Monday, August 21, 2006

Chronological Bible Storying - A Strategy to Reach the Next Generation?

I just received the Summer 2006 edition of To the Ends of the Earth from the International Mission Board. The publication focuses upon the use of storying techniques to teach the Gospel to people groups in oral cultures. The strategy is simple. Missionaries utilize a simple series of pictures to tell the entore story of the Bible fom Creation to Christ.

Interestingly, the piece points out that describing a culture as "oral" does not mean it is "illiterate." Indeed, Grant Lovejoy, director of orality strategy at the IMB says, "...we learned that there are a lot of people who can read and write fine, but are still oral by preference." Interestingly, this tool that was developed to reach the illiterate is proving successful even among well-educated people.

This strategy has led me to consider possible implications for sharing the Gospel within the next generation in North America ... our children and teen-agers. Overall, ours is a literate culture. Most of our children and teens are quite capable of reading and writing. But, it has been my experience that even though children enjoy reading in their early years, many of them lose their love for the practice when they reach the teen years. So, we must study and determine, is the printed word the best method for reaching this next generation ... especially our teens? Is our investment as Southern Baptists in millions of dollars of quarterly Sunday School and discipleship training booklets the best investment of those dollars. I must confess, I am beginning to doubt it.

But is this generations of teens an oral culture? In many ways they are, expecially with regard to music. I think that the I-pod is a vast, uncharted frontier for reaching out to our youth. But, even moreso than oral, I believe that the next generation is a visual culture. Just think about it ... video games, computers, TV, DVD, video podcasts ... even their cell phones take pictures! Are we presently attempting to reach a visual (and semi-oral) generation with words on paper? Are pretty color graphics (still on paper) enough? Are we "missing the boat?"

Maybe ... just maybe ... we should be investing in more high-tech visual presentations of the Scriptures and the Gospel message. Maybe we should be overlaying the story of Scripture on popular music tracks. I don't know. But what I do know is this ... we have to start doing something differently. I believe we have already let a couple of generations "slip through the cracks" in the late 20th century church. Surely, we won't continue to make the same mistakes and keep using the same ineffective methods with the next generation. Or will we?


Blogger Bryan said...

You make some interesting points. I confess in my time as a Sunday School teacher, as well as teaching the students in our youth group every week, I've noticed that the typical, paper-based curriculum does little besides bore everyone to tears. I've broken away from the curriculum my church orders, opting instead to teach directly from the stories of the Bible, but still it is a struggle to get the idea across.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

One of the best books I know on teaching is Thom and Joni Schultz' "Why nobody learns much of anything at church and what we can do about it." It reminds us that learning the context and characters (through word puzzles, matches, and games) does not mean learning the lesson. Teaching a lesson is not the same as making disciples. CBS (pardon the abbreviation) has worked and does work, but it depends on the background of the students. We need to apply many methods and be aware of learning styles in order to effectively teach and disciple our diverse communities.

11:36 AM  

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