The Narrative Gospel

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You’ve no doubt noticed that teens are growing up influenced more and more by screens—computer screens, TV screens, movie screens. What do these contraptions do so well? They tell vivid stories.

The problem is that while some of the stories students experience through TV, film, or the Internet are life-building, a great many are life-destroying. But if vivid storytelling is expressed through the lens of Christianity, teens will be exposed to an incredible collection of trustworthy tales that amaze, transform, empower, and delight—especially if they’re told from the hearts of those who love kids.

The story is making a big comeback these days. In fact, I believe that narrative, biblical storytelling is the most effective ministry to teens today. After all, wasn’t that Jesus’ style?

If storytelling makes you nervous, you’re in good company! Most of us haven’t been exposed to much storytelling—much less done it ourselves. Yes, we’ve heard them read and analyzed, maybe heard a memorized verse or two, but rarely do we experience a whole story, told like a story—with action, dialogue, and narration.

I believe Jesus wants these stories communicated to our young people today—and he may be calling you to the adventure. As the crowd said to blind, boisterous Bartimaeus, “Take heart, get up, for he is calling you!”

What to do? Simple. Learn the story. Tell the story. Teach the story. But not necessarily in that order—there are lots of ways to start! Here’s one for brave beginners that’ll get you learning, telling, and teaching all at the same time.

1. Pick a story you like, one that’s big on action, light on dialogue, and not too long—like the Bartimaeus story from Mark 10:46-52. Print it in nonparagraph form, one sentence or phrase per line, with phrases indented. Divide the story into manageable chunks of two to three verses (“episodes”) and put extra space between them. Read your story out loud until your mouth and ears are used to it.

2. Gather your students into a semicircle, light a candle next to you, and turn out the lights. Give a brief intro: What if Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” How would you answer? Today we’ll hear a story about Jesus asking that very question of a person. Then, while you read the story out loud, instruct them to close their eyes and picture what’s happening. Pause between episodes. Let it sink in. Allow a moment of silence at the end, then blow out the candle and turn on the lights.

Other methods:

  • Read the story phrase by phrase and have your kids repeat each phrase after you.
  • Try the latter method, but get up and act it out while you speak. Try out different gestures; move through the story to different spaces in the room. Vary volume, tempo, and tone of voice.
  • Give your copy of the story to students and invite them to be storytelling leaders. Let them select one of the previously noted methods and lead with their own style.
  • For each episode, share background information about the Bible passage that puts it into the context of those persons who first heard it long ago.
  • Have each student pick a partner. Have the pairs take turns telling the story to each other—but let them know that the goal is to get from the beginning to the end without eliminating anything of major significance and without adding anything of major significance. Let the students help each other remember the story’s details as best they can.
  • Brainstorm connections to contemporary culture and life—things about the story that remind them of particular movies or TV shows, songs, current events, or experiences from their own lives.

If you hear a call to biblical storytelling and want some help, two great resources are Story Journey: The Art of Biblical Storytelling by Thomas E. Boomershine (Abingdon Press), the Network of Biblical Storytellers (800/355-NOBS or, and “Telling the Living Story,” an article published by Leadership Network’s NetFax service (800/765-5323) on Oct. 25, 1999.
—Amelia Cooper is editor of The Biblical Storyteller, a periodical of the Network of Biblical Storytellers.


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Publicado por em 01/09/2009 em POIMENIA


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