(The WOW Theological Method draws on knowledge from Dr. Andrew Zirschky’s work on theological reflection with youth.)
I was walking down the row of hungry people when a man said to me, “Hey, I know you.”
And that statement transformed my life.
We arrived at The Bridge early. Everyone was given a role in helping to feed the 500 homeless men, women, and children we were expecting. I took my place near the front of the food line to help manage the traffic. There were so many hungry people that I felt overwhelmed. I spoke to those around me and encouraged the youth working with me who also looked like they were overwhelmed. I tried to show them how to be a servant and help folks through the line. It wasn’t hard really: help people get a plate of food and then sit and talk with them.
I was walking down the line when the man said, “Hey, I know you.” I was immediately taken aback as the man was in the homeless line. I hesitated in my response as I took his hand. I thought he was mistaken since I didn’t think I knew any homeless people, but he went on to say, “You’re one of the ministers at Brentwood Church.” I was shocked. “We had dinner together.” I still hesitated. “How are your two beautiful girls, Carlisle and Hallie?”
Then, I remembered him. He had stayed at our church as a part of the Room at the Inn program the past winter on the night our family volunteered. He remembered me, and it would become a transformation moment for me.
This moment was a WOW moment for me, but going through the process of theological reflection around this moment is what has actually changed me. I created the “WOW Theological Method” to help youth ministers help teenagers process their own WOW moments.
Making the WOW Theological Method a habit for yourself and for your ministry will deepen your young people’s understanding of God’s action in the world and in their lives. Following these five steps of theological reflection will take a moment and turn it into a transformative event. I hope you will use these steps when the next WOW moment happens. Included below is a free downloadable resource to help you walk through the WOW Theological Process with your youth.
5 Steps to Transformational Moments
Step 1: WOW! Capture the Big Moments
Capturing the big moments is essential to youth ministry and to growing in our faith. When we experience something deeply meaningful, shocking, or sobering, we don’t want to forget it.
Many youth ministries do a good job of naming the WOW moment. At the end of a day or a trip, we name how we saw God at work. We use language like God Sightings, Holy Moments, Highs (not lows), Roses (not thorns), and Popsicles (not poop!).
Naming God’s activity in the world is important. It testifies to our faith.
Often a disorienting dilemma is our WOW moment. A disorienting dilemma is when you encounter a truth that challenges your belief or understanding of how things are.
As we work through these steps, can you think about one WOW moment from your personal life or ministry?
Got one? Then hang on to it. But naming the WOW moments alone misses the opportunity to think deeply about WHY those moments are significant and WHAT they tell us about God’s character.
Step 2: Why!? Why that moment?
As we seek to dive deeper into our WOW moment, we must begin by asking WHY that moment was significant. For something to be a WOW moment, your beliefs, opinions, or assumptions have to be either challenged or confirmed. We must push beyond the emotions of the moment to see what caused the WOW experience. But at the same time, note how you felt. Our feelings help us understand why the moment stood out.
Why was meeting John again such a WOW moment? He remembered me. I didn’t remember him. Why was that? John went on to remind me of our conversation and how much he enjoyed talking to my daughters. Our conversation was significant to John. Why not for me?
Step 3: What is different?
What beliefs or opinions would the average person on the street have about the people, places, actions, and words that make up your wow story? What have you heard people say? What beliefs did you have about the people in the story before your WOW moment? After?
John ministered to me that day in line. He valued me. He appreciated what my church and my family had done for him, but he ministered to me. I’m the one who usually recognizes people and reconnects with them. I should have been the one who remembered him…RIGHT? I’m the Minister! But it was John, homeless and needing help, who ministered to me.
I saw him differently from that moment on. John could simply be my friend.
Step 4: What is God’s Perspective?
How do your assumptions, beliefs and opinions fit — or not fit — with what we know of who God is and how God works? How do your faith and scripture shed light on your WOW moment? What part did God play in your story? What new faith questions emerge for you as you as you think about what happened?
Where was God in my story? God was everyone. Part of our challenge to and prayer for the young people volunteering that night was to be present with those they encountered and to be Christ to them. I had prayed that God would bring someone who was marginalized into my life. He answered all of these prayers in a big way.
Step 5: Alignment? What needs to change?
All of this reflection falls short if we don’t align ourselves with God’s will moving forward. How will you be different because of this moment? What have you learned about God, yourself, and the others in your story?
I wanted to be John’s friend. I wanted to provide for his needs as someone who was homeless. But more than either of those things, I wanted to share in the blessing of me knowing him and him knowing me.
About Dietrich Kirk:
Dietrich“Deech” Kirk has been in youth ministry for 20+ years. He served as the youth minister of Brentwood United Methodist Church for six years before becoming the Executive Director of the CYMT in 2006. He continues to serve as one of Brentwood’s associate ministers. He is the author of Raising Teens in an Almost Christian World: A Parent’s Guide and one of the co-authors of Now What? Next Steps in Your New Life with Christ. When he is not leading the CYMT, speaking at youth events, or training other youth workers, Deech enjoys spending time with his wife Keeley and daughters Carlisle and Hallie.