Children's Ministry, Faith Nurture
The Fine Art of Storytelling
October 15, 2019
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Author Elie Wiesel writes, “God made man because he loves stories.” Perhaps there’s truth in that wonderful statement. I suppose God could have proclaimed the gospel message in twenty-five words or less: “I made you to live in relationship with me. You sinned and broke that relationship. I sent my son Jesus to redeem you.” Instead, God gave us the Bible, a book that proclaims God’s love and faithfulness—story after story.
When you agreed to teach kids, you accepted God’s command to keep telling these stories. And telling them well is important! Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life, says, “It’s a sin to bore a kid with the gospel.” God’s stories are not boring—they’re alive, exciting, and possess the power of a two-edged sword. “Boring Bible storyteller” should be an oxymoron.
Dwell is all about God’s story, as you can see by a quick glance at the names of the session steps: Gathering for God’s Story, Entering the Story, Living into the Story, and Living Out of the Story. Your role as teacher is to become chief storyteller—and to invite your kids to retell the story and reflect on it each week so that it becomes their story.
Look for opportunities in addition to the Bible story presentation to tell kids other good stories: stories about people who have done great and small things in God’s kingdom, stories from your own life that illustrate a session truth, stories about other people who’ve experienced God’s grace. Good preparation and thoughtfulness can transform a ho-hum story into one that sticks in children’s minds and hearts for a long time.
Here are some suggestions for telling stories well:
Get your facts straight. Go straight to the source—read the story from the Bible. Read through the passage several times, perhaps in different versions. Then read the background reflection (“Getting into the Story”) in your leader’s guide.
As part of your preparation, identify the four parts of the story you’ll be telling. For example, the four parts of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan are
Conclude your preparation by practicing telling the story in front of a mirror or a sympathetic audience—or record your telling. Practice is especially important for beginning storytellers. Practice will give you confidence and fix the story in your mind. If you’re using visual aids or props, incorporate them into your practice session. If you depend on a script, look for a way to incorporate it into your props (for example, a king going into battle might be carrying a shield to which you can attach the script).
Tell It Well
Here are some ways to enhance your effectiveness:
In one African culture, a ritual chant signals the beginning of a story. “A story! A story!” says the storyteller, announcing his intention. “Let it come! Let it come!” respond the eager listeners.
God’s story . . . let it come! The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Check out The Creative Storytelling Guide for Children’s Ministry by Steven James (Standard Publishing, 2002) for many more ideas and examples of different ways to tell a story well.
This post contains an excerpt from Dwelling. Reprinted with permission. © Faith Alive Christian Resources.
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