Storytelling works. Kids and adults alike love a good story, and the Bible is the best bundle of stories ever told. I have been a storyteller of the faith for a long time, and what I have seen is that storytelling helps with biblical fluency. In my congregation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church – Twin Cities, we use “storytime” to help all people at all ages become storytellers of the faith. Check out my “why’s” of storytelling:
Why storytime? I love a great kid’s sermon like most people, but worship is meant to be accessible to all people at all ages. Make the move from “Kid’s Time” or “Children’s Message” and call it “Storytime.” Use this time to retell God’s story in fun and creative ways that engage all people at all ages.
Why all people at all ages? The deal is this: we can’t assume what people know about God’s story, and we know, the more people hear and interact with God’s story the more likely it will stick. Plus, we are not called to parade kids around just so people can adore them. My friend and colleague, Pastor Jen Rome, says this best: “We don’t invite kids to come forward so that we can adsorb their cuteness.” I don’t ask kids to do something that I would not invite the congregation to do.
And the last why? We promised. Kids are faithfully formed people at their age. They have everything they need to love God and to love others, to pray and worship, and to live a life of service. God doesn’t see them any other way. But the way kids (and some adults) learn is hand’s on, through movement, muscle memory, and so many other wiggly ways. At their baptisms, the church promises to walk with them in faith. Often, we ask kids to sit still and be like little adults, but with storytime, we ask the adults to live up to their promise and engage in God’s story in fun and creative ways.
To get started, here is what I do:
Plan ahead. Spend some time creating a plan on what you would like to do with storytime. I like using a Bible memory verse (because who can complain about memorizing a Bible verse), one main point, and some tactile way of engaging the story. Whatever you do, connect your storytelling with the preacher so that you are both on the same page.
Have a tagline. Each week when I welcome people to storytime I say this: “When we learn God’s story together, we grow in God’s story together.” followed by this invitation “Congregation, I love it when you help me tell the story!” Why do I say this? It’s an invitation for all to be involved, but remember participation is optional. Give people an out who don’t want to play: they can read the lesson, write down their thoughts, or pray.
No object lessons. Remember the goal is engaging all people at all ages with God’s story. God’s story has enough material. No need for an object lesson that is often over the head of young people.
Use emotion, repetition, and scripts. Emotion is a powerful tool. Some times God’s story can be funny, and some times it needs to be serious. Draw on emotion to pull people into the story. Repetition is a memory tool. Chose the Bible memory verse, and repeat it several times. Scripts are a helpful tool. If you need one, use it. I write key words on the palm of my left hand with a sharpie.
Be yourself. The way I tell a story is authentic to myself, so be yourself. And, have fun!