Last week, I was privileged to accompany some youth on a local mission trip in and around Lexington, Kentucky. On Friday night of our youth mission trip, we offered our youth and leader participants the chance to tell their story. You see, our theme for the trip was “How Far I’ve Come” and we listened to those we serve share their story of how they ended up where they were in their story and how God showed up in their own journeys. It seemed right to offer our youth the same opportunity.
We offered space to let each one, as they desired, tell their story as we’ve heard others do. And they did. Some with tears. Some with relief. Some with reluctance. Some with hope. Some with all of those wrapped up in one.
But you know what was so incredibly special to me in those moments, something that has stuck with me since that night? After each person told their story and ended with saying, “And that’s my story,” the rest of the group immediately responded with “Thank you” and clapped for them. Think about that for a moment.
These youth recognized that they had been invited into a sacred space, into a personal life journey, into an individual’s story and their natural response was to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey. Thank you for letting me into this sacred space. Thank you for showing that kind of love, the kind of love that would lay down one’s life (one’s fears, one’s hurts, one’s hopes) for another by opening up and offering a way in. It was by far one of the most moving moments for me, watching these young people and their leaders express gratitude for the opportunity to listen. They recognized the courage, the bravery, and the humility it took each one to share.
Storytelling is part of the human experience. Before we had written text, traditions and faith were passed down orally through the generations in the form of story.. In a book called Family: The Forming Center, Marjorie Thompson says that we can connect our faith through story with the use of three forms of story.
- Personal stories are about us, things that happened to us in our lifetime. My kids absolutely love it when my husband and I share stories about “when we were kids.” These stories are even more powerful when we connect them to how God has been real in our lives.
- Ancestral stories about generations before us. The Bible says we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witness,” heroes of the faith that have gone before us and left us a legacy in the form of lives lived and lives given for Christ. I’ll never forget the first time my mom gave me a book by Corrie Ten Boom and I read about the powerful life lived by this Holocaust survivor who loved others and God so much she literally impacted millions of lives. In fact, her impact on my life continues to this day.
- Biblical stories about the characters in God’s Word. In the superhero-saturated environment kids are growing up in, why not help your kids explore the men and women of God in the pages of the Bible? These faithful witnesses were far from perfect and yet God used them to change the world and even change our lives.
Why the emphasis on story?
Well, if we want to step back and look at the Bible broadly, to examine what Dr. Scottie May of Wheaton calls the “metanarrative” of Scripture, we are going to see a grand and beautiful rescue story . For kids, I use just 4 symbols to tell the story. The first symbol is a red heart, second is a black lightening bold, third is a brown cross, and finally another red heart. From that emerges this simple but beautiful story:
We had a perfect love relationship with God, sin separated us from the love and God used the cross and the sacrifice of His son to bring about a perfect love relationship with him again if we so desire.
I know that we debate the details of this story and we create denominations based on interpretations and translations and alliterations BUT this metanarrative is THE STORY that encompasses the Bible and this is the story we need to connect our kids to in meaningful everyday ways.
It’s not enough that kids know God is love; they must know that love is active and drawing them to Him in everyday, normal life because that is where faith and action live together.
The beautiful thing about story is that story invites us to be an active participant in what is happening. We are welcomed into a space and offered the chance to interact with someone on a deeply personal level. That’s what God does for us. And as those who desire to share the love of God with generations who have come before us and after us, that’s what we need to do for them.
Here are a few ways your faith community might consider creating space for generations to connect around story.
- Legacy Videos: Take some time to sit down with older members of your church and ask them to record their story. It can be about a specific topic, a favorite memory, a general testimony – whatever is appropriate to your context. Then share those videos or clips of those videos with the younger generations or the congregation. Allow the stories to be heard.
- Story Wall: Using a hallway in your church, choose a theme like “I experienced God’s love when…” and provide space for people to write/draw and post their stories and hang them up. Once you’re done, collect the stories in a small booklet and give them out at Christmas to your church family. If you did this once a quarter, you could have a beautiful collection of faith forming stories to share.
- Progressive Dinner: This can be done one of two ways. First, you could host the whole dinner at your church and have people move to different tables or rooms with different host storytellers for each course (appetizer, entree, dessert) OR you could literally move an entire group from one home to another to hear stories and share a meal. Depending on the size and developmental needs of your church, you could come up with other variations. Key ingredients: A meal to share and stories to tell.
- “One Time I…”: Have you ever noticed that kids LOVE to start their stories this way? Offer families the prompt of “One Time I…” and create space for parents and kids to tell their stories at home. This is a great family night activity, dinner table conversation starter, or car ride discussion. If parents are willing, create a place for them to text or post the stories their families tell and collect them to create a gift for that family at some point in the future.
Looking for a way to help parents capture those discipleship moments at home?
ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.”
This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.
This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.
This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.
Interested in learning more?
Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!
For more information about…
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor at Plowshares BIC.
With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.
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