For over a decade, I’ve been telling my children stories about a “purple puppy named Nothing.”  It began when I asked a child what they wanted to hear a story about.  That child, whose favourite colour was purple, responded with an angry “nothing!” and so Nothing was born.  Over the decade, Nothing’s family and world has expanded significantly, and my children love asking for stories about Nothing.

Telling stories is a fairly common experience across cultures.  Michael Novelli notes that “each person is born with the innate ability to learn and share through stories … story is ingrained in us and is a critical part of our development.”[1]  It’s significant to remember that our Scriptures are predominantly in a story form.

Our final “Trellis” question (How will we join God?) invites your team into action and then to tell your stories.  After considering our culture, and discerning opportunities, we’re set to move ahead as ministry teams to join God in our neighbourhoods. What has your team decided to do?  When will you put your plan in motion?

An important aspect of this moving out into the neighbourhoods is the communication of our story.  What have we done?  Where have we seen God at work? Who are we going to tell?

As a youth pastor, my favourite question to ask students in debrief times was “Where have you seen God today?” It was an invitation for them to reflect back on their day, and describe their experiences as a story.  It communicates that God is an active participant in our lives, and we have great privilege to share with one another our accounts of God’s actions.

For many of our youth groups, mission tour is a common and significant experience.  Pre-pandemic, many of our Atlantic Canadian youth groups would embark on a mission tour experience, whether Tidal Impact, a CBM SENT experience, or a locally organized endeavour.  The return home was often marked by a bumpy re-entry phase, as participants returned to their normal lives. How did they process what they experienced?  Who could they tell?

This summer, we’ve seen a few groups take part in a mission tour.  After my daughter returned home from a mission tour, I found myself wondering how to help her tell her story.  I wanted to know about her experience and hear about how she saw God at work in her team and in her own life.

Borrowing content from a couple of great guides,[2] this document provides some framework to help debrief these experiences with our students.  Share them with your parents, and encourage them to enter into meaningful conversation with their children.  As parents, we all want to know more than that the mission experience was “Good,” but sometimes, that content is hard to draw out of our teenagers. 

Many of our teenagers are also serving at camps.  Camp is such an incredible experience for our students, and they often encounter meaningful and rich community as they serve Christ at camps.  This guide can also be a helpful resource for parents as they debrief the experience of a full summer with their children.

As the CBAC Youth & Family team, we are looking to highlight your stories as you respond to “How will we join God?” Your answers are inspiring and encouraging to churches across regions.  As you share your stories, it’s likely that you’ll spark the imagination of another leader or group. Telling your story can inspire other groups to consider how they can join God in their neighbourhoods.  

[1] Michael Novelli, Shaped by the Story: discover the art of bible storying (Sparkhouse Press, 2013), p. 78.

[2] Kara E. Powell and Brad M. Griffin’s Deep Justice Journeys (Youth Specialties, 2009) and Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions: leader’s guide (Moody Press, 2014).