Engaging Kids in God's Story

Let me just get your creative storytelling juices flowing by giving you a few techniques for starters.

Costumed Characters. You can have a whole lot of fun with this technique. These aren’t necessarily Bible characters, but just random costumed personalities. Create a character with a costume, but also include a profile and a voice unique to the character. There will be certain stories that your character will be very suitable to tell. A few of my often-used characters are Captain Kid, Chef Bakesalot, Winnie Wang, Betty Chickencoop, Dr. Bunsenburner, and Gertrude Frogbottom.

When there’s a story that happens on the high seas (like “Paul’s Shipwreck”), then Captain Kid shows up. Arg! If it has to do with food (like the Passover or the “Loaves and Fishes”), then we visit Chef Bakesalot on the set of her Food Network cooking show. Chef’s voice is course and reminds you of Julia Child. Soft-spoken Winnie Wang wears an authentic red kimono and takes care of a beautiful garden, so stories like “Creation” and “Mary Going to the Garden” are appropriate for her. I’m sure you can come up with your own characters from leftover holiday costumes. Be consistent with their personality and voice so the kids recognize who they are each time.

Rhyme Response. Rhythm and rhyme are part of the music family, and we know that music is in the long-term side of the brain. Therefore, if we incorporate music in the form of rhythm and rhyme in our storytelling, then it will find its home in long-term memory. For this technique, your story needs to have an action or statement that repeats itself at least three times during the story. Make up a simple rhyme with a heavy beat that describes that repeating action/statement. Teach it to the kids before you begin the story and then when it comes up as you tell the story, signal the kids and they will chime in with the rhyme. It’s also a lot of fun to give the kids rhythm sticks to use on the heavy downbeats. Here’s an example to use along with the story of “Jesus Prays in Gethsemane.” Each time Jesus finds the disciples asleep, the kids will say:

Why are you asleep?

Can’t you sit here and pray?

I need you to be strong.

This is an awful day!

At lunch that day, the kids will use eating utensils or whatever they can find to imitate their rhythm sticks, and pound out the story rhyme they learned … because it’s in their music long-term memory.

Change Environment. We know that when people sit in the same place day after day, or week after week, their ability to learn diminishes. That happens because they get too comfortable in their environment and assume they know what’s going to happen. So, move! Create a garden in the corner where the kids can gather on the floor around the storyteller. Take the kids outside. When it was time to tell the story of Zacchaeus, I asked a man to dress in costume and climb the sycamore tree in the front yard of the parsonage. As I paraded the kids under the tree, he yelled down at them. With head back and mouths wide open, the kids listened as Zacchaeus shared his encounter with Jesus that happened the day he climbed that tree. It was definitely a memory made!

There are so many different techniques for telling stories. I have almost 30 that I call upon when sharing God’s story. After you read the scripture and the Bible storybook, evaluate the different methods available and choose the one that will best make the encounter with the Bible most memorable for the kids. You’ll be a better storyteller and also enjoy it more. Change up the packaging, but make sure you keep the message the same!

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thouser@churchleaders.com'
After 33 incredible years in children’s ministry within the local church, Tina is now part of the KidzMatter team as Executive Editor of KidzMatter Magazine and Senior Publications Director, writing the This iKnow kids’ church curriculum. With great enthusiasm, she gallivants all over the country to train those who share her passion for reaching kids for the Kingdom. Tina has authored 12 books, one of which is used as a textbook in some universities (but it’s not boring, really).