The Merge experience

Friends and fellow youth workers

As many of you know, over the past few years my ministry with students has been in process and evolving.  One of the main changes has been the use of storytelling. Just last week I wrote about the need and power of telling and retelling stories and The Story.  I firmly believe in the importance of story-based teaching and discussions within the context of narrative theology. Never before have I witnessed my students fully engaged and participating in the “lesson” time as when we enter in stories together.  Stories have a way of sparking the imagination, captivating attention, and ushering us into something much bigger than ourselves.  Movies, television, and music seem to do that instinctively and we all know how influential they have become in the lives of students.  God’s story truly has the same ability and potential, and it takes committed youth workers to bring that out with and for students.

I have not been along in this journey of discovery.  Many youth workers and thinkers have shaped my ever-changing and growing philosophy and approach.  One of the most signficant and influential has been Michael Novelli.  Perhaps you have read his books, Shaped by the Story: Helping Students Encounter God in a New Way and Enter the Story: 7 Experiences to Unlock the Bible for Your Students.

If not, I highly recommend these.  You can get more information on the right hand column of my blog on the home page.

Another insightful book is from Mark Miller called Experiential Storytelling:  (Re) Discovering Narrative to Communicate God’s Message. additionally, pretty much anything by Donald Miller is great as well.

The main reason why Michael Novelli’s book work so well in my context is because they are written from the perspective of today’s students.  Mark’s heart and passion is for teenagers and student ministry and helping youth workers create atmospheres and environments to make the story of God come alive.

At home in my youth group, we have spent the past few years experimented with storytelling, creative spaces, and reshaping our message into a fuller narrative theology.  Novelli’s works have greatly helped and inspired myself and my youth leaders.

I am also excited to share his latest endeavor called Merge.  Merge is “an innovative learning experience inspiring high school students to join God’s story.”

Merge takes high school students on a week-long journey that’s:

Fueled by Imagination:  Creative storytelling, arts and media, lively dialogue, and hands-on learning, guide students to enter the stories of the Bible.

Centered on The Story: An in-depth journey through the Bible’s storyline awakens students to a new purpose and identity found in God’s Story.

Designed for effective Learning: Innovative methods that are learner-centered, experience-based, theologically deep, and educationally grounded connect with and inspire each type of student

Shaped by Students: Students thrive in their giftedness as they’re given the tools and inspiration to process what they’re learning and create thoughtful and artistic responses.

Sparking a Movement: Groups are moved to dream and plan specifically for how they can change the world, joining in God’s Story of love and restoration.

I know from personal experience how effective this type of training and learning is for students.  Its one thing for us as youth workers to journey through this on our own, but imagine the possibilities of joining with our students in this experience.  I am not exaggerating when I share that experiential storytelling, narrative-based theology, and creating time and space for hands-on and interactive learning has completely transformed our student ministry.  I encourage you to look into these resources and think about attending Merge July 11-16 in Grand Rapids, MI

For those of you who may be interested, I have included some helpful links below.

Merge– website for more information

Follow Merge Experience on Twitter

Echo the Story–  great resources for narrative based lessons of the story of God

Follow Michael Novelli on Twitter

Reasons why you should take your students to merge–  good post from Chris Folmsbee regarding Merge

Mergo from Marko– another good post from Mark Oestriecher

MergeQuotes– what others are saying about Merge