I read quite a bit, makes me look smart. In all seriousness I do love to read, I sometimes pick up three books at a time, I know that doesn’t make sense because rarely do we watch 3 movies at a time, but books are a little different. I read because I’m drawn to a good story; however, the older I get the more I find that I’m drawn to real life stories. Not much of a fiction guy, not that I don’t appreciate the imagination, it’s just some people have an interesting life and do a great job of sharing their story.
I believe teenagers need to know how important their life story is and as youth pastors we need to not only encourage them to share it, but show them. It’s going to be their life story that’ll inspire and motivate others. The more they embrace and acknowledge their story the clearer it will be to see if they are on the wide or narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14).
My coworker Kathleen Leslie covered this topic in her blog Know Your Story where she talks about Dan Allendar’s book To Be Told: Know Your Story Shape Your Future. She encourages us to take ownership of our story, to reflect upon it and to know it. The book she references points out while God is the author He invites us to be the coauthor. But for a teenager embracing a story or even knowing that they have a story can be a mystery. So how do we create an environment where a teenager’s story can grow and be told?
- Journalling – A journal is a way of tracking our day to day events, a chance to reflect on the road we travel. Most health experts will tell you the most successful way to lose weight is by tracking what we eat. I know when I train for a race I’m more successful when I track my miles. Reflection and recording our life story on a blog, in a journal; however, is going to be the tool that will help us describe our story to others. When we can look at what we were feeling at a certain time, it’s easier to retell it. Encouraging students to journal might seem painful but can be very effective.
- Small Groups – It’s debatable but life change happens in small groups, because small groups are a place where intimate and authentic conversations happen. It’s where students can get together to share their story. It’s where they are given insight and validation to their story. It’s where they realize that their story is valued because God is behind it.
- Mentoring – If you can sit one on one with a student and just pour into him or her what you have learned about your walk with God, then you’ve given them a priceless gift. Small groups is where life change happen, but it’s one on one mentoring that has the largest impact. When you go one on one and share your story you not only impact them with what you’ve learned, but you teach them probably the most basic way of sharing their story. When you can give that to a student he or she is going to want to pass that on to a peer or the next generation.
Having students give testimony during worship, giving them ice breaker evangelization tools are good, but we need to give them the tools and environments to lay that out. Small groups, journaling and mentoring all do that. They help us learn the importance of reflection, sharing in small community and the power of going one on one. And while it’s great if that happens in the home, we as youth pastors need to facilitate that in our ministries. So how does it happen for you?