GOSHEN -- Drama, dance and music are the components of worship for eight Goshen College students in a traveling student-led performance group.
Musical director Deb Brubaker helps the students in Parables work to establish a connection between people and God by way of community and church performances across the Midwest.
Each fall Brubaker works with the volunteers in the group to develop and act in a series of skits, songs and personal testimonies that center around a theme. This year's theme is "Wherever you go, there you are. And God is present."
The students take six songs as a starting point and build the theme and storyline from there. The intent is for the group's performances to be worshipful, according to performance coordinator Bethany Swope. But Parables also gives students an opportunity to develop ministry and leadership skills and use their other talents in creative ways.
Parables' biggest strength is in the sharing of stories, Brubaker said.
"I think it empowers the students," she said. "What we have found is that sharing stories is one of the most powerful ways of communicating with people. One of the neat things the kids discover is that Jesus was also a great storyteller."
Sophomore Aaron Kaufmann is a music major with a theater minor, so performing is a way of life for him. But he had little practice presenting a religious show, or one he helped to write, until agreeing to join Parables this fall. The experience has brought more of him to the stage, he said.
Performing someone else's story isn't the same as baring your own, but Kaufmann stepped up to the challenge.
"I definitely like to talk, and I like to tell stories. If anything, I find that (the fact that it's his own story) makes it easier. I can put my emotions into it," he said.
Each participant takes a turn telling a story about his or her own faith. Each person's faith story is linked to one of the parables or Bible stories performed by the group, all of which center around the theme of discovering God. Six songs in a variety of styles are interspersed between the stories.
Kaufmann said that sharing their faith stories and creating the production has drawn the eight actors and actresses closer together.
That process was a confidence-builder for Kaufmann.
"The fact that we wrote all of the skits ourselves is something I'd never done before. I can say, I've made this -- I've done this, " Kaufmann said.