We’re Teaching This:
Everyone loves a good story. Even if you hate reading, you probably don’t mind movies, TV shows, or a great musical. There is just something about a story, a good story that we can’t resist. When we were little, all the great ones started with “Once upon a time”. They were tales of heroes and villains, evil queens, noble princes, and fairy godmothers. And while the characters in our favorite stories look different now, not much else has changed. We still love to see the good guy win, the bad guy lose, and the couple live happily ever after. Maybe it’s because, no matter how old you are, great stories have the power to pull you in and make you feel like you’re a part of them. Jesus knew that and He often told stories, called parables, that worked the same way. His stories may not have involved princesses or evil villains, but as we take a look at four of these famous parables we may just find that the characters look more familiar than we could have ever imagined.
Think About This:
What was your teenager’s favorite story when he or she was little? And how many times did you read that story to them? A hundred? A thousand? Sometimes as parents of older children, we are tempted to look back nostalgically at storytime and think, those were the days, assuming they’re long-gone. But in the book, Losing Your Marbles: Playing for Keeps, Reggie Joiner explains that the power of stories, especially stories over time, may make storytelling a practice that is too important to abandon.
Experts have analyzed, theorized, and evangelized about the power of story. Everyone seems to agree. It’s as if our minds are hardwired to engage in the way information fits together in the context of a narrative. One specialist in this area puts it this way: If you ever need a little more proof that God exists, consider the magical, mystical, imaginative, compelling way kids, teenagers—and everyone else for that matter—connect to stories. It seems obvious that God created your imagination; then created stories to ignite it. Have you ever considered that without imagination, you can’t . . .
see past what you already know?
care how someone else feels?
hope beyond your present situation?
… That’s what the gift of imagination and story does for a child or teenager. It enables them to think their way into other people’s lives. It compels them to feel the sentiments of other people’s emotions. It invites them to venture into other people’s places.
Maybe that’s why research actually indicates the more stories you read to a child over time, the greater their empathy. Because stories have the potential to make you feel what someone else feels. Stories can collectively work to build a child’s emotional, relational, and moral intelligence.
Think about what happens when a child imagines . . . fighting Smaug, the dragon, with Bilbo on the Lonely mountain, joining Annemarie in the Danish Resistance during WWII, traveling with Lucy through a mysterious wardrobe into a frozen land.
They see more. They care more. They hope more.
A good story doesn’t have to be found in a children’s book. This week, try enjoying a story that your student is already interested in by going to…
See a movie together.
It doesn’t have to be a spiritual or “family” movie. It doesn’t have to have a G-rating. It doesn’t even have to have some great moral to the story. Just see a movie your student is interested in and then, on the ride home or while enjoying a snack after the show, ask them one question:
Which character in the movie do you identify with most?
Really listen to the answer. Don’t correct them if you disagree. Just use this as a time to learn about your student and enjoy hearing where they think they fit in the story.