My significant successes in youth ministry are so rare that when they occur, I like to point them out. Today I gave gifts to my middle-school-age class that I’ve been leading for a few months now, and the gifts went over really well. What I gave them was:
Its the Bible done in manga (Japanese comic book) style by an African artist no less. I thought to myself – when I was 11 or so, I found reading the Bible only barely tolerable, and I’m in seminary, so clearly I am an easy mark where that is concerned. And the kids already have a lot of the stories of the Bible embedded in them through Godly Play. But I wanted to give them something that they were likely to actually read.
The cool thing is that they were already reading it while sitting in worship and afterwards at lunch. They were giving me updates on what page they were on, and we’re going to talk about what they’ve read next week, so I’m excited and curious to find out what strikes them about the stories and how they are told.
So, I recommend The Manga Bible for those of you who work with youth who aren’t at the point where they can get through much of the regular Bible. All of the stories in TMB are cross-referenced to sections of the Bible that are being retold, which is cool because it is a small encouragement to crack open the big scary strange book and read little bits of it once you’ve been introduced to the stories. It also seems well-geared to that age group. It doesn’t water down or whitewash the stories it covers very much – a lot of the violence and moral problems are still there for them to read, which I think is crucial for developing more mature faith and practice. The Bible is not sanitized because life is not sanitized, and as I get older I learn how unsanitary it really is. A ‘clean’ Bible has nothing to say to an unsanitary world, and I appreciate that this is both accessible and, for the most part, remains true to the source material (IMHO).