Stories are memorable. They are much more memorable than ideas. It is in the midst of a story that we see ideas come true, we see them come to life and we see that ideas do not always remain as mere ideas but develop into so much more.
There is a graphic novel by Alan Moore called ‘V For Vendetta’ and the prelude to it speaks of the power of a person over that of an idea. Evey Hammondis not captivated by the idea that V presents of freedom, but instead by the man. It is the man that she loves, not the idea – though, she does also love the idea.
And so these thoughts that have never taken the form of sentences in my mind finally found words to go with them. The Theology of Children’s Ministry conference this year was about the power of stories. The story of the gospel, the stories that culture tells us and the way a story can draw us into it. We spoke about ways we can engage children in the stories that truly matter.
Or, rather, the story that truly matters.
Sarah Condie shared with us the power of the right book and inspired me to make reading a priority in my life and the life of those I minister to. Sarah showed us that the way a child reads will affect the way they approach God’s Word. But, I would want to consider further the illiterate nature of a lot of areas that we minister in. I want to consider the fact that in a suburb that is within the parish I serve is full of families that can barely afford anything – let alone books and even if we could give them books, they cannot read them because they either don’t know how or they simply don’t care about them.
The power of the right book exists, but in a culture that holds reading in much lower esteem than the we used to, how do we show people the power of books?
How do we connect them to the power of the Word?
Sally Lloyd-Jones spoke of captivating children with stories. What has stayed in my mind is a story she told about her Sunday school lessons. She had told them about Daniel and in a moment of panic, asked the children what that meant for them. She explained that the children went from leaning forward, drawn in and focused, to slumped down in their places, eyes downcast.
The story was over and they were back in reality. And they didn’t know what to say. They felt stupid and they felt unworthy.
I was challenged to prepare the stories I want to tell and to know them. To let the story be a story and know that this story will ask its own questions and tell its own message at times. But…
Beth Barnett presented a controversial idea. Honestly, I don’t understand all of her idea. I do know that she was challenging the idea of the sermon and presenting an alternative. She sees that church can be more focused on the preacher rather than the word that is being preached. And this can be true. She proposes that we instead let the word speak for itself – that we let God speak for himself and instead embrace an experience of hearing and knowing the word.
Sally Lloyd-Jones told us to let a story be a story.
Beth Barnett told us to let the Word be the word.
Each is a different idea that they presented to us but there is something wildly different about the context from which they come and the idea they present – but I think there is something in common, a thread that ties each of their ideas together. They are calling for us to treat the narrative that is shown to us in the Bible – the narrative that God has revealed to us and is revealing to us – seriously. To give it, and HIM, the value that he truth deserves.
Speaking of which, Joel Moroney told us about comic books. Specifically Christian comic books. I love comics. Not as much as Joel does, but I do love them. He showed us some ways we can use comics in ministry, and some ways they can cause problems when we do use them. Also, I learnt that a lot of Christian comic books are simply bad imitations of secular culture. But what I really got from what Joel said was that there are so many unique ways to do ministry and to communicate the gospel. I wonder why we don’t use them more.
And why the picture of all the subway food? Well, it’s simple. Spending two days among this community and serving this community reminded me that I am not alone. And what better to show you how many of us there were than to show you how much Subway we digested over one lunchtime!
And he showed us some epic stuff over those two days.