3 Story

Last spring, I used Youth Specialties “3 Story” Curriculum with my youth ministry, largely because I was required to do so for a graduate course I was taking.

The subtitle of this curriculum is “Preparing for a lifestyle of evangelism” and for that reason, I would typically avoid it. Though I realize that Christians are called to “Go and make disciples,” evangelism is not something that comes naturally for me, at least not in the “in your face” sense of the word. What’s more, that kind of evangelism is also not part of the Lutheran ethos. Yet, I feared that’s the kind of evangelism this curriculum would be advocating. For that reason, I was petrified about how I was going to make it applicable in my setting.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that “3 Story” does not teach an “in your face” approach to evangelism. Instead, it focuses on teaching students how to listen to others’ stories, know their own story, and be able to connect both to God’s story.

That’s a model of evangelism that even I can get behind.

That said, even with a great deal of tweaking, this curriculum was still a stretch for my students, in MANY ways. To be honest, I was relieved when I finished it and moved onto other things, without thinking much about it until just a few weeks ago, when I began working with a group of my high school seniors to prepare for their Youth Sunday sermon, which we conducted as an interview.

One of my questions for this group of students was “When it comes to your faith, what are some of the doubts you’ve been working through?”

To this, one of my students, Ava, responded, “I’ve also wondered if I would ever be able to share my faith. My friends know I participate in mission trips, the 30 hour famine, and ESL (English as a Second Language), but they don’t know the depth of my faith. This doubt hasn’t been completely resolved, but I did get a little help from God when I met my friend, Finley. I believe she is the starting point of me sharing my faith because she’s the only one outside of Faith who has seen my faith in action. She’s seen glimpses of our church, which is more than anyone else I know has seen. We also randomly talk about faith.”

The first time Ava told me this, I thought, “What?!? Where is this coming from?”

Then I thought back to the weeks of conversations we had last spring during “3 Story” – all on this very subject and thought, “Could this be fruit of those conversations?”

Maybe it’s not.

But perhaps it is.

Either way, it’s evidence of how God is moving in our ministry and more importantly, in Ava, someone who a year ago, sat across from me during an interview to be on our Leadership Team and said very honestly, “I’m not sure I believe this whole Jesus thing yet.”

Now, here she is, a year later talking about beginning to share her faith with her friend, Finley, a friend who came to hear Ava speak on Youth Sunday. In fact, during our 7:30 am service, she sat in the 2nd row, ready to support Ava and hear what what she had to say about her faith. She did this simply because Ava asked her to come, without knowing that she’d also hear her own name mentioned in Ava’s sermon.

As Ava talked about Finley in that first service, I looked at her and saw tears – unusual since Ava is NOT a crier. At the conclusion of the sermon, we sat down and I looked at Finley and saw that she, too, was in tears.

God was moving.

God IS moving in that relationship.

The next night, I saw Ava at ESL Kids Club. The night was chaotic. We were coloring Easter Eggs and had an usually high number of refugee children and an usually low number of high school volunteers in attendance – a recipe for disaster. Without thinking twice about it, Ava called Finley in a panic and asked her to come to church. Without hesitation, Finley did and helped us run Kids Club.

Afterward, Finley lingered, casually talking to Ava, myself, and a few other volunteers who were still hanging around. She talked about how much she had enjoyed the Youth Sunday service from the day before, so much so that she had gone home and posted our theme, “Got life?” as her Facebook status, something that had prompted questions from her friends all day long.

She then shared how she loves inspirational quotes and occasionally finds herself flipping through a Bible in search of them. On one such occasion, she decided it would be fun to look at the last chapter in the Bible. She did, but was rather weirded out by it. She then mentioned how someday, she’d like someone to explain it to her.

To this, Ava nonchalantly said, “I could do that.”

After all, Ava spent three days in January exploring this very thing during our Winter Retreat.

Without a doubt, God is writing the story of these two young women. And while I certainly don’t know how that story will end, as I listened to this conversation unfold, I sat in awe of God, who is so clearly at work in the lives of these two friends, knitting their stories together and connecting them to His.




Posted by Ken, about 12 years ago

Dave Rahn

Jen, what a gift you have for writing! And I’m so grateful for a peek at fruit that I only dreamed of (and prayed for!) when introducing the class to 3 Story.

Thanks for sharing. I’m passing it on to the many friends who work on 3 Story as a way of life personally and urge their students to do the same.

Posted by Dave Rahn, about 12 years ago

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

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