A teacher in our high school Sunday School class came to talk with me a couple of weeks ago. He had run the students through an outline of the Old Testament and was beginning to talk about the NT. In between, he wanted to make sure that the material was engaging the class. What could he do, he asked, to make the topics they had covered grab onto the lives of the students?

"Tell your story," I told him. "Show them how the things you learned from the Bible changed your life." I was a little surprised, since he is a very articulate man of God, that he had not taken the time to do so already.

Three questions are important in exploring youth ministry methodology today.

1. How do we let our students know why the traditions we teach them are important to their lives? I am convinced that a great deal of the perceieved rebellion against faith doesn't have to do with the specific depravity of this generation. Instead, I believe it is connected more to the lack of elders who tell their stories and paint the picture of how the traditions continue to change lives today.
In fact, I can come close to proving it. A major study detailed in the 2005 book "Soul Searching" by Christian Smith showed that young people are not opposed to having and living faith; extrapolating from that, what they need are examples of how faith is genuinely lived.
Many members of Lutheran churches in the Northern Great Lakes Synod have traveled to the Eastern and Coastal Diocese of Tanzania to build a library at the Kisarawe school, and they come back with stories of rich traditions that have continued unbroken for hundreds of years in the same villages where they began. A key to these traditions is the togetherness of many generations in each family. While the younger members work to improve the family's circumstances, the older ones who have stepped back from the daily business preserve the history of the people.
And today in America, so many of the elders live in communities made up of other elders, telling each other the stories.

2. How do we bring back a rich tradition of storytelling, using all the resources our technology and growth as a world has given us? When Christ taught, he used images the people of his day would recognize; literary devices that were taught to his friends from their childhood; and all the technology that was available to him-- when used by a speaker to project voice and allow him to be seen and heard by his whole audience, boats and hillsides count as technology. Today, we have a technosphere like nothing the world has ever seen, and the people with the richest traditions and best stories to tell seem afraid to use them, as though the objects themselves could taint the message. At the National Youth Workers' Convention in Nashville this year, I was thrilled to see workshops on technology being held and well attended at nearly every session. The story we have to tell retains all its power regardless of the method of its telling, but if our delivery engages all the senses this generation uses most, would it hurt?

3. How do we prepare the current adult generation to be the elders?

As a start, Paul Hill and David Anderson, in "Frogs Without Legs Can't Hear" suggest breaking down the lines between generations that, unnatural as it is, we have grown. On a practical level, although it is the most uncomfortable thing for me to do, I am looking for ways to get my students into nursing homes, to worship and visit with the residents and begin to hear the stories of faith they need to model on.

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