Chapter 9: Realizing a Narrative Approach to Youth Ministry

After the last chapter, I was almost expecting to see a chapter that gave a handful of ideas about programmingelements that one could see in a Narrative Youth Ministry. Bad Brett! It would be silly to expect such a nebulous concept to be pinned down to a handful of program elements! What Chris did with this chapter was cover some really practical ground that I myself had forgotten in the process of reading the book. He talks about how we can realize this approach by seeing our role in ministry from a fresh perspective.

The first thing Chris does is to explore the spiritual journey we all go through as broken down into 4 key concepts/periods/stages in our lives: Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity and Humility. The beauty of this breakdown for how we mature as believers is that we do it as an ongoing process, and we go through this process every single day. It fits both micro and macro in our lives! I can see clearly points where I fit into each category, and I can read through each stage and name off teenagers that I know who fit each one as well.

Chris then talks about how effective ministries will be conscious of space, time and matter in their time together. Time is not so much about starting and ending on time, but ensuring that during that set time period students are given time to interact with material and concepts, and given time to reflect on it and see how it can be put into practice. Space is about cultivating sacred spaces; places (mental and physical) where students can be attentive to God’s presence in their lives. Matter reminds us that everything we plan must have a purpose, and should help our students see (or imagine) what life with God can look like.

The last segment is all about our roles as shepherds. We can fit just about everything we do as youth workers into the job descriptions of Advocate, Advisor and Guide. During each stage of spiritual formation we will wear a different hat with our students, but we must remember that we need to be all three to our teens, lest drop the ball and hinder their growth.

This was a much-needed chapter for me. It reminded me that I need to be consciously aware of the process my students are in, as well of the process that I myself am in. I also need to remind myself of the concepts of time, space and matter on a regular basis lest I fall into ruts and simply cater to what has “worked” in the past with teens. I look forward to seeing how Chris wraps this all up in the Epilogue.

Some thoughts that stuck with me

  • I believe it should go without saying, but it’s important to note at this point that we can’t manipulate the journey for our students, and they can’t manipulate it for themselves. (page 153)
  • The fact of the matter is that we cannot expect our students to understand what the journey of faith is (or isn’t) if we can’t understand it and articulate it ourselves. (page 154)