Tuesday Teaching Tip: How to Effectively Use Storytelling

When you are studying a narrative Bible passage, try storytelling. Storytelling provides a way to explore many facets of a Bible study. In storytelling, you’re trying to get your group members to react to a story in ways they wouldn’t in a traditional Bible study setting. Here’s how to effectively use storytelling in your group:

  • Tell a story from Scripture. You can do this from memory, or you can read it word-for-word from the Bible.
  • Ask group members to group up in pairs and share what they believed to be the main points from the story.
  • Debrief the story by asking group members:
    • To describe their reactions to the story.
    • With which characters did they most closely identify? Why?
    • What do they consider to be the main point of the story?
    • If they could write a different ending to the story, what would it be?
    • To identify how the story relates to us today.
    • To retell the story in their own words.

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Discover the power of stories in your group

Mondays on the blog are all about featuring a short excerpt from a book on group ministry, and today I’ve selected a book that I’ve never featured before.

Friend and colleague David Francis has written a series of books on group ministry, and his book The Discover Triad: Three Facets of a Dynamic Sunday School Class, has some excellent observations about the elements that help make a Sunday School class, small group, etc., more impactful for the group members. Here, in David’s own words, are his thoughts about the power of stories (one of the three facets of a dynamic group):

A Sunday School class can provide a safe place to share how Scripture is impacting our stories…”Learning occurs when we attach prior knowledge, wisdom, and experience to the information, knowledge, and material being presented at the current time. The process of connecting the two – prior experience and current information – brings about behavioral life change.” The purpose of Bible study is more than learning its content. The Bible is God’s “owner’s manual” for human life. He does not want just want us to know it; He wants us to live it. An effective way to begin a Bible study session is sharing a story that connects a life issue with the passage the group is about to encounter. A current news story works great if it fits. A third person story found on the Internet can be effective. Even a personal story told by the teacher  might be appropriate…Perhaps the best story is one told by a class member…”

As a group leader, learn to allow your people to talk and discuss their life experiences and how those intersect with the truth of Scripture that you are studying. Group leaders who are serious about allowing stories to be shared create a dynamic group experience. Those group leaders look for stories throughout the week and encourage group members to become vulnerable and share their own stories. Group members are also encouraged to share stories when they hear their group leader regularly sharing his or her stories and how those relate to the topic being studied.

Give this a try the next time you teach your group. Pre-enlist a group member to share a story, or be ready to share one yourself. Find a great current event that connects to the Bible study session, or use a story from the world of sports, politics, entertainment, etc., that tells a story that is relevant to your topic.

David also contributed to the development of a discussion-centered Bible study series, Bible Studies For Life, where this concept was incorporated into the DNA of the group Bible studies. It’s the one that my Bible study group uses weekly, and has for the past 4 1/2 years. It’s made a huge difference in my group, and now my group members love hearing and telling stories week-after-week.

Teacher – Creating Conversational Community

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from a relatively new book on the Sunday School/groups scene. It’s title Teacher - CCCtells it all: Teacher: Creating Conversational Community.

The portion I’ve chosen to focus on today is from page 30 of the book. In this section, authors Francis, Braddy, and Kelley call attention to the importance of stories in our Bible studies. I hope that stories are a part of your group’s Bible study experience. Here is what the authors have to say:

Stories. It’s how God wired our brains. He likes stories so much He wrote one! We call it the Bible. It’s made up of hundreds of stories. But they are ultimately just part of One Story. It’s a story of redemption. Its hero is the Word. The Word who thought up the world and spoke it into being…

Stories are crucial to the teaching ministries of Jesus and Paul. The Lord taught in parables (short stories that were memorable and focused on  a single truth. Paul was excellent at creating word pictures using illustrations from everyday life such as boxing, running, farming, soldiering, and more.

As a teacher, look for stories to share from your own life. Group leaders should practice a level of vulnerability. The people in the group need to see that you don’t have it all together. A good teacher will also know his or her group members well enough to call on them to share their own stories. Stories can be powerful tools the Lord uses to shape hearts and open minds.

The next time you teach, what stories will you include? Something from your past? Your present? A current event? Something else? Stories are powerful and they capture people’s imaginations. Try making storytelling a part of your group’s Bible study experience.

The Power of Story in Sunday School

Two things happened just yesterday that reminded me of the powerful nature of stories in a classroom. The first one happened around 5 PM when I led a teacher training class at my church. I took a moment to share a personal story of a young man I encountered in Austin, Texas. His name was Tyler, and he was a waiter at a Bennigan’s restaurant. As I told the story of how God orchestrated our meeting, and the incredible events that surrounded that encounger, I saw tears on the faces of several of the class members. I pressed on, telling how God moved me to give this young waiter a $100 bill to replace the money he’d lost after a previous customer paid him in cash (he dropped it on the floor and assumed that someone else picked it up…they never turned it in). Little did I know that this one simple act would lead Tyler back into a relationship with God. He told me later that his faith in God and church had been shattered when a preacher encouraged one of his parents to leave the other; he blamed God and preachers for the breakup of his home. But the act of giving Tyler a $100 bill, no strings attached, to help him out of a tight spot, would be used by God to, in Tyler’s words, “restore my faith in God and preachers.” I shared with the class how Tyler would later drive from Austin, TX., to my church in the Dallas area to worship with us one Sunday morning…he and his family. As I told my class on Sunday night, “it was the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me in ministry.” The story of Tyler drew the class members into a real situation I’d encountered, and for a moment they all lived vicariously through me.

The second reminder of the power of stories came when I returned home from church that night. My wife and I watched a documentary on the 911 tragedy that took place ten years ago in New York. The particular program we watched chronicled the lives of a group of firefighters, in particular a rookie firefighter, in the days that led up to the attack on the World Trade Center. We were captivated by the telling of his story, and that of his firefighting friends. Two hours quickly passed, and didn’t feel like two hours. I wondered why this was the case, and then I realized I’d become caught up in the story, almost feeling like I knew this rookie firefighter and the men of the station at which he served.

In Transformational Class, David Francis reminded us there is power in story. “I believe there are three components present in a group where people can experience a sense of community: 1) Scripture…(2) Stories are the vehicle for effective learning and for building community. 3) Shepherding

David further reminded his readers that “Everybody has a story…no one’s story is complete…until it has intersected with God’s story…which happens best in a community being enriched by the stories of others.” (Transformational Class, chapter 6)

As you prepare to teach the Bible, perhaps even next Sunday, incorporate a story or two into your lesson. Recruit someone in the class to share their story about a particular topic that ties to the lesson. Allow the Lord to use stories to help people connect both with Him and His Word.