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Become a Bible Storyteller

For all the importance of the Bible as a book, the truth is that the best way by which children and adults can encounter its stories is through a good Bible storyteller. The Bible grew out of an oral storytelling tradition and this is still arguably the best way to open up its pages with our Sunday or midweek groups, or as part of all-age worship. The challenge is to bring the Bible to life through the faithful and creative way we retell its stories. So what are the key ground rules?

If we get these two key foundations right, then the path to becoming a Bible storyteller should become easier than we might have imagined. There are various storytelling techniques that can be used of course but a common denominator is allowing your God-given imagination freedom to unpack the story according to your personality. Here are some ways to help this to happen:

Think through who else was there at the time of the story but who is not mentioned in the text. Wonder about how the story looked and sounded from this person's point of view.

Work out at least one question to do with the story to which you definitely do not know the answer!

Imagine yourself being in the crowds/among the onlookers when the story takes place. What questions would you like to have asked of the people who were there at the time?

Read the story out loud to yourself a few times. Imagine the impact this would have had on the first-century listeners, who would have heard it out loud and not read it quietly to themselves as we so often do today.

Look at what Bible story comes after the one you are using, and what story comes before. The writers put their stories together carefully and often with a very definite purpose in the order. Can you see a reason why this story is where it is in the book? Remember, by the way, that the punctuation, paragraphing and chapter divisions in our Bibles are not necessarily inspired!

Imagine that this story is being told especially to all of you today. Pause after each line and ask: 'Why do we need to tell this story today... Why do we need to hear this now... Why is it good that we are being reminded of it at this precise moment in our lives?'

Put each line of the story into your own words, expanding or contracting the information and the language to fit your normal everyday vocabulary. In other words, imagine you are a 'translator' creating your own British 'message' version of this story.

After a couple of readings, close the Bible and then tell the story out loud to yourself. Note which parts have stayed most strongly with you and which parts you feel you needed to emphasise. Which parts of the story did you forget? Is there a reason, do you think?

Go through the Bible story carefully and think what sounds, tastes and smells are involved. Visualise the story and take careful note of what you can see and touch. In other words, create the story in your imagination as a 3D film, in which all the five senses play a part.

Re-imagine the Bible story in different genres. What would the story be like as a newspaper article report; a poem; a play; headlines in a popular newspaper; a diary entry; a letter to a friend; an instruction manual; or an entry in an encyclopaedia?

These are just some of the ways by which we can come to the stories of the Bible afresh so we can become better Bible storytellers. We need to be willing to let the Holy Spirit take the Bible's timeless and inspired stories and apply them first and foremost to our own lives, before we go on to tell them to others.

Here are some further ideas on the Barnabas in Churches website:

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