Wednesday, January 24, 2007

storytelling as a pathway in discipleship

“I think, therefore I am” proudly proclaimed Rene Descartes. And so, in modernity, the individual mind was given priority.

The consequences for Christian discipleship were huge. Discipleship becomes book based and content focused. Information is passed from one mind to another. Christianity runs the danger of becoming rational individualised information.

I am tossing around the idea of trialling the use of storytelling in community as a pathway for discipleship. As Douglas Coupland writes in Generation X of the need to take time to tell stories and make our lives worthwhile tales in the process.

So here is the first draft of the storytelling approach to discipleship.

Key learning question: How do people grow? And the realisation that it is not information that grows people. Rather, people have the DNA to grow inside them and require environments of love and honesty in which they flourish.

Key learning moment: Providing a contemporary re-telling of the Kingdom parable of the treasure by giving people “treasure” that was symbols of their past ( eg plastic spoon from a coffee shop to symbolise a person and a conversation that has grown them). And seeing the spark in people and realising that well chosen symbols help people name the work of God in their lives.

The plan: a 10 week course as follows:

week 1: Re-tell the parable of the treasure and give out 8 symbols. Invite people to consider which symbol draws out a story for them. Explain the course format.

week 2-9: For the following 8 weeks we explore each symbol 1 by 1.

week 2: a symbol of life’s journey;
week 3: a symbol of a nurturing relationship;
week 4: a symbol of a mystical encounter;
week 5: a symbol of hard times;
week 6: a symbol of serving/mission;
week 7: a symbol of maturing;
week 8: a symbol of integration;
week 9: a symbol of celebration.

Each evening of weeks 2-9 occurs in 4 parts:
a – a story – people share their selected story/ies of growth
b – a Bible story is told that adds more light to each symbol i.e. a bible story of a nuturing relationship
c – discernment – people are invited to reflect togther on ‘what they are hearing’ from people’s stories and the Bible stories.
d – some teaching – is offered to add content to the stories and the discernment processes.

week 10 – the last week would involve inviting people to consider which of the 8 symbols has most challenged them. They are provided with options if they want to continue to explore this area (say Opawa’s Growth coaching).

Why? We are in community. We are naming the work of God already in people’s lives. We are hearing how God is uniquely growing people. We are bringing people’s real life stories into engagement with God’s story. We are helping people integrate them both. We are not neglecting content. We are giving people storytelling confidence, a possible stepping stone to them sharing their stories, say at church services, or with their friends.

That’s the first draft of a storytelling approach to discipleship. Comments? And any suggestions for a course title: something that will appeal to those outside the church while being honest about the approach. (No switch and bait titles wanted).

For more on postmodern discipleship in terms of content, go here.

Posted by steve at 08:19 PM


  1. Sounds fascinating as always. Do you have any scrapbookers in your craft group. Its stikes me that the art of collecting photos, momentos and journalling stories that is scrapbooking for some would fit well?

    Comment by jowall — January 25, 2007 @ 7:21 am

  2. steve, i really like this idea. i like how it allows people to be real. it seems like it would create a strong bond of community. have you thought about the size of the group? would you limit it to a certain number of people?
    i don’t have any great name ideas for you at this point. i think you are on the right track with your criteria though. i would probably just go with something simple.

    Comment by scott — January 25, 2007 @ 7:45 am

  3. i resonate with jowall’s ideas about mementos and journalling. Along with having symbols I wonder about having monuments to memorialize events.

    and how do you see this working out for youth. I think if this could be accomplished for youth in their formative years, they would really be well off later.

    Comment by geoff holsclaw — January 25, 2007 @ 9:39 am

  4. Jo, stunning connection. sets my wheels spinning in new directions. scrapbooking would not work for all but would appeal to some and would definitely be a great way in. do you (kaipoi + opawa) want to co-run something?

    scott, i was thinking about limiting the group to enhance community; and then to just keep repeating it with different folks and places.

    geoff, this is the downside of blogs – i use it as a place to toss ideas, often half formed and suddenly find myself quizzed from a whole new angle. haven’t yet thought about it from youth angle. my initial thoughts are yes it would but some consideration needs to be given to different developmental stage (and therefore more limited life experience.) i dont’ know. what do you think? where are my “youth expert lurkers” – theobloby, tashmcill, jstasiam

    can i stress that the whole point is to download a DNA of storytelling and mutual discernment and community, all in an experimental way. rather than download a DNA of content.

    appreciate all the comments, all grist for the mill. peace

    Comment by steve — January 25, 2007 @ 10:07 am

  5. Great Idea

    I have loved the symbols that Exile here in Hamilton have generated.

    However when I get home there is no place to put them, and it is a continuous war against clutter at my home. So with no place to put these things, they float for a while and are thrown out. Which is disappointing, so one of the first things I would do is either give them a box or container to store these things in. aka a treasure box, or suggest that they make a treasure box at home, put it in a “safe” place (like on dresser at home) and place these items , and others as they occur into this box.

    This means that they stay “safe” and can bring memories into the future.

    Comment by david whyte — January 25, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  6. Dave, that is wonderful. Thankyou.

    on the 1st week, when I re-tell the parable of the story I tell it imagining I am the man finding treasure in the field. I then give out “the treasure” – which people unwrap and which I interpret as the stories of God active in our lives – symbolised by these 8 symbols.

    So bouncing off your idea, I should make sure each treasure box is “beautiful” ie treasure-like and durable enough to be taken home to keep their treasure in. Yes?

    Comment by steve — January 25, 2007 @ 10:43 am

  7. steve – looks like everyone is coming back from holidays full of ideas from the number of comments! Don’t tempt me with running another one just yet but maybe … am seriously considering planting a refresh group still. A scrapbook or treasure box is a good idea – my desk is full of little boxes for keeping memories but would fit in cluttered catergory too. Momentos kept even for a time are helpful – throwing out symbolises moving on sometimes.

    Comment by jowall — January 25, 2007 @ 3:39 pm

  8. Steve – I love it.

    A name? Rip off us Canadians, call the course “resonate”… I think it fits.

    Comment by Pernell — January 25, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

  9. Love the name “resonate” some other ideas are
    “Remember” both go with “Refresh” well. Or “spiritual memories”

    Comment by Jowall — January 26, 2007 @ 6:41 am

  10. Steve,

    Something like “Seeds along the Path” comes to mind. I’m seeing the symbols and stories as seeds, something that hold potential as much as finished products or events in themselves. Or you could go with the treasure idea and make it something like “Stones (gems, jewels?) along the Path”. (OK, I’ve just been reading to my kids about dragons, my mind is just going that direction :>).

    Maybe the answer to clutter (hoarding) is to think about holding the symbol until it’s time to pass it on to someone who’s ready to hear the story.

    Comment by Maria — January 26, 2007 @ 9:29 am

  11. I like “seeds on the path” most so far, but all contributions are very helpful.

    Comment by steve — January 26, 2007 @ 11:48 am

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