Power of Storytelling

Date Posted: 8/24/2017

Whether a story captures your attention or heart has a lot to do with how it is presented. More than a dozen lay and clergy leaders from the TAC recently learned this firsthand at the 2017 Festival Gathering of Biblical Storytelling in Washington, DC. Attendee Rev. Michelle Hall, ChristChurch Sugarland, was fascinated to hear the differences when keynote presenters read the text of one story with several different styles. “In the story of Mary and Joseph finding young Jesus had lingered at the temple, we heard a version where Mary was sad and frustrated, we heard a version where the emphasis was on Jesus assuming his parents knew where he was, and yet another with the emphasis of Jesus being remorseful about them having to look for him,” shares Michelle. “This demonstration showed how people engage and connect with the story has much to do with where the storyteller puts the emphasis.”
The TAC group shared four days interacting with master storytellers and others intent on honing this skill to invigorate their ministry impact.  Attendees were intensely blessed by a unique worship experience that stretched over three hours. Rev. Eleanor Colvin, First UMC College Station, says, “The highlight for me was hearing 50 storytellers convey the entire gospel of Luke from the announcement of Christ’s birth until the announcement of his resurrection. We typically hear Luke in small pieces, but to hear the entire gospel at once was powerful.” Cassandra Nunez, church, enjoyed learning about this skill because storytelling is part of her Latino culture. “Storytelling lets both the storyteller and audience connect to the individuals in the Bible in a very real and deep way,” she says. “You turn the story into a testimony.”
How will this insight be applied?
Rev. Stephanie Snyder, associate pastor of Bering UMC enjoyed learning more about how to bring the familiar Bible stories back to life by using detail to set the scene and by engaging with emotions. “We live in ordinary times, and tend to hear these stories in an ordinary way. However, the Bible stories are often extraordinary and amazing stories that we do not want to take for granted,” Stephanie shares.
Impacted by the content of this workshop, Michelle knows she will study and present scripture differently in the future. Michelle explains, “I think I don't always digest the fullness of God’s word. Sometimes I forget to allow the scripture to stand alone rather than working so hard to tell others what I think it says or what I want it to say.”
Eleanor has already incorporated more storytelling in her sermons and plans to extend this technique to Bible study and small group interaction in the coming weeks. “The Sunday we got back, I crafted my sermon around a story in Revelation that we experienced at the conference, and I want to do more of that in my ministry going forward.”
Rev. Evis Serrano, associate pastor at Texas City UMC, compares the storytelling training to a recital of the scriptures. “The keynote speakers lived the scriptures out with drama in a way that you felt like it was happening in the moment,” Evis shares. She has already been practicing these new techniques in her weekly devotional with the children in the apartments across the street from the church. “Twice a week, I go spend time with 10-15 children, who come running when they see me,” adds Evis. She knows the kids will particularly like a story about the young Jesus. “Since I come twice a week, the children know they have a church that loves them and their parents come to story time as well, happy that someone is teaching their kids something good.”