*For the purpose of this blog post, we will be focusing on a younger audience, between the ages of 4-10.
This blog site is full of ideas for lessons that are designed to help you teach the Bible to children. Each lesson has crafts, games and activities, and coloring pages. At the beginning of each lesson there is an overview of the story. It is always stressed that you as the story teller need to familiarize yourself with the passage. While a brief story summary is included in the lesson, simply reading that summary is not enough to make you a good story teller. By taking the time to read through this blog post, you will hopefully gain some valuable tools to help you become a better story teller.
Think back through your life and pick out one or two of your all time favorite story tellers. This person could be a school or Sunday school teacher, your mom or dad, a pastor, or anyone who drew you into the story you were hearing. Now, thinking of that person(s), try to make a list of all the qualities that you feel make that person a great story teller. Maybe your list looks something like this: charismatic, energetic, funny, engaging and so on. Did you find it hard to make that list? Sometimes it is harder to pinpoint what is good than what is bad. The bad often sticks out like a sore thumb. So, try this: make a list of all the qualities that would make someone a bad story teller. For example: boring, monotone, does not know the story, does not make sense, goes on and on and on, and makes things overly complicated. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg on the list that you have! When you compare these two lists, it is obvious which camp you want to be in as a story teller!
Foundational to all story telling is understanding your audience. One amazing thing about the way we were all created is that we all develop in a predictable manner. What that means is that throughout the course of our lives, there are certain milestones that we can anticipate happening during specific periods of our life. The areas of our lives that these milestones can take place in include, but are not limited to, the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. So, what does this mean in story telling? A simple example can be seen in a person’s attention span. It has been noted that a person’s attention span is usually equal to their age. (Of course this has its exceptions depending on how much a person likes what they are doing.) So, if you have a class full of 4-10 year old, you have about 4 to 10 minutes to tell your story and still retain the attention of the children. No matter how good of a story teller you are, if you neglect this simple fact, you will lose your audience and they will not retain most of what you were telling them.
Another example has to do with people’s level of energy. Children are full of energy! Typically, little boys are wigglier than little girls. Keeping this in mind, do not expect children to sit still for a long length of time. Even 5 minutes can seem like an eternity to a child who has been asked to sit still. Many things can be done to help overcome this potential hurtle. For example, you can incorporate the children in telling the story by acting it out. This simple activity is engaging and gets the children up out of their seats, helping to focus some of their energy.
Let’s take a look at the way children develop spiritually. What do you need to know about a child’s spiritual development that will help you develop your story telling skills? In Matthew 9:14, Jesus tells his disciples that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those like the children. In saying this, Jesus is acknowledging that children have a simple faith. They believe what you tell them. When you tell the children that God created everything, they believe that God created everything. When you tell them that Jesus died for them, they believe Jesus died just for them. Children have simple faith. It is not obstructed by the same things that cause unbelief in adults. They enjoy coming to church and being in Sunday school. These are things that we need to take advantage of, as well as take very seriously. We should be studying the word of God in our personal lives so that when we share God’s word with the children, we are correctly handling the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
Having a basic knowledge of child development in our arsenals, we can now ask the question that has brought you to this blog post in the first place. What does it take to tell a good Bible story? First and foremost, we must have a covering of prayer. As obvious as this is, spending time in prayer before we begin preparations for telling the Bible story can help clear our minds to hear the message that God wants you to be sharing with the children. Next, and again quite obviously, you must know the story! This means you must read the story. And then read it again. And if necessary, read it again! The better you know the story, the easier it will be to tell. Do not assume that just because you have read the story in the past that you do not need to read it again in preparation for your lesson. Knowing the story well helps to remove a certain degree of anxiety you may have about sharing in public. Also, the children will be looking to you as the expert on the story. They will believe whatever you tell them regarding the story. This makes it very important, as was mentioned in the paragraph above, to be presenting the Bible in a way that is honoring to God. As you are studying the story, practice telling it in your own words. The more you practice, the more confident you will become. As you practice, keep in mind the time it takes you, as well as the complexity of the words you are using. Remember the ages of the children with whom you are sharing the story!
Now, you can simply tell the Bible story to the children using just your words. It is possible, with practice, to become fun and exciting enough with your words to keep the children engaged. However, the more senses you can interact with while telling the story, the more likely the children will remember the point of the story. Some of the things that you may consider using while telling the story include picture Bibles, short videos, props and costumes (to act out the story), and object lessons. Some of these ideas are included in the lessons that have been posted on this blog site. Also consider visiting the resources tab on this site for addition tools.
This has been a very brief intro to Bible story-telling. My prayer for you is that in some way this has been helpful and that the children to whom you minister will be reached with the Gospel of Christ as you learn and grow in your story-telling abilities.