For Youth Workers Post

Once Upon a Time

Darren Wright

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for November 4–10, 2013.


“I love stories. I love hearing them, watching them, telling them, and living them. What’s more, I love that Jesus taught with stories, which shouldn’t surprise us. After all, the Rabbinic method used stories as the primary language for teaching. The Hebrew scriptures were told over and over again as stories until they became so much a part of the community that storytelling became a source of the community’s life.

“I do think that we’ve made some assumptions about the stories Jesus told that we might need to revisit—for example:

  • We assume that stories are easy to tell and that Jesus’ stories were not stories that were told over and over again. Anyone who says storytelling is easy isn’t a storyteller. The parables of Jesus are works of art, not simple, quickly thought up, spur of the moment stories. They had been worked on and polished over time.
  • We assume that we can hear Jesus’ stories without knowing how the original hearers understood them. For example, when poor farmers struggling under an oppressive government and economic system hear the word landlord, they do not translate “God.” Landlords were the people who sucked their land and their wallets dry, often stealing their land because of unpaid debts.

“This session asks young people how they hear and tell stories. Give them as much time as possible to create their own stories. It can be fun; and with practice, they get better. I promise.” —Darren



Darren WrightDarren Wright is a Uniting Church Youth Worker, serving in the Riverina Presbytery in New South Wales, Australia, as the Presbytery Youth and Children’s Ministry Worker. Darren has previously worked in congregational ministry, high school chaplaincy, and local government as a youth worker (as well as a petrol station attendant, supermarket employee, dairy manager, and furniture salesperson). His interests include music (Moby, Radiohead, Ben Harper, The National, Muse, All India Radio), film (MegaMind, Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon, Scott Pilgrim, The Avengers), TV (Chuck, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Community), theology, pop-culture, and working with young people in at-risk areas. He is particularly interested in how the church and theology connect with pop culture. Check out Darren’s blog at



The stuff you’ll need depends on the activities you choose; here’s the full list:



If you want to develop this session in other ways, here are a few resources that may be of assistance.

  • Cloud of Witnesses: Story” — Over the years, Princeton Theological Seminary has created a great collection of audio resources entitled “Cloud of Witnesses.” The original CD audio journal has been uploaded as audio files for people to download. This volume includes a number of great thoughts, interviews, and ideas based on the theme “Story.”
  • Way To Live: Christian Practices for Teens, by Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter; Upper Room Books, 2002 (also available from “Practicing Our Faith”) — I seem to refer to this book every time I write for “In the Habit.” It’s a great resource for youth workers and ministers. The Leaders Guide, which can be downloaded from the “Practicing Our Faith” website, offers ideas for people to use in worship, youth group, camps, and Bible studies. “The Story” is Chapter 2 in the book and begins of page 17 of the Leaders Guide.
  • Lady Gaga Samaritan” is a great video animation of the story of the Good Samaritan from “Proost: Inspiring Resources that Fuel Faith.” Find more parables at Proost.
  • Good or Bad Story?” is a PowerPoint file of movie posters. Show the posters and ask, “Is this a good story or a bad one?” Of course, the associated question is this: “What makes a good story?” Perhaps you could make a list as you compare the films.
  • “Holy Moly” by Spark House, originally designed for young children, is a beautiful animated series based on stories from the scriptures. I love how they use grunts and other noises rather than language to help tell the story. Check out this example of “Holy Moly.”
  •  Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Project and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling, by Emily K. Neuburger; Storey Publishing, 2012 (available from Amazon) — This is a great new book on storytelling and comes with different craft and multimedia ideas to help children and parents tell stories. While this book is aimed at parents of younger children, I’ve found it to be a great resource to use with youth as well.



This session invites young people to participate in creating their own stories.

Rory’s Story Cubes (purchase a set at is a fun game that invites the players to roll the dice and to use their imagination to create a story prompted by the symbols that appear on the dice. The more your group members play, the more intricate and detailed their stories will become. (NOTE: Check out an example of a story I created using Rory’s Story Cubes at

Choose one of these ways for your group members to play the game:

  • Invite one person to roll the dice. Invite another to choose a symbol and to begin a story. Then ask each person in turn to choose one of the remaining symbols and to add to a group story.
  • Invite people to form small groups, and ask each member of each small group to take a turn rolling the dice and telling a story.

Enjoy playing Rory’s Story Cubes with the group. Then invite discussion:
       What are your favorite stories in film or literature?
       Why are they your favorites? What makes them stick out in your mind?
       What are some components that make up a good story?
       Can you remember stories that your parents or other people read to you when you were young?
       Why are stories important when you’re growing up?
       Why are stories an important part of communities?
       Do you know any parables? If so, what parables come to mind?



Scripture: Luke 10:25–37

Read aloud the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37. 

Invite discussion:
       What’s your initial response to the story?
       To whom did Jesus tell the story?
       What are some elements that made it an effective story?
       What was the twist in the story that would have made people see the world in a new way?
       How would Jesus’ listeners have responded to the story?
       Which of the characters in the story do you relate to?
       How does the parable make you feel?

Invite group members to spend a few minutes reflecting on the story and on their feelings about the story. Then ask them to answer this question:
       How do you respond to the story?



Ask group members to imagine the world as they think God would like to see it. Then invite each person to tell, in a sentence or two, a story about the world he or she has imagined.

After people have told their stories, allow some time for silent reflection. Complete this time of prayer with your own story. Then say, “Amen.”



  • If you have time, ask the group to rewrite the parable of the Good Samaritan for today.
  • Or invite group members to choose a parable they would like to perform. Then ask them to rewrite that parable for today. They may choose to retell the parable in a contemporary context, perform it as drama, or videotape it using a camera or mobile phone. (NOTE: If your group videotapes a parable, consider loading it onto YouTube and sending us the link so that we can share it with the devozine community—or send us the movie file, and we will post it on the devozine YouTube Channel and website.)


—from devozine In the Habit (November/December 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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