Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Youth Ministry and Narrative Intelligence: Chris Folmsbee

posted by Scot McKnight

As announced last week, Chris Folmsbee will blog at Jesus Creed about youth ministry. I’m keen that we develop more sensitivity to youth ministries and ministers, and Chris is at the cutting edge of what is going on.

The more I thought about the conversations surrounding last weeks post
on re-thinking mission in youth ministry, the more I thought about the
need for youth workers to also be re-thinking the idea of narrative in
youth ministry. 

I am hearing a wonderful amount of chatter around ‘story’ and the art
of storytelling in youth ministry.  What I am thinking more about these
days, however, isn’t our ability to craft good stories and tell them
well.  What I have been absorbed by lately is what is commonly referred
to by some as narrative intelligence, which is the ability and capacity
to think in story.  
Thinking in story is critical for a meaningful connection between a
person’s story, the story of a particular community and God’s story. So
the question lingering in my mind and heart is, how do we help our
students raise their narrative intelligence? 
In other words, how do we
help the students in our faith communities engage more deeply in the
enduring, unfolding narrative of God?



Tantamount to the mission of God we thought about last week is the narrative of God for it is out of God’s narrative that mission is first and most deeply understood and acted out.  It is out of mission that we might interact with our worlds — not just with logic, reason and information but also with meaning.  The ability to think in story furnishes our students’ lives with the ability to generate context and meaning from the stories of Scripture, their experience, reason, culture, etc.  How do we help our students generate context and meaning from the mission of God to help them live more closely aligned to the intended ways of God?

Last week when I mentioned that youth ministry might be “on hold” what I was referring to was that our commitment to think theologically, organize philosophically and act practically about mission was in need of renovation.  The more I think about it, the only way we can truly renovate our commitment to being missional in and to our communities is to go back to the source, God’s narrative, to find our purpose for youth ministry.  That purpose (derived from our mission which is derived from God’s narrative) of youth ministry is to participate in God’s restoration of the world toward its intended wholeness. 

Youth ministry has to get unstuck and work its way toward extending the missio Dei through a creed of:
evangelism (where the message of the mission is proclaimed and performed),
contextualization (where the message of the mission is made more accessible culturally sensitive)
liberation (where the message of the mission sets students free from the hesitations and hindrances that keep them from their belief in a loving God) and
impartation (where the message of the mission is about the converting of culture from hearers of the story to storytellers). 

Ultimately, this helps students think in story, raising their narrative intelligence.

I’m certain that youth ministry (through mission yielded people like you and me and a globe full of others) can make its way toward a place as described above, but how?  In what ways might we more deeply commit to a narrative-missional approach to youth ministry?  What is it going to take to realize this commitment?  What is keeping youth ministry from this commitment?  Why is it so much easier to be committed to attractional, social or externally focused approaches?

I’d love to know what you think.



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Bob Anderson

posted March 12, 2009 at 6:29 am


Good stuff, Scott. Narrative intelligence will be increased by sharing the personal stories of “God encounters” and then by listening cross culturally to other’s stories. These stories will be woven into new fabrics of mission as they are connected with God’s redemptive story.



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Robert

posted March 12, 2009 at 7:28 am


Tex Sample speaks a lot about knowing our story and how we might go about placing our story within God’s story. It doesn’t hurt that he is also an awesome story teller! I’ve heard him speak and his story telling approach really draws you into the message of the gospel.



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 7:49 am


What is the purpose of Youth Ministry?
I ask this because it seems to me that the discussion in this post and the previous one jumps into a swamp with out a clear intent. These are important issues to wrestle with – and what I see here is a mass of good ideas without direction.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 12, 2009 at 7:55 am


Bob,
This post is from Chris Folmsbee (not Scot).
RJS,
I’m guessing for Chris here but he might say the purpose is to get students into the missio Dei, the Story of what God’s doing in this world.



