Tell Me A Story

Today, two really interesting resources for youth ministry.  I’ve used one of them myself while serving in New Jersey.  The other is a newer tool that has a lot of potential.

The first is a method called “storying.”  Based on the work of Michael Novelli and his book Shaped by the Story, “storying” represents an effort to have adolescents engage the main narratives of the Bible on their own terms.  It is a plan as ancient as it is innovative.

In this model, students are read a paraphrase of a biblical story (Noah’s, for instance) and then asked what they heard and where they saw God.  Various questions are asked, and space is provided in the conversation for their own questions to surface.  As they enter in to this conversational space students have the opportunity to encounter the story of God for the first time (if they’ve never heard it) or in a completely new way (since they are given the freedom to ask questions they might never have before).  No three-point sermons here.  Everything from Creation to the Resurrection and beyond can be a constituent part of this method.

A premium is placed upon students grappling with the narrative of the faith and their place in it.  Novelli’s website Echo the Story explains his method in greater detail and provides some excellent resources for “storying” with your students.

The second resource is a new one by Sparkhouse entitled re:form.  I haven’t had the opportunity to spend much time at all with this, but I hear good things and I like what I see.  Take a look:

Like “storying,” the re:form people seem to place a premium on student engagement of and communal reflection on the material.  At present they have two sets of curriculum: 1) “Traditions” (three separate tracks focusing at present on the history, theology, and shape of Lutherans, Reformed Christians, and Methodists) and 2) “Ancestors” (in their words, “a youth Bible study that explores the ancestors of our faith by exposing the real, unpolished and unexpected personalities of Old and New Testament Bible characters”).  With their creative use of media, it’s like theology and the Bible ala Monty Python.  Classic.

Not exactly.

I’m excited there are such resources available for ministers and teenagers.  With so much flash and bang in youth ministry, these new models ask a great question: what if we just let students engage material and see what happens?  What if we make the bold choice of letting students grapple with the story of their faith tradition or (more importantly) the Scripture on their own without excessive commentary from us?  I think we’ll get a lot more honest engagement, retention, and growth this way. I’m no Mitt Romney, so I can’t bet you $10,000 that this will work with your students.  I will tell you, however, that a “storying” and conversational approach has the potential to revolutionize the way you do youth ministry.  I believe in this stuff.  So make a plan (maybe even starting in January), set aside some time (to do this effectively will take some months), and prayerfully implement this in youth ministry whenever you can.


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