This is the third part of my response to an email question about Youth and Scripture. Please read pt. 1 and pt. 2 to gain some context and see where all this is coming from. I’d really welcome further comments on my response. I’ll probably do at least one more post to address some of the comments already given. I truly am enjoying this process and appreciate any and all feedback!
4. Questions for Scripture – Instead of asking how many different ways teenagers can regurgitate the text, why not ask them what God is saying to them through it? Some questions…**
1. What were the cultural customs and standards of the day, and how does this story reflect them and perhaps violate them?
2. How would it have felt to be each of the characters of the story?
3. How does this book fit into the whole of the Bible?
4. What theses does it share in common?
5. What emphases are different and unique?
6. Where do we see the unique personality of the writer coming through?
7. Where do we see particular biases or literary devices or concerns of that specific time and place?
You’ll note that these are different kinds of questions than “what do you get out of the text?”
5. Practical Suggestions – After a bit of rambling about Scripture and our need to do less dissecting and more engaging, let me offer some practical ideas/suggestions:
1. This one is the hardest for me personally – invite the group into your own private quiet time. Actually walk them through how you typically spend your time in the Word. If you start with prayer, then invite them into your prayer that day. If you use other translations, books, helps, etc, show them how and where and why you go there. Tell them how you’re thinking as you engage the text. What connections are popping together for you? What are you struggling with? What specific words are you coming back to? However you read and however you study, even if it seems bland and boring to you, invite them into it once or twice. Pull back the curtain and let them see. Not for pride’s sake, but for modeling and community.
2. Keep bringing them back to the narrative *** – perhaps you could have a timeline you could put up or paint on the wall of the room where you meet. Put a mark at the beginning for creation, put a cross on there to represent the life of Christ and then as you read have them add a mark up there to represent where this book sits in the timeline. Also mark where the characters sit and any other references you run across. Allow this to point you to a bigger story and use it at times to talk about your place in the story.
3. Do some different types of reading – if you are all in the same text together you have the opportunity of reading the text in some creative ways such as lectio divina; or inviting each person to pick a character in the story that day and identify with their emotions, reactions, etc.; or spending your whole time on one verse and how it has applied to you personally; or spend a whole time chasing down some of the stories and connections from other parts of Scripture; or ask them to read a passage and to come back the next week with some ideas on what that would look like if you lived it out – then go and do that; tie some stories to specific places/trips around you (i.e. to see how big some think Noah’s Ark was visit a football stadium for a tour).
4. Modeling over the long haul – for an extended modeling time – do a retreat or just an overnighter. Read the Scripture before you go to bed. Read it when you get up. Show them how you do it. Where you sit, stand, etc. How you begin. What notes you take. But model the rhythm together.
5. Ask and Listen – In all you do keep asking them about what God is saying to them in this passage. Listen to their reply. Give them a variety of ways to express this from writing, to art, to just speaking, etc, etc, etc. But never stop asking what God is saying to them, how He’s showing Himself to them. This creates an expectation that God is and will speak through this text and that when He does its important to share it and that you’ll be there to listen.
6. Bring in others – to talk about what the Bible means to them and has meant to their life. Before they come in you can tell them what you are hoping to accomplish. (Perhaps a video of Lelah Close who you could explain was your first teen quizzing coach. Pastor would be good. Dad would be good. Bill Fitz might be cool because in some ways its fresh.) When they talk about the Bible ask them methods they’ve used to stay engaged with it.
7. Ask them to commit to a rhythm or rule of life – after a while of doing all these things, ask them if they’ll commit together to reading Scripture ___ days a week for the next __ weeks. Have them set that mark and agree to it and put it in writing and sign it.
** These questions come from an excellent chapter on “The Bible” from Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo.
*** An excellent book written on this narrative approach to youth ministry is Worship Centered Youth Ministry by Jon Middendorf.
**** An excellent book that has a chapter on adopting a rule of life is Mike King’s book Presence Centered Youth Ministry.