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Joey

posted March 12, 2009 at 8:23 am


I don’t make a habit of blaming churches for things but in this case I think that one of our hindrances is the expectations that our churches put on us and on our ministries, especially for younger pastors like myself.
I say this with a modicum of hesitation because of the implications this has on my own ministry, but if we as youth workers wish to change the culture of youth ministry we have to commit to staying in a community for a generation. We have to raise up students and see them become volunteers and we have to help them capture a passion for missio dei in their hearts.
I feel like we get all the way to the point of helping students experience God’s Mission in their own lives, but we fall short in helping them become participants in that mission. Can true mission happen outside of the context of community? Can individualism lead to mission? I have trouble believing that it can, but it is so hard to facilitate genuine community within a people group when their culture is sending them the exact opposite message.
Sorry, I ask a lot of questions.



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 8:54 am


Scot,
I think that Joey (#5) captures some of what I was trying to get at – and will expand upon here.
I think that the purpose of Youth Ministry is to make disciples, a statement that must be unpacked.
First, we need a vision of what a disciple is.
Second, we need a plan for getting there.
Third, we need a commitment of community (a community of disciples).
A disciple will love the Lord his/her God with all his/her heart, soul, mind, and strength. A disciple will love his (I will bow to convention and stop using both genders) neighbor as himself. A disciple will commit to and participate in the missio dei. A disciple will produce disciples.
I think a good model for the plan for getting there is found in the pre-med/med school approach. This includes teaching, mentoring, community, practicuum, apprenticeship. Doctors-to-be learn in the classroom, by doing in controlled laboratory situation, by stepping out in service in the process, by working under the mentorship and supervision of doctors, and so on. The goal is to make doctors, peers, out of students. This deserves to be unpacked more as well.
I sometimes think that the third element – the community of disciples – is the hardest part.



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chris folmsbee

posted March 12, 2009 at 9:15 am


RJS,
Purpose of youth ministry (in my opinion) is the same purpose of the church; to participate in God’s mission to restore the world to its intended wholeness.
Joey,
Great thoughts on community. No, I don’t think that mission happens outside of community. The mission is God’s and the work if the mission i assigned to the church and the church is a people — a community.



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matt

posted March 12, 2009 at 9:15 am


One thing about the last post (RJS): I’m not sure that we need a vision as much as we need to throw ourselves headlong into the story. Some of the best writing occurs when the author is open and willing to allow the story to take him/her in directions that were unplanned and unexpected. I think that one of shortcomings of our present youth ministry process is that we do start out with a fixed idea of what a disciple of Christ should look like and in turn sacrifice the variety and creativity that God wants to unleash on the world.
That’s why I think we need to reimagine the role of the prophetic in our ministries. No, I’m not referring to fire, brimstone, or a run on camel hair sportcoats. Instead I suggest that we should begin to view ourselves as editors. It is our job to help students find their unique voices in this world. With gentle correction and loving, empowering suggestions we help them write their own chapter of this Story We Find Ourselves In (Holla B_McLaren). Let’s trust God to do something new with this generation. Sorry-kinda long.



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chris folmsbee

posted March 12, 2009 at 9:19 am


Joey,
Sorry, the statement I made in response to your questions about community should read:
Great thoughts on community. No, I don’t think that mission happens outside of community. The mission is God’s and the work of the mission is assigned to the church and the church is a people — a community.



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 9:25 am


chris (#7)
Then we don’t need youth ministry – we only need church.
But I don’t think that this is right. We need youth ministry because without intentional discipleship we will have no meaningful church able to participate in the missio dei.
Matt (#8),
I am a university professor – no one teaches an effective class, training students, making peers – by throwing one’s self headlong into the subject (only). There has to be plan an vision or it is a random hit and miss meander through a swamp.



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chris folmsbee

posted March 12, 2009 at 9:47 am


RJS,
I think youth ministry is church. This is one of the reasons why youth ministry is where it is today — on hold. So many folks feel as though youth ministry is the minor leagues for church as if we are developing the next decades great players.
Yes, intentional discipleship is an important part of participating in God’s mission– but discipleship or formation for what? The missio Dei, right? This means that we need to have a fuller context and meaning for what discipleship is and I think that best comes from a understanding of God’s mission through God’s narrative thus helping raise our students’ narrative intelligence.



