Every youth ministry, not matter the size, denomination, or ethnicity, has a narrative. One year into serving at my current church, a tornado came a stole our church. We spent the next year rebuilding. Our youth ministry remembers that year. We met in other church youth rooms, we met in tiny tiny, restrictive room, but through it all we grew and ministry. That story defines us. We are a come back story, and overcoming story and held together until we could get our legs under us.
Jonah Berger’s STEPPS 6, and his last in his STEPPS of how to make something contagious, is Story Telling. When people ask about our youth ministry, how quick are we to tell them what we believe verses telling them a story about where God has brought us from and where we are going to? One of the main reasons the Christian and Jewish faith are so strong is because of the tradition of oral story telling, remembrance and celebration. What if the Bible were called the Greatest List of Rules, Ever instead of The Greatest Story Ever Told. The former has no traction and would actually repel people away (and does). What can we do as a youth ministry to help creat contagious stories?
Letting kids share in the weekly service is powerful. It builds faith and gives kids a chance to be interactive with the service don’t limit kids to sharing “how they met the Lord” but I let kids share how God is moving in their lives and what their hopes are for the future. I also let kids share what our youth ministry means to them and share their hearts with their peers and fellow believers.
As much as I love to preach I don’t worship it. If I did, the youth service would quickly become about about me (and it has in the past) . That is not to say that kids are not touched by preaching because they are, especially if the illustration is powerful. But, sometimes I curb my preaching in favor of prayer time, worship time, prayer stations, or other connecting moments. I used to see my role as fiery prophet with “The Word” for every one, but age and experience has taught me that my role is to connect kids to God and if it means me shutting up, so be it. Besides, most kids will not remember what I have preached or any of my messages, but they will remember their moments with God and that is what it’s all about.
We have a Wall of Fame hallway in our youth room. They are filled with pictures of kids, past and present, involved somehow with our ministry. It could be a camp picture or kids just hanging out. When a new kid comes into our room they eventually look through the hallway and check out the pictures to see who we are as a community. If one of our regular kids brings a guest, and they are in one of those pictures, they will tell their friend the story behind that picture.
One of my former students, now married ( I was blessed to officiate her wedding) ran across a take-away I had given her for graduation, a baton. She sent me a picture of her holding it (this is the photo at the beginning of the post) and I asked her to elaborate on how she felt when she found it. Here is what she said to me
“Well I was digging through some stuff in my old room at my parents house. And found it (the baton) in my closet. My first thought was, “I gotta show Paul what I found!” Lol but then thoughts of the meaning came back to me and what it represented. 10 years ago in 2004 you handed me that baton and told me to keep running the race. I think I did that but it has more meaning now. My baton has been passed on through the kids that I’ve ministered to. And some of them have their own batons. It’s a never ending cycle. Another thought after I sent you the picture and got your statement of still running the race… It was a heart check. A reminder that the race never stops. That I am still receiving and giving batons. Even though my life is COMPLETELY different now, my race is still being run at 28 as it was at 18. You never stop running. You never stop living. You never stop having batons, it’s just what you do with them. And if you pass them along.”
What a blessing. This is the kind of stories I want here 10 years after ministering to kids.
Now it’s your turn.
How can you stir up more story telling in your ministry ?
Do you have place where you hang photos in your room?
Do you follow up camp with slide shows?
Do you let kids share their hearts in service?
Tell me how stories are impacting your ministry? Or may how they are not impacting your ministry?
Leave me your thoughts in the comments section.
You can read all the posts in this series by starting HERE
Here is Jonah Berger talking about contagious stories