A friend was telling the story of Jesus walking on the water as a children’s sermon. “As I explained to them how Peter got out of the boat and walked toward Jesus,” he said, “a little boy shot back, ‘That’s nothin’-You should’ve seen how the Hulkster picked up Andre the Giant all by himself and threw him out of the ring! That was awesome!’ So much for miracles,” he lamented.
Welcome to the media generation. At any given time of day children can be found sitting cross-legged on the floor bathed in blue light from the tube, battling video villians at the corner Wal-Mart, or “rapped” in a world fed to them by miniature music boxes attached to their belts. Is it any wonder that our traditional ways of sharing the faith story seem so pedestrian?
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But you don’t have to turn your church or Sunday school into a video arcade to get children’s attention. Here are some ideas for sharing the gospel with those media-smart whiz kids.
TELL A GOOD STORY
My favorite Bible professor in college was an extraordinary man by the name of Webb Pomeroy. Without the aid of sound effects or overhead projects, Pomeroy literally brought the Bible to life for me and my classmates using a simple technique. He was a master of the ancient art of storytelling. He didn’t just lecture on Jeremiah. Instead he told us the story of “Crazy Jerry.” On one occasion he referred to the Ark of the Covenant as “God in the Box.” Without compromising the integrity of the scriptures, Pomeroy painted vivid pictures no video could ever capture, because he painted them on the canvas of our imaginations.
Let’s face it — a flannel board is a poor match for Masters of the Universe. But before you install a satellite dish on the children’s wing, think about the average Saturday morning cartoon. Take away the visual and sound effects and what’s usually left is a pretty weak story line. You, on the other hand, have at your disposal some of the greatest drama, adventure, and yes, even humor, in all of literature. Storytelling is a time-honored art, and although you may be tempted to simply sit children around a VCR to “veg out” on a Bible video, resist it. Try telling the story-face to face, and this time with feeling! Here are some tips I gleaned from watching Pomeroy over the years:
1. Start where the children are. You may want to introduce a story by saying “This morning we’re going to ‘leap’ into another time and place. Imagine that you are ( ).” Now you’re speaking THEIR language.
2. Look for the humor in the Bible. Look for the twists, the moments, the ironies. Your story tie will spring to life, and the children will be spellbound.
3. Understand the meaning. The stories in the Bible are there for a reason. They are first and foremost truth stories. That is, they contain nuggets of truth. Although you don’t have to end every story with “and the moral is…”, it’s important that you as the storyteller are aware of the writer’s aim.
For Pomeroy, a biblical story was a dramatic event. Don’t underestimate the value of a well told story. You may wish to look into various storytelling workshops that are available, or check out your local bookstore for tips on the art of storytelling.