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Geoff

posted March 12, 2009 at 9:54 am


RJS: I think the med school analogy is an interesting one, I agree the idea of discipling has to be forefront in our minds to be a part of the mission of God. In light of our segmenting generations, I agree at this point doing away with youth ministry is not really an option. I find that there is way too much subjectivity in many youth pastors approach to discipling.
Chris hits on something though, the “commitment to think theologically, organize philosophically and act practically about mission was in need of renovation”. This will be the tough work. Not only do we have a message that is contradicted by the culture around them, it can often be contradicted by the church culture around them.
I look forward to where this discussion goes.



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T

posted March 12, 2009 at 10:09 am


I agree with both Chris & RJS re: the purpose of youth ministry. Chris says it’s the same as the church, “to participate in God’s mission to restore the world to its intended wholeness.” Of course, we do that by becoming disciples of Jesus (the One who reveals and embodies God’s mission and wholeness), who can and do make disciples of others.
In reformatting our church-plant (which is coming out of a parachurch ministry to inner-city youth), we’ve felt a real call to, in the words of Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” That has led us into talking frequently about “what’s the point of all this stuff that God has done and is doing?” We’re essentially reviewing the Book for the end or the goal has in mind for all this work he’s put into creation, climaxing in the cross and resurrection. What does he hope to result from all of this effort? For us, that End is functional and functioning Christlike character. So we’re constantly using the narrative as the spring board for what we say and do.
Believing functional and functioning Christlikeness is the cornerstone of God’s goal and hope, we invite folks (kids and adults) into the process of getting on board with that goal as Jesus’ apprentice, getting whatever help one can from God and others. We talk about God’s goal for us being too hard, too long to undertake solo with any success. We need friends, co-laborers. We use the analogy of trying to physically work out or some other change of habit on our own vs. doing it with a friend or two. Then we encourage folks to pick a plan towards Christlikeness (we use the 12 steps a lot) and find a partner or two to work the plan with.
RJS, your points remind me of Willard’s Vision, Intention and Means (his ‘pattern’ for any change).



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matt

posted March 12, 2009 at 10:17 am


RJS (10):
I, too am a university professor and I agree that there has to be a sort of “end in mind.” However, I would suggest that the sense that should play the most prominent role in reaching that end is not vision, but instead hearing. I know when I begin my classes that I want to cover a particular topic and make sure that I pass on certain information about said topic. However, I always find myself suprised by my students’ reponses and even by my responses to their responses. I’m not against intentionality just the rigid process that often accompanies it (please don’t think that I am suggesting this about you). It’s just that I’ve seen too many “round” kids crammed into a “square” hole because they did not fit a youth pastor’s vision of what a mature young christian should look like. By the way, I kinda like swamps.



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T

posted March 12, 2009 at 10:22 am


And, Chris, I agree about “for what” re: Christlikeness. We frequently talk about God’s intention is to make the whole world (God, humans, creation) functional again (working for each part’s good). One of Christ’s characteristics that we often talk about was that he was in no way part of “the problem”–he didn’t give himself to anyone’s agenda, not even his own, except for the Father’s. In order to be a functioning, healing part of God’s Solution in our circles, we need to pursue the same kind of character and disposition to only give ourselves to God’s goals, to ready ourselves to embody his love and power only.
On this, one of the cool things with teenagers, I’ve noticed, is that they are more receptive to the radical and costly call to discipleship, the way Jesus himself presents it, than most adults are. They recognize that drastic measures are necessary to have any hope of overcoming all the evil within and without. Is that your experience?



