Heartprints

Tell Me a Story Please! (Part 1)

I love everything about the fall…the crisp cool weather, pumpkins on the porch, leaves falling off the trees, acorns crunching in the driveway. Soon it will be time for the first fire in the fireplace.

This time of year takes me back to my childhood when Mom would tell us stories, usually in the form of poems. She memorized hundreds of them as a young girl. I can still hear her voice …

I love everything about the fall…the crisp cool weather, pumpkins on the porch, leaves falling off the trees, acorns crunching in the driveway. Soon it will be time for the first fire in the fireplace.

This time of year takes me back to my childhood when Mom would tell us stories, usually in the form of poems. She memorized hundreds of them as a young girl. I can still hear her voice …

            Isn’t it strange, that princes and kings,
            and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
            and common-people like you and me,
            are builders for eternity?

           To each is given a bag of tools,
           a shapeless mass and a Book of Rules;
           and each must make ‘ere life has flown,
           a stumbling block or a stepping stone.

~ R.L. Sharpe, “A Bag of Tools,” circa 1809

It didn’t matter where we were. We could be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the kitchen table, piled into our yellow and brown station wagon (all seven of us!) or camping out under the stars. My mother would begin reciting one of her poems and we would always beg her for more.

And so it is with stories. We loved them as children. We wanted to hear them over and over again. And we still love stories, even as adults. Why? Stories are powerful. They evoke emotion and memories and teach us truth in the midst of the story.

That’s what we want to discuss now as we look at Storytelling. How can we use storytelling to communicate our story—and more importantly God’s story—to the children we minister to each week?

We will cover this subject in two parts. In this post, we’ll discuss some basics about storytelling along with guidelines for crafting our stories. In Part 2, we will look at some editing tips as well as suggestions for telling stories to children.

Let’s begin…

Webster defines a story as “an account of incidents or events.” In her book, Creative Teaching Methods, Marlene LeFever points out that “Stories – personal illustrations, life experiences of others, sections from books, short stories, parables, myths – no matter what the form, story helps us participate in the reality of the Christian experience” (p. 190).

LeFever goes on to say, “A truly Christ-centered story is first of all a good story” (p. 207). And while our aim is not just to tell a ‘good story’ for the sake of telling a good story, we do want to present the story well enough that our students understand the truth of the story and are motivated to apply it to their lives during the week.

So, how do we as teachers learn to tell stories that help our children personalize God’s work in their own lives?

Let’s look at some guidelines given by Marlene LeFever, a well-known Christian educator and creative storyteller…

1 – First, begin to read yourself. Read various Bible stories aloud to yourself from a modern translation or a paraphrase version. Read classic books and current books from authors who are known to be excellent writers.

2 – Record your voice as you read or tell a story. Tape record yourself reading a children’s book. As you do so, try to capture the feeling of the story. Vary your talking speed and your expression. Use pauses in the story to build suspense. Remember, when you enjoy reading the story yourself, your enthusiasm will show. Listen and evaluate the recording and then read and record the story again for further practice and learning.

3 – Remember eye contact. While eye contact will come more naturally when you tell a story, it is also important when reading a story, too. You should know the story well enough that you are able to look at your audience.

4 – Let your facial expression convey part of the message. You want to reflect the actual emotions of the story on your face. Smile when it’s a happy part of the story, frown when it’s sad. Your facial expressions, when true to the emotions in the story, help the audience to feel the story with you.

5 – Let your voice reflect the emotions in the story. The tone in your voice will help your audience feel what the characters are going through. As they experience change in the story, your voice should change tone as well. (p.190-3)

As you employ these guidelines in crafting your story, you will communicate more effectively with your audience. In our next post, we’ll talk more about editing our message and how to best tell stories to the young ones that enter our doors.

Telling stories to children can be quite a challenge. We must gain their attention from the very beginning and keep it throughout our message. If we slip in any way and lose their interest in the story, there is the possibility of utter chaos. And we’ve lost the opportunity to reach their hearts with the message God has especially for them.

See you next time!

 

Note: This material was originally presented at DallasTheological Seminary by Dr. Jerry Lawrence in October 2010.

2 Comments

  • Avatar

    Catherine N

    Children’s Stories

    Thanks Jerry Lawrence,

    I loved listening to and reading Bible stories as a child. They were a perfect background for my very imaginative mind, and it was wonderful when a story was able to bring the people in it alive. Some of my Sunday School teachers have had the greatest impact on my life through the stories they told me and the lessons I learnt have stayed me.

    • Avatar

      JerryL

      A Rich Heritage

      Catherine,

      So glad to hear this was helpful for you…don't forget to take a look at Part 2.

      I can relate to listening to and reading Bible stories as a child. I loved that as well, especially when you could imagine yourself in the story. What a rich heritage you have! I hope that you are now passing that down to others and blessing them as well.

      Blessings to you!

      Jerry