"When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him.” Luke 22:14
Currently I am nearing the completion of a master level certification program with the Academy for Biblical Storytelling. I fell in love with hearing the stories of Scripture told by heart one summer when I attended the Festival Gathering of the Network of Biblical Storytellers. Since then, learning the stories in order to ‘tell’ them out loud has been one of my passions because I believe that “Having the stories by heart was the core activity of spiritual development for ancient Israel and the early church”.
I got the chance to teach a story to the children and their parents that were gathered a while back for my church's annual communion workshop. I had the joy of teaching them to tell the story of the Last Supper from the Gospel of Luke 22:14-20. First I read the passage leading up to the Last Supper then stepped away from my Bible and ‘told’ verses 14-20. I asked them what differences they noticed between hearing it read and hearing it told by heart. They said when it was read it seemed like it happened a long time ago, they felt detached from it, but when hearing it told by heart they felt like they were right there as it was happening, in the room with Jesus.
I handed out the printed text and had them read it out loud with me, then had them walk around reading it out loud and doing some hand motions that might go with the story. In teams they assembled cut up strips of verses in the correct order and then drew a storyboard of the main characters and plot of the story. Using their storyboards they told the story to a member of their team. When the parents left the room we continued to tell the story to each other as we ate a snack and pretended we were the disciples sitting around the table at the last supper.
I was amazed at the eagerness of the children to try and learn it. Sometimes if they forgot a line I provided a gesture – like holding up the cup to give thanks or tearing a loaf of bread in half, and it worked, they remembered the words then. Their parents came back into the room and I asked if any children would like to impress their parents and tell the story. I had four or five volunteers who did it beautifully, and four or five parents who were speechless.
In the book, Story Journey by Tom Boomershine he says, “There is a particular joy and delight when the storyteller is someone no one expects to be able to tell a story.” My goal in storytelling is to draw people into the world of the Bible and give them a desire to try to learn and tell biblical stories themselves; I am starting with children - who nobody expects will be able to do it.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Matthew 19:14
Yesterday was the second Sunday in Advent and my third grade class and I were learning Mary's story from Luke Chapter 1 verses 26-38.
First we read the story in their Bibles, and I asked them what stood out to them, what shimmered, what questions did this passage bring up? One child said, "The angel Gabriel, I wondered what he looked like and how Mary felt seeing an angel.." Another child said, "the power of the Most High will overshadow you. That sounded scary." Another asked, Who is David and why is he in the story twice?" I thought these were excellent questions for third graders...way to go kids!
Then I told them the story by heart. The whole morning was geared around getting them to learn the story (or at least bits of it - those bits that touched them) by heart. So next I had them repeat after me a few times doing the first two verses. Having them repeat after me, lets them get the feel of the words on their tongues, and hearing the words and how they sound coming out of their mouths. Then I asked if any of them wanted to try and re-tell it back to me, in their own words. I had a few brave souls who tried. My hearts swells when I hear a child try to re-tell a story back to me. I did record this class, so you can see the steps I did with them, giving them a taste of the story. Next week I hope to do this again and have the kids try a little more of the story and maybe we will even act it out with costumes. So often I have a whole new set of children each week and only a few who have been there the week before (my regular attenders). So this is a pretty slow process, like watching paint dry.
"Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11
Hi, thanks for joining me on this blog journey. I am Kathy Smedley, not a professional at anything, but I am passionate about 2 things: God's Word and God's children. I hope to connect you to the world of biblical storytelling and how using it in ministry with kids is formative and is the best way that I know how to teach the Bible.