When the Gospel Grabs

When I walked into my new office, the first thing I did was dig through the bookshelves and see what resources the church already owned that I could use to spread the message to our teenagers. A lot of the standards were waiting for me: Doug Fields' "Purpose Driven Youth Ministry," Mark DeVries' "Family-Based Youth Ministry," and several volumes each of the "Ideas" library series and "Talksheets" for middle and high school. Each week, I pull something new off the shelf and dig through it to better understand the tools I have.

When I found out I had a budget that worked, my first stop was the bookstore, where I ordered several "Gospel According To" books: "The Gospel According to Harry Potter, "The Gospel According to the Simpsons" and "The Gospel According to Disney." If I am going to be an effective youth minister, I said to myself, I will understand how to sneak the Word into youth culture. Like a computer virus programmer, I must know all the backdoors and weak spots to use.

This week, I am polishing the message for our middle school retreat, and racking my brain and bookshelf for stories, anecdotes, jokes, quotations that will push aside the disinterest and lack of knowlege we fight in our youth and open their minds to the story that's behind the light words I begin with.

As I sit at my desk and my headache grows, the picture of a long-haired, dark-dressed young man falls into my memory, from the high school retreat two weekends ago. In our program time, I gave the students about twenty minutes to wrestle with Scripture one-on-one, just each student and the Bible. I gave them three basic questions to think on, and then we came together to share what we'd learned and wondered. "I read this story," the young man said, "and then I read the next one. It really made me want to go on and find out what else happened."

Without any brand names, without any special instructions, the Scripture had reached out and grabbed one of my students by the face. All by itself, the words of the Bible made him want to read more. I was amazed and humbled. Amazed because most of my preparation for youth events boils down to adding cushions to the Word so my students can ease into it, and humbled because if I remember to let it run, Scripture will always have that effect on someone, in some way.

For our next retreat, we will use the same activity. I don't expect to see the results in the same way, but I will not try to take so much control of the Scripture that I take away from the power of the raw Word.

As a help to anyone who wants to try this activity, the questions I used are borrowed from Rev. Kelly Fryer's "No Experience Necessary" Bible study, and they are:

1) What is God doing in this story?
2) What does this story say to you personally?
3) What does this story say to us as a small group, congregation, community or nation?

1 comment:

theoquest said...

Good perspective. Resources are great, but nothing changes lives like the living Word of our loving God.