The Stolen Bible

In his blog, Adam Mclane talks about a new model for discipleship wherein youth workers create “moments of spiritual crisis” for students so that “they recognize they need to learn more from God’s Word.”

Part of this idea comes from the book, “Dedication and Leadership” by Douglas Hyde. This book was actually required reading for a Student Leadership Class I took last quarter and ever since then, it’s been messing with my head.

In this book, Hyde, a former communist, talks about how, even before a new convert receives instruction in communist doctrine, they’re asked to stand on a street corner selling Communist papers, periodicals, or pamphlets. Though seemingly simple, this act does two things. First, it forces the young convert to publicly “witness for the cause he’s now making his own”. Second, as people pass by, they’ll likely ask the convert questions about communist doctrine. While the new convert will answer as best as he can, he’ll inevitably leave knowing “he has not got all the answers,” something which will create in him a desire to learn.

Though this idea immediately began rattling around in my head, it took me a while before I found an opportunity to put it into action and test this theory in youth ministry, something I did a few weeks ago.

In preparing for my youth ministry’s summer mission trip, I asked four students to volunteer to lead part of our evening devotions, something that for my group, was very much like asking these kids to sell Communist papers on the street corner. I was unsure the majority of my students were ready or able to do this task well, something that in the past would have prevented me from asking students to do it at all, for fear I’d be setting them up for failure rather than success.

But with the example of the communists fresh in my head, I asked students to step forward and lead. Among them was one person that particularly surprised me.

While a good kid, this student is someone who is not typically the first to participate in a discussion, let alone to volunteer to take on a leadership role requiring her to verbally share her faith.

The week after volunteering for this task, this student, who we’ll call Olivia, went away to camp. While away, she wanted to begin preparing for her devotion but realized she didn’t have a Bible with her. So she called home and asked her mom, “Do you think it’d be OK if I stole the hotel Bible?”

Her mom assured her that the Gideon’s actually place Bibles in hotels hoping people will do just that.

So Olivia stole the Bible and began planning her devotion.

In fact, she planned and planned her devotion, throughout that entire week.

Then she continued her preparation during the first several hours of our van trip on the way to our mission trip.

As she did, every few minutes, she’d ask me a question about the text she was reading. Slowly but surely, I watched as Olivia began to connect the dots between the story she was reading, other Bible stories she’s been taught, and her own life story.

That night, Olivia did her devotion.

In all honesty, there was nothing earth shattering about it.

Except for the fact that when I looked over, I saw that her stolen Bible was COVERED with marks – underlines, circles, and notes scribbled all over the margins about the God that she encountered first hand as she studied His Word.

Prior to this, nothing I said or did could get Olivia to engage in Scripture on her own.

That changed when Olivia volunteered to do something and then realized she was in over her head. That forced her to spend hours in Scripture and in the process, she discovered that the Bible truly is living and active, meaningful for her life.

It’s too soon after the mission trip to tell whether or not Olivia will continue reading her stolen Bible on her own. So far she has and I certainly hope she’ll continue.

Yet, even if she doesn’t, I know I’ll continue forcing kids into situations that my gut tells me they’re not ready for. Rather than fear failure, I’ll trust God to work in these moments of “spiritual crisis,” using them to show students how much they still have to learn about their faith and in the process, drawing them closer to Him.

Comments

Keith

It seems to be a sort of “Peter Principal” that proves the theory wrong. Giving people a bit more than they can handle is a great training tool in business. If I didn’t have a little more than I can handle each day I would never learn anything. Nice blog Jen

Posted by Keith, about 8 years ago

adam mclane

Wow, Jen that’s pretty fantastic. That is an experience that Olivia will remember forever. The whole thing from swiping the Gideon Bible to spending all that time trying to figure out how to teach the passage… it feels awkward as a youth worker to dump her into the deep end of the pool like that, but for this student she stepped up and learned some stuff in the process!

I’d love to hear more stories of putting Hyde’s book into practice. I’m telling you, the paradigm shifts when you mix Hyde’s theory with Epstein’s research. It’s crazy cool.

Posted by adam mclane, about 8 years ago

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, 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 the forthcoming 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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