a place to start, it is most certainly not where a student should stay. Full cards can transform from a speaking aid into a crutch.

My Preference

So, what do I recommend? Personally, I am not a big fan of the first approach. While it does help save time, if you are using Thoroughly Equipped you only have to write 25 cards in the first place. That’s hardly an overwhelming number, especially when compared to the 100+ official Apologetics topics.

My Apologetics boxes (yes, I have two) contain cards from both Approach 2 and Approach 3. I have always liked to write full cards—perhaps only because they are how I started. However, as my speaking ability has matured, I have relied on the cards less and less. Take note: I do not write paragraphs of text and then read them off—I use bullet points. They allow me to glance down at my cards, garner the gist of a bullet point, and deliver it in my own words.
I also have many cards that use the second approach. These cards contain a outline with verses and quotes but no “commentary.” I insert whatever commentary I want as I am giving the speech.

In summary, I recommend using either the second or third approaches—or some of both! When utilizing these approaches, your cards will not be an “intimidating and impenetrable fog,” but an invaluable aid to your delivery.

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