This morning I led a Bible study for sixth grade boys. Each week this year they’ve gathered before school to dig in God’s Word and be instructed and challenged by a godly leader. For my third visit to this group [read about another time], we walked through the Story of God in summary.
We started with their curiosities, each boy with a note card answering a few simple questions:
- What is your favorite sports team? (And favorite player?)
- What is a movie that inspires you? (Who starred in it? Or, what character is the hero?)
- What is your favorite song and/or band?
Every student was eager to share theirs, so we interacted a bit. Here are a few of their answers:
Then on the back of the card the answered these seemingly unrelated questions:
- What is the Bible all about? (In a sentence, as if a friend asked you.)
- Who is the Hero of the Bible story?
- How do we know the Scriptures are true?
White less confident of their answers on this one, almost every student shared a response. Here are a few:
How are the questions for the two sides related? First, we all confidently talk about what we are curious and confident about. We also tend to compartmentalize life and faith, as if there are sports and movies and music and all of our interests on one side … and [flip it over] … God, the Bible, Jesus and ‘faith’ stuff on the other. (It’s not just we adults who do this! And we are all prone to do this.)
One reason we love our sports teams is that they encounter conflict and tension, and then pull through. When we’ve followed them for years our own conflict and tension seem to relate. We can identify with these athletes in defeat as much as in victory. That’s what makes our interaction with these teams so meaningful. It’s also the reason why the most inspiring movies — for example Miracle, one of the students favorites, about the 1980 U.S.A. Olympic gold medal hockey team — impress us so greatly. We feel like we’ve been through their story — their tension, pain, conflict, hope and reconciliation — with them.
Students have access to all kinds of half-stories, and are ready for the real full-Story. Kiddie platitudes and moralistic lessons won’t cut it anymore. My goal is to help students move from thinking the Bible is a musty book full of old rules and platitudes, to seeing it as the way God intended us to make sense of the world. The Bible is meant to be experienced, because God created us to encounter Him. There is no more relevant story than the Story of God interacting with the story of us. (Of course, I didn’t say all of this, but submit it here for any parents reading, a bit of the ‘why’ behind the ‘how.’)
After talking through their answers we walked through a summary of the Story of God, using the great tool, The STORY (because it is not just about going to Heaven when we die):
Not every kid chose to take their given copy home (I picked up a handful by the bagels and juice), but there was plenty of engagement when I walked through the tension and hope found in the biblical narrative of Creation ➙ the Fall (& Rebellion) ➙ the Rescue ➙ Restoration.
I’m convinced that boys-becoming-teens-becoming-men are able to wrestle with the nuances and tension found in God’s Story. It’s not just a fairy tale, and they need more than pat answers. Consider how Grimm’s Fairy Tales (such as those retold in the new thriller movie Hanna) take a true about the dangers of childhood and show how it is actually dangerous to remain a child. We live in a harsh world; are we ready to face reality? Are we able to make sense of the world around us? The Story invites us to encounter God in His Story. He’s the Hero, we’re all minor characters.
Yes, we all need rock solid truth — answers to rest upon — and yet need more. We must encounter this truth in daily life for it to be real to us. We all run to those things that capture our curiosity, and in uncertainty we always run to certain things — where and with whom we have confidence and have built trust. We’re now old enough to encounter the Story we already live inside.