Guest Blogger Erica Hunt works with Woodland Hills’ Youth Ministry, Echo. We asked her to give us her perspective on the Bible and the role it’s narrative has in our lives today.
I don’t know about you, but of all the Bible stories I heard growing up, there were a few favorites. Joseph, Moses and Esther were my favorite characters of the Old Testament. Peter’s astounding (albeit quick) walk on water and Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well stand out for favorite New Testament tales. These, more than others, captured my imagination for what could be, not what is.
What I didn’t notice or understand was how all the characters, scenes and plotlines fit together in a cohesive whole. I was well into adulthood before I heard of these “stories” referred to as episodes in a larger Story, the broader narrative of God’s relationship with Creation, including, but not limited to, humans. Thinking about the Bible differently was one of those moments that signaled that I was growing up and my understanding of the Bible needed to grow with me.
When the possibility of connection is introduced, our minds are invited into a more active level of engagement. It took more effort on my part to make connections and see themes emerge from what had previously seemed completely different stories, but I welcomed the challenge because it introduced complexity to my faith at a time when the stories had become stale to me. As we get older, we realize the world is complicated and more gray than black-and-white. We move from concrete thinking and interpretation into abstraction. If our understanding of God and the Bible do not allow for tough questions, doubts, and wonderment, we can easily cast it aside as irrelevant to “grown-up problems.”
For most of us, the age of exploration with our faith starts in adolescence. We naturally start to separate from our parents and seriously consider other sources of information about every aspect of life. In Echo, the middle and high school ministry of Woodland Hills, we try to capitalize on this process of discovery by inviting students to engage the Bible and approach God with curiosity and authenticity. We tell the Story of God, but we also set an expectation that students will be active listeners instead of passive hearers. We spend less time talking at students so we have opportunity to hear their ideas and questions. Each of us adults has marveled at the insight of students as they interact with the bizarre, powerful, amazing, confusing episodes of the Story.
Echo staff will be co-teaching a Cultivate class with the Children’s staff in November that will share our teaching strategy in more depth and provide tools to use at home with your adolescents. We encourage you to sign up so you can gain tools to walk alongside your adolescent as they transition to a more complex faith. Watch for more information in the coming weeks.