God in a teen’s world

We are hoping to gather examples from all over of ways in which people are using digital storytelling in faith formation. Here is an example that comes from Cheryl Smith, who is the Eastern Region Resource Administrator in the Roman Catholic diocese of Syracuse, New York.

As catechists we are always looking for ways to help teens find God in the world around them. How do we help them know that there is a God and to become aware that God is everywhere? How do we get them to pay attention when we try to explain this concept to them…and will they believe us?

I believe that experience is the best teacher, so I decided to send 9th graders on a ‘mission to find God’ all around them. I had them take pictures and then bring them back to me. I put these pictures to music and made a movie that I have used on various occasions for reflection or prayer.

Putting together a “movie” project

  1. Find a song. Either download it onto your computer or ‘rip’ from CD. I used a song by Thirty Three Miles called ‘There Is a God’. (Note: when I want to find a song with a theme, I either do a google search or I go onto Youtube and do a search either by an artist I like or the theme I am looking for.)
  2. Write down each verse (note: search for the words on-line if needed)
  3. Set up your teens into groups of 4 or 5
  4. Equip each group with one camera and one verse from the song. (Use cameras that have SD memory cards.)
  5. Send each group out to take one or two picture(s) for each line of their verse. They should write a brief description of the picture they took next to the line that it goes with in the song. This is so that when you put the ‘movie’ together you will put the picture and words together the way that they planned. (Note: you only want one or two pictures for each line or it will take too long to put the movie together ).
  6. Gather the pictures (SD cards). Since the movie isn’t done yet, just have the teens discuss the experience and reflect on ‘finding God’ in their world. Discuss where else they see/find God.
  7. Upload the pictures from each group into your computer. It will make it much easier to put the movie together if you upload the SD cards in the order of the verses assigned (load verse #1, then #2 etc.).
  8. Import pictures into Windows Movie Maker (or iMovie if using a MAC)(You can watch tutorials on how to use Movie Maker or iMovie on Youtube.)
  9. Import the song choice into your ‘movie maker’ program.
  10. Make your movie. If you have a student that knows how to use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie let them do the creating if you don’t know how…or just to see what they can do.

Now for the best part…share your movie with the class. You can use it as part of prayer or just show the movie and discuss the whole project. If you plan on using the movie for others in your parish be sure to get permission to use any pictures of the students in the movie. (Of course, you can also instruct the students to avoid pictures of each other).

Teaching time: if you are having the teens take pictures around the parish and in the church, you can also assign an adult (catechist) to go with each group and ‘go a little deeper’ into why the group chose each particular picture to represent the words in the song. I was quite amazed by some answers and had ‘teaching moments’ along the way. It also keeps the teens on track and in keeping with the time scheduled. This is a great way to show off the teens to the rest of the parish community. Maybe you can add it to the website, use it in other faith formation classes, or even as part of a prayer service in adult faith formation or at parent or parish meetings.