Shaped by Story

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Find out how Michael Novelli’s
biblical storying method has changed the way kids experience the
events of the Bible…

Imagine your elementary kids completely enthralled as you retell
the disciples’ experiences at the Last Supper. Kids’ imaginations
fully engaged, they picture what happened, then eagerly discuss
their questions and thoughts about this incredible moment and how
it makes them feel.

This scenario is quickly becoming a reality in children’s
ministries that adopt a new technique of storytelling developed by
Michael Novelli, author of Shaped by the Story: Helping
Students Encounter God in a New Way
(Zondervan). Consider
Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, Oregon, which has
implemented Novelli’s Bible storying method.

Gary Strudler, children’s ministries pastor at Rolling Hills, felt
compelled to help the children in his ministry become more
biblically literate. Strudler was astonished to find that many of
the kids in his ministry didn’t recognize significant events in the
Bible-even after he’d spent years planning and delivering relevant
Sunday morning lessons.

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“I began to wonder if there were universal methods for helping
children learn and retain stories,” says Strudler. He picked up the
book Shaped by the Story by Michael Novelli and quickly
realized he’d found a new way for children to interact with and
grasp the events of the Bible.

Novelli defines Bible storying as “being rooted in the ancient
Hebrew approach to Scriptures, with a belief that we must allow the
voice of the biblical narrative to speak.”

Says Novelli, “We must create space and anticipation that the
Scriptures have something to say to us each time we encounter them.
The process of storying is based on imaginative storytelling,
careful observation, lively dialogue, and creative retellings-all
with the intent to help us enter the story and find ourselves in
it.”

Novelli developed his storying method during his years as a youth
pastor when he too, like Strudler, saw that kids weren’t engaged
with the Bible. He struggled to find a new way to inspire them and
after trying several different approaches, Novelli finally found a
remarkably effective way to fully engage kids using these key
elements.

• Relationships-Relationships are the centerpiece
of the storytelling experience-between kids and adults and between
children.

• Preparation-Moments of quiet preparation are key
to getting kids ready to hear the story and to helping them hear
what God is saying to them through it.

• Telling-The actual retelling of the biblical
narrative is when the story comes to life.

• Rewind-Kids have opportunities to retell the
story in their own words and actions.

• Dialogue-Kids get to talk about the story by
tackling open-ended questions, such as, “What did you see in your
mind when you heard the story?”

Using this method, Novelli saw a new level of engagement in his
kids-and more important, he saw that the narratives of the Bible
were having a transformative effect on the kids. He noticed kids’
relief when they realized the Bible wasn’t intimidating or
irrelevant. He saw their ears perk up when they heard God speaking
uniquely to them through the Bible. He found that the kids couldn’t
wait to hear the “same old” stories–in this new way.

     

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