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6 Bible Storytelling Techniques Inspired by One of the Great Storytelling Movie Studios of Our Time (part 2)

This is part two (part one) of our look at how we can leverage some of the amazing things Pixar does in their movies to improve our own our Bible storytelling techniques.

Make the stakes as high as possible

Let’s talk about the story of Peter walking on the water to come see Jesus.

As you are telling the story and you begin to describe the disciples being caught in the middle of a storm. take a minute to describe the stakes for them if they don’t get help or if the storm doesn’t stop.

What will happen to the boat if it gets caught in the storm for too long? What will happen to the disciples if they are thrown overboard? Is there anyone they can call for help (other than Jesus)?

What I’m saying is….

you need to take time to make the stakes as high as possible for your characters. When the stakes of a situation are high, meaning this is a life or death situation, or the chances of getting out are slim, it creates interest and excitement for your audience.

Too many times in a Bible story we simply say, “there was a great storm”, or, “he was in prison”. Without explaining the stakes of these situations it’s hard for kids, or anyone for that matter, to feel like those are dangerous life and death type problems.

The next time you talk about Peter and the disciples being caught on stormy seas think about what was at stake for them. What if no one came to their rescue, after all it’s likely about 3 AM in the morning at this point in the story and there is probably not a lot of other people around to help them.

Raise the stakes of your story and you will raise the interest level of your audience.

Evaluate stories you love

We all have our favorite movies. More specifically you probably have a kids movie that you like.

Think through the basic “story building blocks” of that movie and ask yourself why they work.

Why do you always cry at the end of the movie?

Why do you root for that one particular character?

Why do you fall in love with that movie over and over again?

If you take time to think about it, there are probably storytelling techniques and character development traits that you can be inspired by and can inject into your own storytelling.

It is extremely powerful to understand what makes a good story. If you understand why something works then it is much easier to imitate it.

There are tons of movies out there with great storylines. Look at those movies as a library of examples for how to tell a great story.

Pick one of your favorite movies. Watch it all the way through, and then think about it. Why do you love that movie so much? What is it about that story that moves you? How can you use those same techniques in your storytelling?

We all admire the struggle

In our last storytelling post we referenced this idea but I want to take a look at it from a different angle.

Don’t rescue your characters too easily from their situations.

As much as possible, even in a Bible story let your characters struggle before they are rescued.

The Bible often presents an entire story in just a few verses. This means there is limited space to describe the details of the situation and the way the people were feeling in that scenario. So it falls to you, the storyteller, to imagine what those people might have been feeling.

Why is this important?

Because we admire the struggle of a character trying to get free or trying to improve their situation.

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Think about the recent movie Finding Dory. Even if you haven’t seen the movie yet you assume from the title that much of the movie is about Dory trying to find something….(her family).

Having seen the movie myself, here is an interesting fact. A good 70% of the movie is about Dory’s search and struggle to find what she is looking for.

That’s important.

One of the great storytelling studios in our day, Pixar, spends the majority of the movie letting the character struggle. They follow Dory through disappointment and despair. They give Dory some small wins and some small losses.

They let Dory struggle.

The next time you are telling a Bible story do everything you can to let the character struggle. Describe what they might have been feeling, describe the situation they are in and how impossible it must have seemed. Tell your kids that this character does not know how this is going to turn out.

As a sidebar, it is often good to remind kids that even though we know the end of the story the characters we are talking about don’t. To them, this was a real-life situation.

Let Paul struggle in prison. Let the kids feel what it must’ve felt like to be chained on each hand to a Roman guard. Let the kids feel what it must’ve been like to be in a prison cell underground where it is cold wet and miserable.

You can find these sorts of struggles in almost every Bible story you are going to  to tell. Take the time to find that struggle and talk about it….describe it thoroughly. When you do, you take your storytelling from average to amazing.

As we conclude this two-part series on storytelling I just want to say thank you to all of you out there who do kids ministry. It’s hard, it’s often thankless, and it is downright impossible to get right all the time. But I know each one of you have a heart of gold and want to see the next generation grow up in love with their Savior. So with that in mind thank you for doing what you do and keep keeping on. The fight is worth it!

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