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Derek Swanson

posted March 12, 2009 at 11:17 am


I agree with what is being said about a narrative approach. The trick is how does each each age or grade get connected to God’s narrative story? The reason I say that is because a 6th grade students mental development is way different than that of a high school senior.
Two examples from our ministry:
1) In our middle school confirmation programing we cover a lot of information. This is based on the tradition of the program rather than what narrative story they need to hear(a bummer in my opinion). But lately when we feel we don’t have enough time to cover the story or topic, we remind ourselves that we are not the last word in the students journey. So I think one way to establish God’s Narrative Story is to be very aware of the Students Journey or narrative story.
2) Fast forward to our Juniors High School small group. For Lent they have been watching and discussing Rob Bell’s “everything is spiritual”. This was a total jump into deeper discussions than any other year in their small group. And I think it is because of where their own narrative is and how they are ready to start connecting more dots along God’s narrative story. They had heard the small stories in middle school and now are developed to a place where they are seeing the bigger picture.
The problem is time. We don’t have a lot of High school students who attend after middle school, so the opportunities of “connecting the dots” in the narrative sometimes never get to surface. But that why we remind ourselves we aren’t the last word in their journey.
Those are my thoughts, I do get frustrated sometimes because I desire students to see God’s bigger picture quicker, but sometimes there own journey or narrative hasn’t arrived yet and they need just little tastes of God’s bigger story.



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Joey

posted March 12, 2009 at 11:48 am


Maybe an aspect that is missing from this conversation is one of what it means to be made in God’s image, as creators, and how that affects story.
RJS said, “I am a university professor – no one teaches an effective class, training students, making peers – by throwing one’s self headlong into the subject (only). There has to be plan an vision or it is a random hit and miss meander through a swamp.”
Matt said, “Some of the best writing occurs when the author is open and willing to allow the story to take him/her in directions that were unplanned and unexpected.”
I agree with both. But I think we’ve lost the artists touch in shaping our ministries. There are all of these aspects of art that are difficult, if not impossible, to lay down. But that doesn’t mean the artist doesn’t have a vision. Though, there is also freedom and creative navigating that happens. Each stroke of the brush is an adventure in that it might not look the way you had envisioned, but that as an artist you must stay with it until it is something beautiful; something created. We, like God, have the ability to plan and play. We plan by having and communicating ideas, even drawing a path on which we hope to follow, and we play by dancing through these ideas with grace and determination. Can we recapture what it means to be creators? Artists? Can we both be diligent in our craft and willing to rest in the mystery of story?



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 11:59 am


Chris,
Let me step back. In the post you say: That purpose (derived from our mission which is derived from God’s narrative) of youth ministry is to participate in God’s restoration of the world toward its intended wholeness.
This is true – but in a “so what” kind of way – and it is wrong because it puts the emphasis in the wrong place.
The purpose of discipleship in the church is to develop people who follow God and who participate in God’s restoration of the world. I like Chris Wright and Tom Wright as much as anyone here – and have read/listened to as much as I can get my hands on (slowly).
The purpose of youth ministry (ministry to youth) is the development and discipleship of people (students) who will participate in the mission of God. Everything should be intentional with this focus. But the purpose is not participation – the purpose is discipleship.



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm


matt
As one who was always the “round” kid being jammed into a “square” hole (now a “round” adult who fits into no appropriate “square” hole of the evangelical church) I certainly don’t advocate a one-size fits all rigidity. In fact good discipleship and mentorship must be flexible.
Chris (#11)
My guess is that we agree more than disagree. My main point is that we need intentionality in youth ministry, not aimless meandering – even if the stuff is basically good. Youth ministry isn’t the “minor league” in waiting for the real thing, it is part of the real thing. As part of the real thing it has a role to play – and that role is discipleship.



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm


Let me put it another way – say you have a high school youth group of 100 kids and all 100 participate over the summer in various missions – working in a community in Tijuana, digging a garden in an inner city neighborhood, building houses in Tennessee, assembling caregiver kits for aids workers in Rwanda, cleaning up the neighborhood school, Teaching at a VBS in a poor neighborhood. These all participate in the mission of God. Great stuff.
But if the kids come out of the experience feeling good about doing good – but without an appreciation for following Jesus, without knowing why this is part of the mission of God, without learning self-discipline, without a better understanding of the Gospel, without discipleship in their walk following God – then the “youth ministry” was a total and abject failure, even if the output participated in the greater mission of the church and the mission of God.



