This can be a dreaded word for your volunteer storytellers. But having the Bible story memorized is an important way a storyteller can help kids connect with the story. Storytellers just need the right tools to help them know the story.
Unfortunately, the power of telling Bible stories to kids is grossly undervalued. After all, they’re kids right? They follow along wherever you take them. What choice do they have? It’s fine to put anyone on stage, hand them a Bible, and say “Go!”, right?
Truth be told, that doesn’t cut it. Telling the Greatest Story Ever Told deserves more than slap on the back and a “you can do it” to reach into the hearts of young ones.
It’s critical that the person responsible to communicate God’s Word to kids knows what they’re doing. Sharing the Bible story always needs to be treated with equal parts respect for the content and care for the storytelling. Actors spend years honing their craft of making words come to life.
You have to know your stuff. Every story starts with words. Whether you’ve been handed the script or written it yourself, every storyteller needs to have a good working knowledge of what you are about to present.
Your goal should be to help kids experience a great Bible story. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when kids leave your environment not only knowing the story from the Bible, but also how it impacts their life.
When you don’t have to speak from the script and can look into the eyes of your audience, you create the perfect environment for engaging kids and helping them capture the important take-aways from the story.
Is it realistic for a storyteller to memorize their script every single week?
Memorizing is hard and people are busy. Studying lines for hours every week isn’t realistic. That being said, preparation and practice is important. Storytellers need to commit to preparing to give the kids the best opportunity to experience the Bible.
You (and/or your storyteller/s) can tell better Bible stories with these 3 tips for memorizing (or mostly memorizing) any Bible story:
3 Tips for Memorizing (most) Bible Stories
1. Immerse yourself in the story. (Leaders—this requires that you send the script/story/passage to your storytellers in advance on a regular basis!)
Rather than spending hours (or the 5 minutes backstage before the program starts) reading and re-reading the script, try immersing yourself in the Story. Head to your favorite translation of the Bible or open your Bible App to the original passage of the Bible story. Read (or listen) to the story each night along with a quick read of the script. This should take 15 minutes tops. By Friday or Saturday night, you’ll have a great idea of where you want to take the kids on their journey of discovering the truth from the Scripture.
Side Note: a great bi-product of immersing yourself in the story is that the story will mean more in your own life. Rather than memorizing words on a page in your short-term memory to deliver on stage, the Bible story will become something that gets captured deep in your heart.
2. Memorize the big ideas not the words.
If you try and memorize every single word on the page, you’ll be worrying about every single word. The story might come across as stiff and robotic. Making the story your own ensures that it sounds comfortable and engages your listeners. Rather than word-for-word memorization, memorize the big ideas of the story that keep it moving. This will force you to find the best way for you to tell the story. Write the big ideas down in order; use this outline as a cheat sheet as you run through your script in rehearsal. The big ideas will help prompt you to remember and navigate the story.
3. Make it your own.
Most storytellers have a script to work from. While someone probably took a good deal of time crafting every word, as the storyteller, you must make those words come to life and deliver them in your own voice. There will be some phrases must be delivered word for word such as bottom lines, verses or phrases for biblical accuracy and those powerfully-written sentences. But for the most part, get the story in your head and deliver it clearly and memorably.
If there are key phrases that need to be delivered, rehearse not only the words but also how best to deliver them. If you’re getting caught up on the exact words and tone of voice in rehearsal, chances are you’ll get hung up in the live performance as well. Make sure that delivering those specific phrases from the script sounds as clean and natural as rest of your storytelling.
There may be times when your storytelling convention will require additional preparation and rehearsal time. (Singing, rapping, reader’s theater, multiple voices etc) But most of the time these simple ideas should do the trick.
For more on how to make the Bible story your own, check out 5 Questions Every Storyteller Should Ask Before Telling a Story.
When you immerse yourself in the story, memorize the key points, and make it your own on a regular basis, you’ll soon discover that you’re telling better Bible stories that kids can’t wait to hear week after week.