Bible Storytelling: Learning to Enter the Story

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Bible Storytelling shaped by Godly PlayMotivation for better Bible storytelling for kids…

Because children learn so powerfully through story, Bible storytelling should be one of the skills those who teach children about Jesus should seek to master.  Storytelling for kids is like speaking their special language.  It is one of the ways they make sense of their world and process the information they are learning.  And we know that even as adults we are drawn in by story and moved in ways lecture really can’t touch.

How learning Godly Play changed how I share stories…

One of the things I enjoy about the Godly Play approach and also Children and Worship is the discipline of preparing the Bible story and learning the script.  Oddly, this was hard for me at first.  I felt reluctant to memorize something that someone else had written, particularly because the scripts leave a lot of detail out, purposely leaving out some of the details in Scripture in order to focus on the core metaphor.

But the process of learning the story leads me to meditate on the story in a way I wasn’t doing when I would teach children before.  Because we teach children so many “familiar” Bible stories, I was tempted to think, “Oh, I got this!  I know this story frontward and backward, I can just wing it when I tell it.”

When I prepare the story for a Godly Play session, it forces me to use my brain and flex my Bible storytelling muscles.  The focus is on the story and not on me as the storyteller, so I can’t rely on my charm and personality to relay the message which means I have to pay more attention to the nuances in the story itself.

Not only do I need to learn the story to the point where I can tell it without reading, I also have to think through how I will move the figures and lay out the materials.

This process of using storytelling props in Bible storytelling allows my brain to lay down little memory markers along the way and so when I tell the story it is a whole body thing.  Now I not only know the words to the story, but I have pictures and movement to go along with the narrative.

This approach to Bible storytelling for kids also enables the child to retell the story as they get out the materials and move the figures because they have been able to see the story unfold before them.


A child explores the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee

There is something in those stories for me too…

It shouldn’t be a surprise that when we take this time to prepare and enter the story, that God meets us in that place with something just for us!  Should I doubt that there is a part of the story that is especially about me too–not just the children?  Of course not!  And I just LOVE it when God uses one of His stories to speak into my life.

We have been going through the stories from Following Jesus during this season of Easter.  You can find resources for these stories from Young Children and Worship from Worship Woodworks.

Entering the Story… Jesus Appears to His Disciples by the Sea

I would love for you to enter the story with me… I hope I can communicate just a little bit of what God was doing in my own heart as I prepared this story for the children.

It’s still Easter…and during this time of getting to know Jesus in a new way, we  have been hearing stories of Jesus appearing to His followers after His resurrection.  First on the day of his resurrection to Mary Magdalene and then later to the pair of followers on the road to Emmaus, then to more of his followers and to Thomas who had missed seeing Jesus the first time.

Then, Jesus tells the disciples to go and wait… wait for him in Galilee.  How strange it must have been to not be with Jesus all the time.  He seems to come and go after His resurrection.  His appearances seem more mysterious, more magnificent, more unexpected.  While they are waiting, Peter gets the idea to go fishing and so several of the disciples get in a boat and head out for a night of fishing.

They fish ALL night and catch nothing.  I imagine they tried many spots, trying to find just the right place to throw their nets.  When it was almost morning and they were near the shore, they hear a voice calling from the shore, “have you caught any fish?’  They reply, “no,” not really knowing who it is.

The mysterious figure tells them to cast their nets on the other side and when they do their nets are SO FULL of fish that they cannot pull in their nets.  John realizing it is Jesus on the shore, tells Peter, “It’s the Lord!” and Peter jumps out of the boat and heads directly to Jesus who has prepared a fire and is cooking fish over it.  When all the disciples arrive, Jesus breaks bread with them and they eat the fish and bread together.

As I entered the story through preparation, I realized how often I go out “fishing,” getting ahead of God.  I go searching for “fish,” casting my net here and there and wondering why my nets come up empty.  My own efforts can never yield the power that simple obedience in God’s timing can.  When Jesus instructed the disciples to cast their nets, they received a whole night’s catch in one swoop of their nets.  But that’s not all!  Even before the disciples get to shore with the freshly caught fish, Jesus is there with breakfast—cooked fish and bread.

What good things does God have for us already that we need to come close to Him to receive?  Are we out fishing when all we need to do is come to shore and receive His good gifts?

I am sure that this particular week, I got more out of the story than the children!  Although sometimes they surprise me with what they retell later like the example in this post.  I am so thankful for the story materials that allow even me as an adult to enter the story with wonder and create meaning as I use the simple figures to retell this story of Jesus.

How about you…

I wonder what experiences you have with Bible storytelling for kids where you have gotten more out of the story yourself than the children you are teaching?  How has God renewed your sense of wonder over stories you have heard over and over again?