Tag Archives: dcla


i’m a big fan of michael novelli – the dude is one of the most creative minds in the youth ministry world. his bible storying stuff (available for FREE at echothestory.com) is deeply amazing, wonderfully unique, and surprisingly easy to use. i’ve actually used it the last few weeks with my 8th grade guys small group (and have used it in the past also); i didn’t use it this week, and the guys complained. :)

so… michael has this event for high school students. it’s taking place next spring, in grand rapids. and it’s called ‘merge‘. really, there’s no comparison for this student event — maybe the closest would be the last dcla event that ys hosted (in the fateful summer of 2009). particularly if you’re in the midwest, i strongly encourage you to check this thing out.

the implications of joining up with the kingdom of god

in our dcla program planning meetings, we had a very interesting theological discussion. it actually surfaced out of our opening time of prayer, when we first gathered. and it continued, in one form or another (serious dialogue, childish teasing) for the three days we were meeting.

several people joined in, but it was primarily one other guy (a good friend, whom i love dearly) and me who were strongly disagreeing.

now, i’m going to lay it out here, to the best of my ability, and would love to hear input, feedback and response. i say “to the best of my ability”, because i’m sure i will, to some extent, create a caricature of both his input (in a negative way) and my own input (in a positive way).

also, i should say, it was a really fun disagreement, healthy dialogue, and made us both wrestle quite a bit (and, i think, the others in the room).


it started when he prayed something like, “God, we know you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and we are unnecessary to your plans….”

after the prayer, we started talking about the dcla content, and i interjected that i’d like to have a bit of a discussion about our perspectives on the implications of us joining up with the active work of god in the world, because that’s a big theme of the dcla content we’re developing. i asked my friend to restate and unpack what he’d prayed. he explained that he used to be driven by obligation and guilt, but that he doesn’t see god that way anymore (good so far). he said he’s so deeply come to believe in the sovereignty of god (still good) and the idea that god doesn’t “need” us (yup, still good) that he believes god will accomplish what god is going to do in the world whether we join god in this work or not (hmmm).

we had a bunch of discussion about the difference between being guilted into obedience and viewing joining god’s kingdom work as an opportunity, or invitation. all good. he explained that he thinks the reason for us to live in a kingdom way is that it brings congruency to our lives, as we live into the way we were created to live (i’m great with that, but it brought a nagging question).

i wondered, “does that mean you think we don’t actually play a role in adding to the work of the kingdom?” “no,” he said, and went on to share this illustration:

when his daughter was 2, he was doing some work in her room. and he noticed that she was standing off to the side, mimicking his movements. he thought this was sweet. then, he started painting some trim work, and she wanted to paint also. he said, “no honey, you’re a little kid, and painting is adult work.” she started crying, and his wife piped in, “just let her paint.” so he gave her a little brush, and a little bowl of paint, and she went to it, messily painting a small section of the wall. he kept telling her what a great job she was doing. he moved to a roller, and gave her a tiny roller also. while continuing to tell her what a wonderful job she was doing, he painted over the portion she had painted, so the end result was what he had always planned.

he said that this is what god does with us.

i tried to restrain myself, but said something like, “that’s horrible! it’s manipulative and a lie!” i went on, “i was hoping you were going to say, ‘when i got to the section she’d painted, i painted around it, framing it. it wasn’t as smooth as the parts i’d painted, but it was her contribution to the plan i already had to paint the wall. the wall was going to get painted either way, but i allowed her to contribute. AND, the wonderful thing is that, for years after that, we cherished that little less-than-perfect portion she painted, which made the wall something our family valued even more.”

my point is: while i agree that our joining up with god’s kingdom isn’t about guilt or manipulation or “duty”, i think that god invites us — gives us the opportunity — to participate in god’s kingdom work in a way that implicates the outcome. this doesn’t change the idea that god is sovereign, or that god is capable of doing what god intends to do. but we are — i believe — really and actually participating in the outcome. in other words, i think we are given the opportunity to play a participative role that changes the outcome, or, at least, becomes a part of the outcome.

we didn’t come to agreement on this, but it was a great and spirited dialogue.

so, what do you think? am i nuts? am i a heretic?

dcla big room

a few years ago, ys picked up this large triennial youth event called dcla (it had been a youth for christ event since the mid-80s). we hosted dcla in 2006, using a modified version of the approach that had been developed for the 2003 event. that approach was to use the big room meetings to do a narrative walk through the story of jesus as seen in the gospel of john. drama, film, music, animation, mini talks — all combined to weave the story (or stories).

