Last week I was given Donald Miller’s (Blue Like Jazz) newest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story and his thoughts have opened a crucial door for me. Every youth minister, teacher or parent who knows a floundering teenager (we all should!), then I beg you to read chapter 9 entitled How Jason Saved His Family, it is a powerful 5 pages long.
Jason is a friend of Donald Miller and he has a 13 year-old daughter who had a bad news boyfriend and was caught with marijuana in her room. The context of this discussion between friends is that Miller had just returned from a grueling seminar by Robert McKee who is the godfather of “story”. Authors, writers and filmmakers come from all over the world to sit at McKee’s feet in an attempt to understand the fullness of story. So what was Miller’s response about Jason’s daughter? He said, “She is living a terrible story”.
I won’t tell you Jason’s response, because Miller tells it better than I ever could. I will tell you this, the father of the 13-year-old girl was determined for his family to live out a better story and response was outlandish, yet powerfully healing.
Here is what I’m chewing on from a Youth Ministry perspective:
* 2 Stories: As Christians, we hear stories like this and must know the connectedness to the Story of God and not settle for a self-help type remedy. Our personal narrative functions in relationship with the grand story of the meta-narrative. This meta or larger story is written by God and carried out by his squirrelly followers. In short, it is bigger than just our story, His story knits the rest of our stories together. (Did I just say story a million times?)
* In Defense of Short-Term Missions: I feel like I’m keenly aware of the pitfalls of short-term missions and the damage we the church have caused over the years. I am also aware that service, outreach and mission trips play a crucial role for teenagers as they hope to see a bigger and more adventurous story. When one of our students goes to New Orleans, Las Vegas or the Dominican Republic this summer, I pray that catch a glimpse of the role they could possibly play in the bigger story. In my own life I know I am the most self-centered when I have ceased to serve others.
* Catalytic Moments: In scripture and in our own lives, it seems like we need some catalytic moment to catapult us from a lifeless story to a life-giving story. Think about “mountain top” experiences in your own life, most likely they weren’t in your room doing your homework. Youth ministries can often be very helpful in creating catalytic moments that are Christ-centered, adventurous and family friendly as well. Family missions trips have been mountain experiences for many families who find themselves in a funk.