Storytelling tips for the novice and the
It can happen in almost any class. Kids are engaged in learning
through hands-on experiences, and then it hits. The class forms a
circle for story time and the mood sours. Active learning turns
into glazed looks and restlessness. The teacher reads through the
story in a flat monotone voice. And kids endure one more boring
story from the Bible.
Christianity is a story-based faith. The stories of the Bible
are crucial to our children’s growth, but we teachers often spend
an abysmally short amount of time preparing to teach it. And it
shows. If we want kids to grow, we must reform our Bible story
preparation and delivery.
Read the story for yourself. What does it say to you? Do you find
it interesting? What could it say to your children? What questions
would they ask about it? How can you make it interesting to them?
How can you help them understand what it’s saying?
Look for ways to connect with kids’ everyday experiences by
emphasizing certain aspects of a story. A pastor once told the
story of the prodigal son to an urban Bible club. He explained that
the boy wasted all his money on things like video games and candy.
Another teacher who told this story in a rural setting emphasized
how the son ate pig food.
As you prepare to tell any Bible story, work on the elements of
good storytelling-characters, point of view, conflict, involvement,
and style and delivery.
Dust off the people in the Bible that you discuss in your story and
make them real. One man described Goliath as someone more than 2
feet taller than Michael Jordan. He got everyone’s attention. When
telling the story of Sarah and Isaac, a teacher dressed as Sarah
and borrowed a 6-week-old for his acting debut as Isaac.
One adventurous teacher, let the 5-year-olds act out a series of
Bible stories. They wore biblical garb and went outside where a
teacher read the Scripture and the children acted it out. An
unexpected line came from the 5-year-old Zacchaeus who had climbed
a tree. When Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, you come down,” he replied, “I
can’t. I’m stuck!”
Point Of View
Decide who could best tell the story: you as teacher, a person in
the story, or a person outside the story. Dialogues often work well
with children, especially when people from the Bible converse with
kids in their own language. Costumes help and may be as simple as a
bathrobe and a head covering.
Sometimes a person or even a character outside the story may
supply the point of view for telling it. When the fifth- and
sixth-grade material focused on Jeremiah and Baruch (Jeremiah), I invited Cinderella (a senior
higher) to class.
I told the story and “Cindy” stopped me with questions. As she
scrubbed floors and felt sorry for herself, I told her about
someone else who had every reason to feel sorry for himself. We
discussed the trials and troubles of Jeremiah. We talked about the
princes in the story because Cinderella had a great interest in
princes. Later, the class remembered all the information from the
Good stories have suspense and movement to hold the listener’s
interest. Sometimes we take out the conflict in Bible stories
because we assume everyone knows the ending. But the tension is
what makes the stories real.
When you let kids experience the conflict that the people in the
Bible felt or faced, your children are more likely to learn. During
a story, ask questions such as: What do you think Noah thought
about while he built the ark and it wasn’t even cloudy? What do you
think James and John’s dad thought when they left their fishing
boats and followed Jesus? How do you think it feels to be on the
sea during a storm?