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
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.