And the story continues…
Each week I get to live my childhood over again – climbing in the van, driving home from church with three young children, and listening to them recount the stories they learned from the Bible that morning. I remember the time in my life when I still found wonder and excitement in the stories of Moses & the plagues, David & Goliath, or Jesus walking on water. Nowadays? I barely flinch reading these passages (many probably for the hundredth, or event thousandth time or more), and I’d probably feel cheated in a way if our pastor decided to teach on such common narratives.
I was raised, in many ways, to see beyond the stories of Scripture. I know them all by heart, but I’ve also been taught the underlying truths and hidden lessons in each of them. Sure it was cool that Jesus fed the 5000, but what He was really trying to teach you and I was that we need to depend on Him in our lives. Walking on water? Don’t take your eyes of Jesus or you’ll begin to ‘sink’ away from Him in your life.
More Than a Manual
While each of these ‘lessons’ I’m sure are accurate and are things that we would do well to follow, the problem is that by de-storifying (yeah, I made that up) God’s Word we have taken what has been given to us as a Grand Storybook and reduced it to a step-by-step ‘Owners Manual for Life.’ Why’s that a problem? Because we lose a great truth—and one which resonates in the lives of young adults—in the process.
Relationship and conversation are spiritual cornerstones to this generation. Very few have a desire to take their Bible and lock themselves away in a corner and try and grow spiritually on their own. They have a hard time (and rightfully so) seeing how such spiritual growth can take place void of community. Getting together with other Jesus followers, sharing life together, and sharing their own stories of Who God has revealed Himself to be in their lives is nothing short of a necessity.
The Power of the Story
Why is this so important, and how can you & I learn to integrate story into our ministry to young adults?
Story involves them in the process
The worst thing you can do is to spend your entire time together dominating the conversation. Much of our role in leading young adults is to help facilitate discussion and interaction. Encourage them to share their insights, perspectives, and personal stories of what they know and have experienced related to the conversation.
Story helps them put context on spiritual concepts
There is a reason Jesus used storytelling more than any other teaching approach. It is the same reason sharing stories today can be so effective. Stories help us to wrap spiritual truths and concepts in contexts that we can understand. By hearing the story of a loving father forgiving and embracing his wayward son, we can better understand the forgiving and loving nature of God because we can better relate to the story beyond just the truth alone. In the same way, hearing a story of how someone has experiencing life-altering forgiveness in their own life can accomplish the same thing.
Story connects them with something greater
God’s Word can be many things in our lives. There are times when we need it to be that ‘Manual’ for how to respond to situations we face. With young adults we need to help reconnect them with God’s Word as the Grand Storybook. Mind you, this is no bedtime collection of fairy tales – the names, places, and stories are real accounts of God interacting and interceding with humanity. But it is a storybook, nonetheless, recounting story after story of God revealing Himself to people just like you & I.
There are things that we will only learn about God, I believe, by hearing them from other people. God is too great and our lives are too short to ever scratch the surface of the reality of Who He is. When we open God’s Word and read the stories of how He showed Himself to the people within it, our understanding of Who He is in our own lives expands. The same is true when we allow young adults to share their own stories. In this very real way the stories from God’s Word continue. We read God’s Grand Storybook and get the sense that we’ll get to the end and find the common disclaimer, “to be continued…” God’s story is still being written on the hearts of young adults. Allow them to share it.