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Jon

posted March 12, 2009 at 12:49 pm


RJS, (esp. #6), I am normally one of your strongest critics, but in this particular discussion, i think you have so much to offer. I especially enjoyed your likening of discipleship to premed/med school. After thinking about it, that is how I have been unintentionally developing our youth ministry, simply because it makes sense to do so.
I would suggest that this whole missio dei/discipleship argument is moot. One cannot truly join the mission of God without being a disciple of Jesus, who is our model. On the other hand, one cannot be a disciple of Jesus without being sent into the world and taking his mission seriously. One cannot even be in the mission without a vision because the mission is visionary, with the resurrection in plain sight at the end of the mission.
To answer Chris’s question, the reason we settle for programs and flash over substance is because it is much easier to take a quantifiable measure of success based on numbers, hype, and programs rather than depth. Unfortunately, many churches push for quantifiable statistics rather than quality. Are we willing to risk losing our jobs because we shrink the youth group as a result of focusing on depth rather than breadth? For too many youth pastors, the answer is “no”.



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Jon

posted March 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm


Joey (and by virtue of the quote, Matt), who is doing the writing here? Is it us? Are we writing the mission of God? Obviously the answer is a resounding “no”. The fact is that we have the story already planned out ahead of us. WHile we fill in the details, the major plot points have been charted for us. We are not the authors of a story, we are, if anything, the actors in a drama (or characters in the story, subject to the will of the Author to stay with the narrative metaphor).
So we do not free-wheel/go with the flow. . . well, we should not. We intentionally (to use an rjs term) facilitate cultures/environments/gardens where students can hear God and react accordingly. Which is really Chris’s original point, I think.



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matt

posted March 12, 2009 at 1:34 pm


All good points. I do not mean to suggest that we are the primary authors of “THE STORY.” I do, however, see our part as being more than merely acting out the script that has been handed to us. We are asked to recount, to retell “THE STORY” in our own particular way. That’s why I answer Joey(17)’s questions: “Can we recapture what it means to be creators? Artists? Can we both be diligent in our craft and willing to rest in the mystery of story?” with a resounding, Dang! I sure hope so.
My question to Jon (22) is: do the gardens that you and RJS refer to leave room for the occasional wildflower that seemingly pops out of nowhere? If so, I’m down with it.
(This is fun isn’t it.)



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Joey

posted March 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm


Jon @ #22
I think we may have a theological disagreement but that isn’t really worth going into on here but I have one question:
What is the difference between “free-wheel/go with the flow” and an environment where, “students can hear God and react accordingly”? I might be wrong but I didn’t think I advocated making up a plan as we go along. It is God’s mission. Nobody has said otherwise. I just think he created us to be creative within the confines of that mission. The very idea of “react accordingly” is what I was trying to advocate.



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm


matt,
Not wildflowers – blue parakeets – we make a place for blue parakeets.
But of course…



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Joey

posted March 12, 2009 at 1:49 pm


Jon @ 21
“One cannot truly join the mission of God without being a disciple of Jesus, who is our model. On the other hand, one cannot be a disciple of Jesus without being sent into the world and taking his mission seriously.”
Yup!



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Erik Leafblad

posted March 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm


@RJS —
I think what is missing in this discussion is what it means to participate in the mission of God. What does participation look like? You say the goal is discipleship, not participation. I say, discipleship just is participation. The mission of God is not just restoration of the world in some vague, general sense because God’s mission is a Christocentric mission. In other words, to invite students to participate in the mission of God is to remind them that it is Christ who calls them to participate, and it is Christ who they are following in their participation, and it is Christ whose mission gives shape, meaning, and purpose to their participation. Knowing Chris quite well, and having discussions with him about this stuff, what you are suggesting is what I’m quite certain he has in mind. But, I’ll let him speak for himself.



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Erik Leafblad

posted March 12, 2009 at 2:19 pm


Apparently I should have read the comments more closely. My bad for restating what others have already said.



