223rd Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
San Diego, California — June 29, 2009
Are the students in your youth ministry equipped with the tools necessary to grow deeper in their relationship with God? That’s the question that every youth worker ponders and is the question Michael Novelli sought to answer when he first came across the ancient art of storying.
For several years, Novelli served as a youth worker and was increasingly frustrated when he felt his best inductive Bible studies fell on deaf ears, as youth only remembered the stories he told but not the point those stories reinforced.
Novelli explained at his insight session on the art of storying for youth, that the reason for this is a switch in learning styles from visual to audible, in the new generation. Fewer people choose to read and instead are obtaining information through verbal sources.
Storying finds its roots in the ancient Hebrew oral traditions in which stories were passed down through generations with amazing accuracy. It is a technique used by missionaries around the world to teach the biblical story, especially in areas where literacy rates are low. The focus of storying is less on application of text, and more on content and implication, or how the story involves and includes us.
The “70 faces of Torah” from the Hebrew tradition is a reference point for Novelli. The tradition encourages readers to look with new eyes and listen with new ears to the biblical message, and believes that God can and does still speak through the stories of the Bible, that these stories are part of one bigger story or meta-narrative of God’s redeeming love for humanity.
Novelli has written a book, “Shaped by the Story,” sharing the revitalized faith his students experienced as they learned the stories and began to see themselves in those same stories. He attends Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill.
–Rich Troyer is youth pastor at Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren.
The News Team for the 2009 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Melissa Troyer, Rich Troyer; photographers Kay Guyer, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Glenn Riegel, Ken Wenger; staff Becky Ullom and Amy Heckert. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.