This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……

The Story of Mark 6 and Sidewalk Chalk

Josh Beeler

Josh Beeler is the Associate Pastor for Youth and College at Central Baptist Church of Fountain City in Knoxville, TN. He is a graduate of Old Dominion University and of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Josh is married to his wonderful wife, Sherry, who he enjoys sharing conversation, adventures, and life with. He is ridiculously playful and works daily to maintain his mischievousness. Josh enjoys playing, singing, hiking, reading, questioning and laughing with friends.

Mark 6 is without a doubt my favorite chapter in the Bible. Seriously, it has enough topics and significant happenings in the life and ministry of Jesus to preach/teach for months:

  • Jesus’ is rejected by his hometown.
  • Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to do miraculous works.
  • John the Baptist is beheaded, and Jesus and the other disciples find out about it.
  • Jesus sneaks away with the disciples, is followed by a crowd, then feeds five thousand!
  • And, certainly not least, Jesus walks on water, then calms a storm once he gets in the boat.

There’s a TON of material here! But in one of my first summers in youth ministry, I learned that you can’t expect students to see what you see: in fact, you often have to plan to see what they will see.
The summer plan was to work through one chapter of Mark each week in Bible study. We got to week six, and I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to teach all of this great stuff in one week! So I decided that I would do an introductory lesson through all of it, and then allow the students to reflect on the parts that were the most significant to them. And the means by which they would do this reflection would be sidewalk chalk.
So we finished up the lesson (one of the best I’ve ever taught I’m sure…), and then we headed out to the front of the church. I passed out the chalk, split them into pairs, and gave them the prompt: think about ALL of the stories we just learned about in Mark 6 and pick the one that stuck out the most to you. Then, draw it on your sidewalk square.
In my mind, I saw a wide array of drawings that somehow beautifully wove together the fullness of Mark 6. I saw a tapestry of faith that would teach passerbys the faithfulness of God’s love. I also saw better artists than you should ever expect of a group of teenagers…
So after all of this, what did I get? About ten different sidewalk squares that had all honed in on the same part of the story—the beheading of John the Baptist. Ten squares of sidewalk chalk drawings of a guy getting beheaded RIGHT in front of the main sanctuary entrance…fortunately for me, it rained before that Sunday.
But that’s the way it goes sometimes, isn’t it? We map out our grand visions—the things that we want students to see—and fail to think through just how students will actually process something. And, of course, there’s no way to do that perfectly, but the lesson I learned that day was twofold.
First, I learned that, even if I can’t do it all the time, I have to find ways to embrace the mind of a student in my planning more often. I have to learn to think like a teenager who is still learning how to do this journey called faith. I have to think like someone who might not be ready to get some grand lesson out of every word from the Bible, but instead might just find something interesting enough to start a conversation.
And second, I learned a lesson that can be grasped almost daily if you’re willing. I learned that there is grace enough for all the shortcomings of the faithful. There’s as much holiness in the “Aha!” moments as there is in the laughter and failure. At least in my own case, a mess of sidewalk chalk miscues somehow managed to make me like Mark 6 even more, and to be that much more grateful for God’s grace, mercy, and love.