Just because you’re teaching kids the Bible doesn’t mean you’re always telling a Bible story. Sometimes we teach biblical concepts and commands such as renewing the mind from Romans 12 or taming the tongue from James 3. They’re scriptural, but not tied to a particular Bible story. Regardless, we want those lessons to be just as engaging as the weeks we’re bringing a big Bible epic to life.
So, what does good storytelling look like when you’re not telling a story? Here are a few ideas:
Tell a story. Okay, I know that sounds like cheating, but seriously, God has wired us all for stories, so use that to your advantage. Just because you’re not telling a Bible story doesn’t mean you can’t tell stories that illustrate what the Bible is teaching. Here are three ways you can use stories to help kids connect with your lesson.
Keep it visual. Look for things in the Bible passage you’re teaching you can tie to a picture or object. For example, when I was teaching on renewing the mind last fall, I made a sign with a big, glowing brain on it and small signs with words representing both good and bad things we can put into our minds that I put behind the big brain sign as I talked about each one. Here are a few other ideas to use objects and pictures to keep your lesson visually interesting.
Use a fun theme. Right now, we’re in the middle of an original series called Treasure Hunt that’s all about digging into the Bible. The theme is especially helpful for the lesson from today that was all about Bible navigation. This allowed me to talk about how digging into the Bible is like searching for treasure (Proverbs 2:4) and also lends itself to a lot of great visuals to back it up (like the treasure cave prop I’ll be showing you in an upcoming post).
Involve the kids. Give kids sticky phrases to repeat, sprinkle in review questions throughout your lesson (that everyone can answer at once) or bring them up front to hold props or signs as you teach. For example, during the Bible navigation lesson our Big Idea was, “We can dig into the Bible for ourselves.” Towards the end of the lesson I had kids turn to someone next to them, point to them and say, “You can dig into the Bible for yourself.” Then I had them turn to someone on the other side of them and say it again. Finally I had them point to themselves with their thumbs and say it one more time. They got silly and loud but it kept them tracking with me and made repeating the main point fun.
Be the most entertaining version of yourself. I’ve talked about this in a previous post, but it’s especially vital for lessons that don’t involve a Bible story. You have to bring energy and genuine enthusiasm to the lesson if you want to see kids get excited about it too.
Use multiple storytellers. Having a couple of storytellers working together allows you to switch back and forth, like you’re changing the channel for kids. This just makes the lesson more interesting. I also think it’s great whenever you can pair male and female storytellers together because some kids just respond better to one or the other. I will be doing this for an upcoming salvation lesson that uses props to teach the classic gospel bridge illustration. My teaching partner and I will trade off who does the talking while the other will serve as a prop assistant.
Keep it short. While some concept-based lessons can go longer if they’re interesting enough, in general I like to keep them short. When in doubt, it’s always better to end early and leave kids wanting more. The last thing you want to do is drone on and on when the kids are just done. I struggle with wanting to say everything about a topic in every lesson, but it’s better to teach one thing and teach it effectively.
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