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JMorrow

posted March 12, 2009 at 2:25 pm


Seems as though we are discussing multiple topics around the youth ministry issues presented. RJS seems to be rightly questioning whether we have fully thought out the difference between action and reflection, theory and practice, discipleship and mission. But like Jon just stated, I think the differences themselves, in light of the context of Missio Dei, become mute. The “duality” needs to be thought of as “mutuality” between two different ways of knowing God and participating in God’s mission. If its not mutuality, its not Missio Dei, plain and simple.
Being not that far removed from young adulthood myself, I realize how young people often run in parallel worlds. Many of the activities we would have them do under the guise of the Church, they already do through school or other organizations. The service projects, arts lessons, enrichment activities for many are available elsewhere. There were seasons when I did so many extracurriculars they constituted I felt I double majored in them. I just never thought I the Church as an outlet for these activiteis. So frankly if the Church merely desires to mimic these opportunities, the result will be a neverending game of catch-up. But if the Church wants to offer opportunities for service coupled with depth-filled reflection and toward a new direction (or end), then I think it will have something unique to offer. That coupling will put the Church in a position to teach young people something they don’t already know. In my high school/college years thats something I would have soaked up quite readily.



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Jon

posted March 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm


Joey @ 24, I was responding and critiquing your quote of matt: “Some of the best writing occurs when the author is open and willing to allow the story to take him/her in directions that were unplanned and unexpected.”
This quote refers to us as the primary authors, and assumes that we, rather than God, are in ultimate control of a story that I would not even consider our own to develop in these ways. I see a danger of trying to force God’s story into our own rather than dying to ourselves, and being risen in a community that participates in a story already organized, though not flushed out. We run the danger of overemphasizing our own (and the students’) autonomy and falling prey to our culture of consumption and egoism. I’ve really appreciated Scot’s posts regarding igens these last few weeks for this very reason.
To directly answer your question, free-wheeling in my first post was a description of control more than anything else. One view allows room for a unique expression of the story in a certain context under the organization of the Great Author. In other words, we are free to influence the content of the story, but are subject to the Author. Or, using the garden analogy, we cultivate a unique group of flowers, wild and otherwise, depending on our context, but the garden itself is cultivated, and weeded (not all wild flowers are equal afterall) by the Gardener. It’s really a question of submission and surrender.
While the problem I have with the quote may be semantic at its core, I think it exposes a common problem within many ministries today, viewing God as a cosmic vending machine and fitting his will into my life rather than celebrating a baptismal life of death and resurrection into the family of God and her story.
My point was simply that we have an outline to work with, and we needn’t rewrite the script completely since it was not even our story to begin with.



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RJS

posted March 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm


Erik, Chris,
Yes discipleship is participation, and a very important form of participation.
We have a hospital and medical school within sight of my office (if I could demolish a few intervening buildings). The purpose of the hospital is to cure people. The purpose of the medical school is to train doctors to cure people. Both are participating in the same ultimate goal of course, and the medical school is a subset of the hospital. But the medical school is designed to effectively build people who will be able to contribute effectively to the overall goal. So the program is designed to make peers (doctors) out of students. If the medical school cures people without training students it has failed and everything that it does is designed with the goal of producing better doctors (ideally).
As I see it we have a church to participate in God’s restoration of the world toward its intended wholeness. We have a youth ministry within the church to build disciples who will participate in the mission of God and the mission of the church.
Now – I think that what I am saying is in accord with your (Chris’s) intent. Everything done in youth ministry should be directed toward this goal of making disciples and furthering the mission of God. It isn’t minor league, social club. And I am certainly not advocating an attractional, social or externally focused approach.
I also am not quite sure what is meant by intended by the four focus points though (evangelism, contextualization, liberation and impartation )
And I would be interested in answers to the initial and final questions. How do we raise “narrative intelligence” and “what keeps youth ministry from committing to this”?



