Simply the Story – another way to do storytelling

My Bible storytelling journey started in 2004. In the first model I received, the stories told were long and included explanation and summary within the body of the story. God had to force me to start learning the first story – Creation – because I wasn’t too sure that I wanted to become a storyteller. I quickly realized that the story set I received was much too complicated and so I started re-arranging. As I loved teaching and making things clear my stories still had explanations within them. After all, most models we see (usually in Sunday School) are not straight scripture.

It was several years until it occurred to me that I was being somewhat arrogant assuming that the Bible needed my explanations so that people could understand it. Surely God’s word needed the Holy Spirit, not me, to interpret it? In 2009, I heard John Walsh accurately telling Elijah stories. I started to make my stories closer and closer to the original text. If you’ve listened often to the video stories on this site you might have noticed that we’ve been updating stories over the last year. This is because the stories were getting closer and closer to pure scripture. By ‘pure’ I do not mean memorized. I am happy to use colloquial language as long as the meaning remains unchanged. It is possible to do long sections (more than 15 verses) this way but sometimes the story length might be daunting for people. Also, longer stories are harder to discuss simply because there is just so much content.

This year I have attended the equivalent of three ‘Simply the Story’ training sessions. The first time I was just a participant. I was excited about some of the content but not convinced by other sections. The second and third times I was a lower/middle level trainer as I was part of a team leading training in Chinese.

I think I needed to attend three training sessions to begin to understand why STS does things in a certain way.

Here are some of the strengths of their way of telling stories. Below I will then put the revised list of how I plan to do my Bible overview or chronological set of stories.

Essentially STS differentiates very clearly between God’s word (the actual story) and the introduction (our words which are designed to prepare the way so that people can fully understand the story even if it is the only one they’ve ever heard). This differentiation is done in two main ways:

  1. Opening the Bible at the start of the story and closing it at the end.

Standing up for the story also emphasizes it’s importance in certain situations.

  • These simple actions underline the difference between God’s word and ours
  • There are some places where this might not be appropriate (see reasons below).
  1. At the beginning of the story say, “The story starts here” and at the end, “The story ends here” or something similar.

This can be used in contexts where you ‘forgot’ your Bible:

  • where people are afraid of written texts
  • where bringing out a Bible would be inappropriate because it would make the listeners angry or not want to listen to further stories.

I suspect, however, (and it is worth experimenting) that the open/closed Bible can be used in more contexts than we realize.

STS emphasizes that story sections should be no longer than 15 verses (generally six to twelve verses) and should include all details, even the ones we might not think are important or over-complicated.

This post suggests eight stories for a Bible overview set.

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2 Responses

  1. Marshall Scott says:

    Just a suggestion for Abraham stories: I think it might be good to follow through more on the promise of a son by including 17:15-22 after 16:1-9. Haven’t road tested it yet but plan to include it in our curriculum for kids club in Taiwan.

    • Chris says:

      With STS way of doing things you can tell as much as you like as ‘introduction.’ Introductions can be summarized stories and so I would put birth of Isaac and Abraham and Sarah’s lack of trust in God as parts of my introduction before Genesis 22 story.
      Of course, you could also have many Abraham stories but you also have to decide how many stories will be in your total Bible overview set. I have 14 at present and don’t want to have more. If you’re doing a whole set at school – you can do far more.

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