The Stories We Tell

In youth ministry there is a lot of storytelling going on.

The Stories We Tell - Kindred Youth Ministry

Some of these stories are told around campfires, over a coke, or while taking a drive together. Often we have the chance to stand before kids we love, open stories from the Bible, and tell them in ways that allow the characters to leap off the page. The words we use are powerful, and the stories we tell can often land in the hearts of those we love in ways more impactful than we were ever aware.

However, our scripted efforts to invite young people into the reality of God’s love are only part of our storytelling.

Implicit Storytelling

I’m convinced the talks we give are only one aspect of the opportunity we have to tell of God’s love. What if we began to reframe every aspect of our youth ministries through story?

The stories that often go unchecked are the ones we tell with our actions. Every aspect of youth ministry could be understood as one more element of the grand story we are placing on display. The moment a middle school kid is dropped off they experience a story—we just hope it’s one of welcome, love, and acceptance.

The games we play and the songs we sing are another element of our storytelling. Were kids humiliated? Did we only call upon popular kids, or our youth group heroes to come up front? What kind of story does that tell?

Who are the youth ministry volunteers and leaders? Are they all young, beautiful, and “with it,” or is the whole body of Christ represented by this group of adults?

We have an opportunity to tell far more stories than just the ones in our talks if only we would pay attention.

Stories and Place-sharing

In my early years of youth ministry I was trained to walk the halls of the local high school and pray for kids. I would show up at practices, games, plays, and just be around. I was told that this was part of the proclamation of the good news and that somehow the relationship between my actions and my words would enable the young people I loved to understand more about the God I was pointing towards. I still believe this today.

We read of storytelling like this in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 where Paul describes the love he has for the church in Thessalonica as being on display both in their words, but in their actions; “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our very lives as well.” Here we understand that while our words indeed matter, the ways in which we put those words on display are also an important part of this announcing of God’s love. There must be continuity between our message and the means, or said another way—continuity of word and deed.

We never want to fall into the trap of either extreme, thinking that we need only words or just deeds. This would be a misunderstanding of the whole endeavor! Instead, we must understand that our words offer an explanation for our deeds, and our deeds put our words on display. When the two work hand in hand, both our words and our deeds, we are able to communicate with those we love more faithfully.

Actions Speak Loud(er)

I’m convinced the talks we give are only one aspect of the opportunity we have to tell of God’s love.

I’m convinced the talks we give are only one aspect of the opportunity we have to tell of God’s love.

What if we began to reframe every aspect of our youth ministries through story? What if from the moment a student arrived the storytelling began? What if our games, our songs, the people we involve, our leaders, even the spaces in which we meet all pointed collectively to the truth we so long to share?

What could this look like in your ministry? I’d love to see some ideas below in the comment section!

May we all be faithful storytellers, pointing with our words and deeds to the good news of Jesus Christ!


About the Author: Justin Forbes

Justin Forbes - Kindred Youth MinistryJustin serves as the director of the Youth Ministry program at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL and has been involved in youth ministry since 1998. He’s also a co-founder of Kindred Youth Ministry. His passion is teaching and mentoring youth ministers. Click here to read more about Justin.

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