As the blizzard of iPods, iTunes and text messages continues to blow away modern youth culture, storyteller Carol Wolf offers a ray of biblical light for children and young adults.
A member at Church of the Nativity UCC in Kenmore, N.Y., Wolf is the author of "Biblical Storytelling in Youth Ministry" – a project of passion filled with stories of young people in the Bible who show incredible courage and strength during critical spiritual-awareness stages of their lives.
"We're in a time of a culture where people don't read the Bible anymore," says Wolf, whose book is being used for youth ministry, confirmation classes and spiritual development. "Even parents are losing sight of these teaching opportunities, since very few stories are included in the lectionary and must be purposely sought out and studied.
"But when they share these stories, they are intrigued."
The book, published last May, started as a requirement of Wolf to produce an educational resource as part of her master's program at the Academy of Biblical Storytelling. Wolf opted to help others retell some of her favorite stories of biblical youth and young adults..
The book focuses on the stories of five young people in the Bible who are "chosen and blessed" – Hoglah, Deborah, Samuel, Jesus in the temple and Jairus' daughter. Each chapter is divided into five segments: the original scripture with a "setting the stage" activity; a monologue from the point of view of the youngster in the story; an overview of the story and its possible meaning for today; a personal reflection from Wolf on each story and how it made a connection in her life; and discussion questions for youth and adults to reflect upon and use as conversation starters.
Among Wolf's fans is Kelly Ann Kowalski, a member of the Network of Religious Communities who heads up the Food for All program in western New York.
"I find the stories to be interesting and new. I love how you put your own personal spin on each story to show how you related into the reading," Kowalski says in endorsing the book. "It made me reflect on my own life. I think the book is a great tool for CCD classes and Bible school lessons."
Rev. Lori Ruge-Jones from Living Word Lutheran Church in Buda, Texas, is another believer. "Using this method brings the Bible alive," she says. "I am amazed to see how faith deepens, how new connections are made, how 'into' the stories people of all ages get when they become storytellers."
A member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers International, Wolf says preliminary feedback among young readers has been uplifting.
"They are getting to know people in the Bible when they were younger; people they never knew about. They are learning about the courage to speak up for injustice, for giving inspiration; that young people DO have a role in the Bible that pastors don't talk about."
Come spring, Wolf will be taking her work to the pulpit. She has accepted an offer by the Rev. Scott Thomas, senior minister of Amherst (N.Y.) Community UCC, to fill in for him during the five Sundays in May when he is on sabbatical.
"It's thrilling – if not a little scary," says Wolf with a laugh. "I'll be using faith scriptures, all in the storytelling method." After a brief pause, she adds, "This is like 'Whoa!' This book has opened incredible new doors for me."
While she is excited about the book, it is not her first. Fifteen years ago she wrote "Journey Into Prayer," in which she takes readers along a path to build a prayer routine that includes looking for glimpses of God's goodness; praying for others; praying through Scriptures; listening to God in meditation; and responding to prayer insights.
"I am very much committed to working with congregations, people in senior centers, youth groups or community groups to help bring the Bible alive," says Wolf, "and have the people recognize themselves and their stories, and how connected we are – all the way back to the Scripture times, and how God is still speaking to us today."