(the labs, a seperate aspect of the event, allows a very interesting space — in peer circles of 8 teenagers — to process and interact. in 2003, that was around the 3-story concept: understanding the relationship between god’s story, my story, and my friend’s story.)

when we were considering whether or not we were even going to DO dcla 2009, one of the things we decided was that we only wanted to plan the event if we thought we had something new and fresh that we were excited about as a framing for the content. in some dreaming meetings earlier in the year, we landed on the “be. love. serve. repeat.” idea, as well as the hope of expanding the big room concept to telling the entire story of god — the whole bible narrative.

so, these last two days (tuesday and wednesday), i sat with four others to lay down some rails for that idea of the big room. obviously, we knew we couldn’t somehow tell every story in the bible over 3 big room sessions. so we had to come up with a thread. we talked about various aspects of god’s story, various threads that could be pulled or followed to create a pathway. and we landed on a story thread, or framing device, that was to tell the stories of god’s interactions with humans to redirect the story. for a while, we were referring to these scences as times when god “broke the plane” and interacted with humans. but we reminded ourselves that that isn’t accurate, really, since there isn’t a plane to break.

based on that “god’s interactions with humans to redirect the story”, we created a long list of bible stories that hang on that thread, or are implicated by that theme. that list is below. lots of stories didn’t make the list, after discussion about whether or not they really connected with that theme.

all of that work was done in about a half day. then came the real challenge. we knew that list was still way too long. so we went back through the list and culled it down to those stories that seemed essential to both the thematic thread, and to telling a reasonably complete version of god’s story or the grand narrative arc of scripture. we wrestled, argued, theorized, philosophized, prayed, considered, proposed, and laughed our heads off. but we really sensed that god was in this thing, and that we were crafting something that could be really helpful to the tens of thousands of kids who attend dcla.

anyhow, here’s the list. the struckthrough words — like this — are the stories we cut from the list.

Moses call/exodus/pillar & cloud
Boy Samuel/Samuel/saul/david/Nathan/Solomon
[writings] (psalms, etc)
kings & prophets
Jeremiah (29 – “know the plans I have for you… in 70 years”)
Daniel/shadrach, meshach, Abednego
Anna/simeon/42 generations
Birth/angel choir
Baptism/Trinitarian moment/temptation/reading the scroll (luke 4)

(this part of the storyline was a toughie. based on our thread of “god interactions with humans to redirect the story”, every single story from the life of jesus qualifies! so we had to find a secondary framing for the life of christ. we considered a framing from Isaiah, and a few other prophetic fulfillments. but in the end, we decided to go with a contextual theme of jesus’ counter-cultural, revolutionary actions and message. so we listed some of the counter cultural kingdom of god, god-in-christ moments that we thought fit the arc, then winnowed from there.)
woman at the well
– anointing feet
– healing on the Sabbath (including matt and friends)
– eating with sinners
– lepers/unclean woman/jairus’ daughter
jesus speaking truth to those in power
– foot washing
7 woes
centurian/cannanite woman

(back to the regular storyline)
Pentecost (focus on the shift in relationship from pre- to post-pentecost,
that we’re invited into the relationality of the trinity)

at the end of our work, we sat around and talked about what an amazing gift it was to spend two whole days reflecting on the stories of god and the story of god. it’s rare that any of us would take two whole days for this. but to sit in a room with a group of 5 and talk about these stories, reflecting on god’s story-crafting, god’s love, god’s interaction with humans — wow, what a gift.

now i’m really pumped about dcla.