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Joey

posted March 12, 2009 at 3:05 pm


RJS said, “And I would be interested in answers to the initial and final questions. How do we raise “narrative intelligence” and “what keeps youth ministry from committing to this”?”
I remember reading, in an Intercultural Communication class, that storytelling in some cultures is a form of conflict resolution. For instance, if two youth were involved in a dispute an elder might sit them down and tell them a folk parable, one that his father told him, and so on. The answer in these parables is never obvious, but as the youth mature, the story becomes more clear to them. The more they experience, the more the story reveals itself as true.
I think that if we want to increase our “narrative intelligence” we first have to help create a culture of narratives. I know I wasn’t raised in a culture where truth was revealed through narrative (I just got bullet-points) but might I raise my children or the youth with whom I work in such a culture?



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Barb

posted March 12, 2009 at 3:16 pm


I’m on the west coast–most of you posted before I got up in the morning–giving me much to read on the topic I’m very passionate about.
Joey @5:
“we … have to commit to staying in a community for a generation.”
I so agree–and Churches need to encourage youth workers to do just that.
Chris @7:
“Purpose of youth ministry is the same purpose of the church …”
RJS @ 10: “Then we don’t need youth ministry – we only need church.”
Chris @11:”youth ministry IS church.” (I added the emphasis)
Chris–that’s how I would answer. Youth ministry must be in the DNA of the church (overused phrase, but I don’t know a better one) I truly believe that the older gens (me) must be involved in teaching the next gens. In many ways–not just Sunday morning stuff. This, to me, is the hardest sell in an older church.
Matt @14: “the most prominent role in reaching that end is not vision, but instead hearing”
Joey @17: “But I think we’ve lost the artists touch in shaping our ministries”
I agree with these whole heartedly–Missio Dei requires both sides of the brain–both in Youth Workers and in youth themselves. It’s messy–Joey, I like swamps too.



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matt

posted March 12, 2009 at 4:32 pm


I don’t know about the rest of you, but it certainly has been nice witnessing the passion that each of us have for this generation and our mission to have them contect with and be swept up by God’s story. I only ask that God would continue to lead us in leading the next generation.



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BeckyR

posted March 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm


What do you mean when you use the word “narrative”? – God’s narrative or student’s narrative. thx



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chris folmsbee

posted March 12, 2009 at 10:30 pm


Becky (@35) —
When I use the word narrative as it relates to ‘narrative intelligence’ I am referring to God’s narrative. However, I do think it is also important to help students understand their own stories especially when it comes to helping them discover their calling and identity in and for the mission of God.
Matt (@34) —
Totally! Gotta love the passion!
Joey (@32) —
Love your comments on creating a culture of narratives. How can we create such a culture?
RJS (@31 and a whole bunch of others) :)
Making disciples is what we do, you are right. Or at least it is what we should do. At the risk of looking like a champion brownnose, if we use Scot’s definition (from Jesus Creed) of “…a disciple is one who engages with Jesus as a person by trusting in Him and because of that relationship begins to live out the virtues Jesus talks about” I am totally good with that. I guess I have just seen way to many folks stop at “because of that relationship.” In other words, there is not enough participation in what God is doing in the world, simply a contentedness to intellectually be aware of what Jesus has done for them, accept that reality and then do nothing to live, love and lead in the way of Jesus — or live out his virtues.
Largely, I think this comes from a lack of context and meaning for who Jesus is. I wonder if it isn’t the limited view of the gospel that students are taught that keep them from embracing a much more robust gospel — a full narrative gospel that allows them to be a disciple that participates in God’s mission to restore the world to its intended wholeness. Therefore, I wish to help youth workers and church leaders think about how we might raise the narrative intelligence of our students, giving them a deeper context and meaning for their own life, as a disciple.
Derek (@16) —
I love this phrase, “…we aren’t the last word in their journey.” I have been thinking of that statement you made all day. Thanks.



