Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review of Teaching through the Art of Storytelling by Jon Huckins

By Jon Huckins
ISBN 978-0-310-49409-6
Zondervan Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I was a youth pastor for twelve years. As I Senior Pastor, I have also strove to be connected to the youth of my congregation, and to keep in touch with issues related to youth ministry. Imagine my surprise then, when I picked up Jon Huckins’ new book, and discovered a whole new method for doing youth ministry.  Teaching through the Art of Storytelling combines the old-fashioned “youth-talk” with sensitivity toward postmodern culture and a high regard for Jesus’ method of teaching into a fresh, innovative, story-driven pedagogy.

Huckins’ urges youth leaders to create and use fictional stories to communicate Biblical truth. He talks about how Jesus did this, primarily through parables, and how this kind of storytelling has precedence throughout Scripture. He teaches youth leaders a philosophy of how to teach through fictional narrative. After that, Huckins goes through the nuts and bolts of how create and implement these narratives. At the end of Teaching through the Art of Storytelling several examples of fictional narrative as teaching tools are provided for teachers to use, and to model the stories they create after.

I think that this book would be a helpful tool in a youth minister’s toolbox. It is thoughtful and creative. If used correctly, it will allow youth leaders to speak into their students’ lives in a whole different way. After all, who does not appreciate a well-crafted story? We all remember stories more than we do abstract truths and facts anyway.

I do think, however, that use of this technique requires some wisdom. If this way of teaching is used too often, it may diminish the effectiveness of the methodology as a whole. Also, I do not think everyone is gifted enough to use this way of teaching effectively. So, if creating and telling stories is not something you feel utilizes your gifts, you may want to find another way to reach the teens you are working with. As I said previously, this is one tool in a toolbox of teaching techniques. It is not a magic bullet.

All in all though, this is a great resource, and deserves to be on every youth leader’s bookshelf. Even if one is not a storytelling type, understanding the importance of narrative and narrative formation in adolescence is a key to reaching today’s youth.

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