May 30, 2011
My travels around the USA give me opportunity to talk to lots of youth pastors, and something is changing. What is changing is that the same-old isn’t working as well, and youth pastors know they are the threshold of news ways for new days. What is perhaps most exciting to me is a desire for a more theological and biblical approach as these youth pastors are turning away from programs that are neither adaptable nor theological enough.
One of the youth pastors creating a new paradigm is Chris Folmsbee, and his new book is an exceptional example of what is happening: Story, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to Youth Ministry.
What are the major themes shaping youth ministry theology today? What are you seeing? Are you seeing any narrative approaches to youth ministry? Any missional approaches?
Before I go any farther, an observation: an increasing number of youth pastors see that instead of saving kids from secular culture or instead of protecting Christian children from the world, there is a desire to prepare them to think critically and to engage holistically in the culture. In other words, to use the words of Gabe Lyons, many youth pastors are intent on preparing young adults to be restorers.
Chris begins his book by sketching youth pastor/youth ministry discontents, including a need for a fresh approach, no more “plug and play,” no more isolated deconstruction, a desire to help students learn through discovery, a recognition of unique context (instead of one size fits all), a yearning for a solid model that has flexibility, and a desire to have a wiki-approach — to find the gems in each set of proposals to fashion their own.
What you will find in Chris Folmsbee’s book is no program; nor is it a set of what-tos or how-tos. Instead this is a narrative approach to the Bible’s Story, a story that shapes both identity and practices. In other words, this book is a Story-ified approach to reading the Bible for youth pastors so they can adapt and adopt this approach in their local context.
The book moves through five layers: revelation in Story, foundation in theology, implication in identity and calling, integration into a way of life, and application into behaviors and expressions. I told Chris this once over lunch: if youth pastors are thinking like him, we are in great shape. Doing biblical theology through the lens of Story and letting that story shape our Identity so that our behaviors are transformed … just love it. The book is theologically alert and filled with graphics and ideas that will give every youth pastor plenty of suggestions … suggestions that can be adaptable to local contexts.
Yes, Chris and I, along with Syler Thomas, co-wrote The Jesus Creed for Students: Loving God, Loving Others.