Tell Us A Story

April 27, 2022
Woman in four different poses telling a story

You want to strengthen connections with your congregation. You want people to think about the old stories in new ways. You want to build your repertoire of skills. It’s time to take your storytelling to the next level!

What Is Storytelling?

Storytelling goes beyond reading aloud or reciting. Storytellers put down the page and engage eye to eye and heart to heart with their listeners. Storytelling is not just for children. We are all wired for narrative.

Why Do Storytelling?

Listening to a story together is a shared experience. Listeners bond over a shared laugh or gasp. Because you’re not looking at a piece of paper or a book, you’re making more eye contact with your audience. Listeners feel connected to the storyteller. Each person is quite certain you are telling the story just for them. You can also respond to your audience’s cues when you’re looking at them instead of a page, clarifying if they look confused or building on things they are enjoying. 

Good storytelling invites listeners in. It helps them to be in the time and space of the tale, to imagine what it would be like to be those people. Storytelling can remind us of the humanity of biblical figures. Storytelling is a fun way to stretch your own skills and express your creativity!

Getting Started

Read, daydream, practise—that’s all there is to it! If you’re telling a biblical tale, read it. Read different versions. Spend some time imagining it. See the faces, feel the surroundings, hear the background noises, smell the air. Think about the emotions experienced by those in the tale. 

Try telling it. Out loud is best. Tell the story to the dishes, the laundry, the dog as you walk. Begin the way you mean to go on—tell confidently. You can make yourself notes if that makes you more comfortable, but don’t get too committed to particular words and phrases. If you’re focused on what word comes next, you’re not in the story, and if you’re not in the story, how can the listeners be?

If you’re worried about forgetting, focus on the transitions. Switching from scene to scene is the most common place to get temporarily lost. If you do forget what comes next, just pause. Pauses are great. They let your listener catch up with the scenes they’re painting in their minds. As long as you don’t look like you’re panicking, everyone will assume you meant to pause. If you’re really lost, fill us in on some of those details you imagined and your brain will find the track!

If you realize you’ve forgotten something, just slip it in. You’re the boss of the story. Try: “What he didn’t know was that earlier…,” “Did I mention…” or “You should probably know that…”

Remember, no one in the congregation has a script. They all believe the way you’re telling it is the way you meant to tell it!

To be continued. In Part 2 of this article, Renée will explain her process by walking us through a story!

Renée Englot, Robertson-Wesley U.C., Edmonton, Alta.