Shaped by the Story

A while back I read a book on Chronological Storytelling. It told of the process that missionaries use to teach the Bible to non-literate people. I remember thinking at the time how great that would be for student ministry. Students aren’t exactly illiterate, they are what I like to call post literate. They know how to read and write, but reading and writing isn’t how they process information. Here are a couple of quotes from Shaped by the Story.

First, a good majority of the students struggled with reading and comprehension. Many couldn’t define simple words and struggled with reading aloud. This was especially surprising coming from upper-middle class families within highly rated school systems. Yet, basic literacy is essential to many Bible-study methods, so this was a big problem. (20)
Writing and reading are becoming a means to manipulate other media. (49)

I picked up this book Shaped by the Story by Mike Novelli and was immediately thrown back into those ideas. Finally someone else took the time to talk about story and how it relates to youth ministry. Novelli has a site that has a host of storying resources. I have to say that I was pretty excited about it.

As I have been reading through this book and thinking about storying again I find myself getting excited. I am a storyteller. Whatever else I play around with at my heart I want to tell stories. So I think I am going to take my students on a journey through the Bible starting in Genesis and going all the way through Christ’s ascension. The idea is to tell the Bible in such a way that all of the many parts connect and students are able to see God’s story as more than just verses to live by, but as an complete narrative of redemption.

I am excited because I have seen how much stories can change lives. Here is a great quote from the book.

The new conversations, on which our very lives depend, require a poet not a moralist. Because finally people are like other people; we are not changed by new rules. The deep places in our lives–places of resistance and embrace–are not ultimately reached by instruction. Those places of resistance and embrace are reached only by stories, by images, metaphors and phrases that line out the world differently apart from fear or hurt. (Walter Brueggermann)

This past Wednesday I did a little pre-story sort of talk that you may find helpful. The basic idea came from Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

When we let the things we have seen slip from our minds we will find ourselves in trouble. When we forget the basic of our own God story we can start believing anything. Just take a look at the Israelites. They saw God drop 10 plagues on the Egyptians, walked through the Red Sea, we led by fire and cloud, and were fed by mana and still made a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sanai. They forgot their own story.

So on Wednesday after I walked through some of my story (I talked about how someone could come to me and tell me that my dad who died 20 years ago this month didn’t love me, but I wouldn’t believe it because I remember the stories that proved his love) I had them write their own God story or at least a few chapters of it and then we broke into groups and they shared some of their story. It was pretty fun night.

I will keep you posted on how the storytelling through the Bible progresses.


One thought on “Shaped by the Story

  • October 21, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    As the mother of five, I was online loking for an art project to teach my twin 7 year olds about the 10 plagues. I ran across your web site and was blown away at your heart! We need more youth pastors like you! Your desire to teach and share about THE ONE TRUE GOD is so apparent. May God bless you and your ministry and may it be used powerfully for HIS kingdom purposes!


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