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6 Bible Storytelling Techniques Inspired by One of the Great Storytelling Movie Studios of Our Time (part 1)

Pixar is amazing to me. They make sequels that are better than a lot of other movie studio’s original movies.

I think a lot of their “secret sauce” is in their amazing ability to create and tell a great story.

It’s not the animation, or the marketing, or the technology that sets them apart…It is their ability to tell an amazing story.

So let’s look at a few Bible storytelling techniques, inspired by Pixar’s excellence, in the hopes of capturing kid’s attention on a given Sunday morning in a whole new way.

 

Create amazing characters

You know what makes for a snooze-fest of a Bible story? When all the characters sound like they are from a Bible story.

What I mean by this, is that too often our Bible characters end up being one-dimensional figures who only do three things in their entire life. They pray, they get in trouble, and God rescues them.

While those facts might be true of them, if we only use those facts to tell their story we are guaranteed to bore kids to death.

A better way to make characters come alive in a Bible story is to imagine yourself in their situation.

Imagine Jonah being on a boat in the middle of the storm and panicking because he realizes that God is chasing after Him. Imagine Jonah sinking to the bottom of a stormy sea assuming he is going to die.

Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they walked from inn to inn and kept getting turned away.

Mary is severely pregnant at this point and they have just completed a journey of several days (on foot and donkey!!). They are in no mood for spending hours and hours trying to find a place to rest.

When you start to put yourself in your character’s shoes all of a sudden it’s more than just two people who traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph become real people with real emotions and real problems. They go from Bible story characters to real life people.

The next time you find yourself teaching a Bible story, especially about a very familiar person, take a few minutes to imagine yourself in their situation and then describe to the kids how you might react, or how they might have reacted. This process of imagining yourself in a situation brings the people on the pages of the Bible to life in a whole new way.

Don’t just miraculously rescue people

Part of the challenge that we face as teachers is to tell a supernatural story in a natural way.

Or to say it another way, our challenge is to describe a miracle in the most human way possible.

The danger in telling a Bible story is to have too many unbelievable things happen in one story. I’m not talking about changing the story or making things up, rather, this is about trying to separate the one or two supernatural elements of the story from the rest of the normal experiences that all of us have.

For instance, take Peter when he was in prison and the angel of the Lord eventually comes and rescues him….

If you aren’t careful this sounds like one of those stories that always comes from the Bible. Someone gets in trouble and then God miraculously rescues them. And while that is true, Peter did get rescued by an angel, if you don’t spend some serious time talking about what Peter assumed was going to happen, a.k.a. he was going to die at the hands of the Roman government, then you will lose the kids.

Kids want to believe that God has supernatural power and that He can do amazing things, but God’s amazing power is best put in the context of everyday life. When you’re telling the story of Peter being freed from prison spend as much time as possible describing how it would feel, and what Peter was thinking, and what his situation was like in prison before you describe how God rescued him.

Being miraculously rescued from a situation is great, but only if the circumstances surrounding the rescue sound like circumstances we all recognize.

Don’t give away the ending

It’s very easy to do when you’re telling a Bible story. You want to make your point really early.

It would be like telling kids at the beginning of the Battle of Jericho that God and the children of Israel defeated the city of Jericho, and that God is more powerful than any of the giants we face in our life.

While that is true, if you state that at the beginning of your story you’re giving away the ending. You have basically taken all of the interest and the tension and the drama out of the story and guaranteed every kid in your class that it all turns out okay.

If you’re going to tell a great story, and you’re going to keep the kids attention, then you have to build the drama and the tension for as long as possible while not giving away the ending.

This would be like you sitting down to watch a movie you’ve never seen and 10 minutes in one of the characters comes on screen and says, “don’t worry he lives through all of this and finds his friends at the end of the movie”.

I think all of us are be a little irritated if this happened.

The whole point of the movie was for us to go on this exciting ride not knowing what was going to happen. We don’t want the characters to give away the ending. We want to enjoy the excitement of not knowing what is going to happen as we watch the movie.

That’s the same thing I’m talking about here. Don’t give away the ending two minutes into your Bible story. Build the drama, and build the tension of the situation, even if the kids have heard the story several times before.

You watch the same movie more than once. It’s okay to tell a familiar Bible story more than once. The trick to keeping their attention again and again is to build that same feeling of tension and excitement again and again.

Part 2 is coming next week….

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