Last fall I had the opportunity to sit down with my friends at the D6 Podcast to have a conversation about the power of storytelling. In this interview we talk about practical tips for bringing the Bible to life that anyone can use.
You can check out a 5 minute video clip of that interview here or the audio of the full interview here.
Here are a few highlights:
If you want to bring the Bible to life for kids, first you have to let God bring the Bible to life in you. Before you teach, spend time in God’s word discovering what God has to say to you, and it will not only help you personally but it will energize your storytelling.
Great storytelling is a combination of what you say (content) and how you say it (preparation). Here’s an expanded version of the cake illustration I use to show how this works.
Everyone is a natural storyteller. You already get excited and tell great stories about the things you love (your hobbies, your kids, your dreams, etc). You just have to learn to access that entertaining version of you in your storytelling.
Use simple visuals to help kids engage with your story. In the podcast I give several examples of how to use everyday items that you can borrow or may have around your house.
You don’t need a bunch of bells and whistles (stages, sets, lights, etc) to tell a great story. In fact sometimes those things can get in the way. Here are more tips about using (or not using) tech to teach.
When I first started teaching in Children’s Ministry, the only tech I had was an old-school transparency projector that I would use to show teaching graphics on a rickety screen. Since those days I’ve taught lessons utilizing smart lights, smoke machines and complicated video elements.
But at the end of the day, I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter that much what production tools I have or don’t have. Telling an engaging Bible story is all that matters, and though tech used correctly can help that, it’s not nearly as important as many people think.
Yes, if you’re in a big room with a lot of kids it’s important to have a microphone so they can hear you, and lighting can help direct their eyes to you and create an inviting ambience for storytelling. However, if your story stinks and your presentation skills are lacking, a mic and lights just call attention to that fact.
Some of you reading this post may have access to a ridiculous amount of teaching resources: stages, microphones, fancy lighting, screens, video projectors and all the bells and whistles. Others of you may have none of those things. It’s just you in a room with kids. Still others may fall somewhere in between.
Whatever the case, when it comes to creative Bible teaching, tech is never a substitute for powerful storytelling. To tell a powerful story you have to have solid content and skillful presentation.
Tech can enhance these basic building blocks of storytelling, but never replace them. Sound and lights may be the icing on the cake of an engaging presentation but they will never make up for poor storytelling.
That means if you don’t have any bells and whistles, don’t worry about it. Don’t let your lack of resources discourage you and don’t use it as an excuse not to give the kids your best effort.
Focus on telling a powerful Bible story in a compelling way. The best stories can be told anywhere. If you have a heart for God and a voice, you have all the tools you need.
Of course, if you have the opportunity to purchase production equipment, go for it. I would start with a sound system and a microphone. Sure, you might be loud enough for the kids to hear you on your own, but you can do subtle things wth your voice using a mic that are much harder to pull off without one. As creative Bible teachers, we should eagerly use any tool that can help us bring the Bible to life for kids.
On the other hand, if you regularly use sound, lights and other tech, be careful. I’ve seen people fall so in love with their production equipment that they’ve neglected their content and their presentation. In that instance, all your production equipment is going to do is help the kids hear and see a bad story even more clearly.
Also, keep in mind, when you’re using tech in your storytelling, it increases the burden of rehearsing. Imagine coming to a powerful part of your lesson and suddenly you tech volunteer interrupts you with a misfired sound cue or throws the wrong graphic or video up on a screen. Now, despite your preparation, you’ve completely lost the kids’ attention that you’ve worked so hard to capture.
If you’ve rehearsed the lesson, but the person running your sound and lights hasn’t, that’s a recipe for disaster. If you’re going to use tech, you have to work as a team and practice until the transition from one element to the next happens so seamlessly the kids don’t even notice.
In a recent interview promoting his new show, the Mandalorian, director Jon Favreau said, “Technology has the serve story.”
Keep in mind, this is the guy who directed live action versions of the Jungle Book and the Lion King, both of which relied heavily on the use of cutting edge technology. But Favreau knows what all skilled storytellers should know: telling a great story that connects with your audience is the most important thing.
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