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Sue Van Stelle

posted March 13, 2009 at 1:56 am


I’ve been reading this and the former post w/ great interest, and only now have gotten the chance to respond. I’d like to throw something in the mix which considers this from a different angle:
How do we raise “narrative intelligence”? I come at this question from the perspective of a former English teacher who is sometimes frustrated by how little the youth in my youth group are able to engage with ANY story. My experience has been that the skills youth need to hear/read a story and process it in such a way that it connects to their own story, not to mention that they then act out of the story, are skills that don’t get high teaching priority in their classrooms. Can anyone name a standardized test which measures narrative intelligence? Do scholarships get offered for that? Sometimes I wonder if it is time to go back to doing what Sunday school was originally invented to do: teach children to read.
But I wonder why we are asking about raising youth’s narrative intelligence without also asking about raising the adults’ narrative intelligence. On an average Sunday, is the sermon formatted according to narrative intelligence? Are small group studies? Bible classes? Where does it happen at all? (Perhaps my church is the only one represented where this does not happen; if so then I must repent of jealousy.)
What keeps youth ministry from committing to this? Perhaps no one else is doing it either! You expect the youth pastor/director/leader to pull this off alone?
Two sentences haunt me from Christian Smith’s study back in 2005 (or 2006) called Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of America’s Teenagers.
The first is: “They will become what you are.” This pertains most strongly to parents, but also to congregations. The more highly committed to faith the parents are, the more likely it is that their teens will be as well. For kids that don’t have committed parents, the next best bet is connecting them with at least five adults who are walking out a mature faith. (The five adults statistic comes from something from Fuller Youth Institute, but I don’t have it with me right now.)
The second haunting sentence is: “You get back what you invest, and normally not a lot more.” This applies to congregations. Again, my experience may be an anomaly, but where do the youth fall in the congregation’s priority list? What percentage of the congregation’s financial, time, people, and strategy resources go to youth ministry? In my experience, the youth program is often the first thing to get cut. Another observation is that once a congregation hires youth staff, it acts as though its responsibility to youth is completely fulfilled.
Someone above mentioned something about time. Yes. If we are going to have narrative intelligence, we need to have time with kids to teach them in depth, and we need support from parents and a congregation who EXPECT the youth to have narrative intelligence. We are also going to need an entire congregation with narrative intelligence, acting it out in a tangible way and able to articulate why it acts in such a manner.
I’d be willing to bet my mini-van that if you immerse a child in a community like that, your investment will go out and change the world.



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BeckyR

posted March 13, 2009 at 1:33 pm


What’s God’s narrative?



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Joey

posted March 13, 2009 at 2:13 pm


#38 @ BeckyR
Revelation 21:5 “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.'”
Revelation 21:1-2 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Here is a really good diagram that tries to capture an outline of God’s narrative:
http://awakening.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/04/10/image.jpg



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Barb

posted March 13, 2009 at 6:17 pm


Sue @37–it sounds like we go to different churches together :) and read the same books–Here is my dilema–why do so few in the church think this way? (I think the connection to 5 adults comes from Chap Clark). I just took our Youth Director out for a farewell lunch since we have done away with her position in our church. One of the volunteer leaders got up last Sunday during worship and asked for people to fill out a card that was in the bulletin–to connect them with one youth for prayer, encouragement, know their name, etc. Out of about 200 people present about 10 cards came in.



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RJS

posted March 13, 2009 at 7:57 pm


Chris,
You said:
Largely, I think this comes from a lack of context and meaning for who Jesus is. I wonder if it isn’t the limited view of the gospel that students are taught that keep them from embracing a much more robust gospel — a full narrative gospel that allows them to be a disciple that participates in God’s mission to restore the world to its intended wholeness.
I think that you are dead on here – a limited, somewhat superficial (sometimes) view of the gospel plus a social club doesn’t effectively build disciples. Part of my point was that youth ministry is important, it isn’t something that “just happens” and it isn’t something that “anyone” can do without mentoring and planning. To be done well it has to be done with intent – and the first step is defining the purpose, because every aspect should then work together to forward that goal so much as possible.



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Joel Daniel

posted March 15, 2009 at 10:27 pm


@Sue Van Steele
that 5 adults per student stat sounds vaguely familiar, but i can’t find it. can you find it’s original location & post?



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