Telling the Bible Story

It is important that our children do not only learn the Bible facts, but that they also understand the lessons of the Bible history. Besides the regular reading of the Bible at the table and in family worship, we should use Bible stories as a means to bring across what the Bible has to teach us.

Common sense tells us that the story format is very good to bring across experience as well as information. It is the best way to not only pass on details, but also moods, feelings, worries, hopes, etc. We naturally tell our travel experiences in the form of stories. We also know that a story, particularly a well-told story, grasps and holds the attention of our listeners to such an extent that after they have heard our story, they are inclined to retell the story to others.

History also teaches us the importance of stories. Cultures maintain their identity by recounting the stories of the past to the next generation. It helps when the stories have been written down to preserve the content, but even cultures in which the stories are passed on orally from generation to generation continue to form the attitudes and identity of each generation. That which applies to ordinary stories, also applies to Bible stories. Collections of Bible stories have been with us for centuries already. Our forefathers have seen it as a duty of the father or the mother to tell the Bible histories to the youngest children of the family. For centuries they have taught adults what is right and wrong, proper and improper, etc.

School teachers, particularly elementary teachers, have always been expected to be experts at telling the Bible and national history in story format. We all know good teachers who were able to warm our hearts by moving stories, which helped us to understand right from wrong, good from evil, bravery from cowardice, and made us dream of once following the good examples set before us in the characters of the stories they told us.

We do not only have to go by common sense and historical precedence to justify telling Bible history in the form of stories to our children. The Lord Jesus used the story-format repeatedly to present important lessons to His hearers while He was on earth. The Bible is full of stories of important Bible characters to teach us both the glory of God as well as the weakness and sinfulness of man. The historical books of the Old Testament as well as the Gospels and the book of Acts in the New Testament are telling us much information in the form of stories. Many of the prophecies and visions are retold as stories.

Not all parents are able or have time to prepare regularly stories for their children. Grandparents are sometimes in a better position to take the opportunity to retell the stories of the Bible in their own words. There are a number of reasonable collections of Bible stories that can be used to read before the younger children go to bed. The translated Bible stories of Rev. Vreugdenhil are well known amongst us. In itself it is a very good practice to daily read from such story collections. However, reading a story does not compare to telling a story well in a father’s or mother’s own words. Even poorly told stories compare favorably with read stories. A story that is told, holds the attention of the listeners much better and makes much more impression. It also allows the teller to make the intended application of the story much more personal and much more fitting. As an additional reward for the teller, there is much personal profit in preparing and telling the Bible story. I sincerely hope I can entice a number of parents and/or grandparents to try to tell the Bible stories in their own words. The remainder of this article will attempt to give some guidelines on how to go about telling the Bible story.


What is telling a story about?

Telling is really trying to make someone else see and experience what we saw and experienced. It is the art of the eye and the word. If we have seen and experienced something special. we want to share it with others, particularly our loved ones. We do this best by telling about it. Now if we really have something to tell, we want to talk about that experience or that event. We do not think of ourselves in that effort, because not we, but the event or experience is most important. Whoever wants to learn to tell well, has to learn first not to be in his own way. You as a person have to disappear, the event or the experience has to come to the foreground.


How do we prepare to tell a story?

Without proper preparation, we run the risk that we shall make serious mistakes in our telling. Particularly when it concerns the Bible history, we have to make sure that we tell truthfully, faithfully, and properly. Therefore it is important to prepare. Our preparation should give us a clear insight into WHAT we want to tell, and HOW we should tell it. Unfortunately we lend to stay with the "what" and forget often about the "how."

What are we to tell?

1. We need to read the history in the Bible. We may never assume that we can do with what we remember from a story. God’s Word is a living word, and so we need to place ourselves at the fountain before we can tell others. God’s Word is not given as a plain history. It is a moral history that tries to tell us the most important truths about man and about God, about death and about life. By reading it again, we do not only regain the facts, but we also open ourselves for the teaching that has to be passed on.

2. We should use a guide. There are many things not directly in the Bible history which are still important to tell the story properly. We need to know about the landscape, the customs, the dress, etc. It is sometimes confusing to know what is most important in the history, etc. A good guide helps us with a story sketch, it shows us the main ideas of the passage, it helps us with the practical applications of the history, it shows us references to other Bible texts and books, to doctrinal standards, etc. Unfortunately I have not come across any truly satisfactory Bible story guides in English yet. Usually it takes a variety of sources, such as a reference Bible, a commentary, an atlas, etc., to gather all the necessary information. The good thing is that a number of these things apply to several stories, so it is not necessary to look up all these things for each story. For example, if you tell the history of Saul and David, one serious study of the geography of Palestine at that time will help you for several stories.

3. We may need to make notes. Particularly, if you tell more formally and regularly different histories of the Bible, you need to make sure you have things together and in order so you don’t make awkward mistakes. It is also reassuring to be able to quickly update yourself while you are telling, or to overcome interruptions while you are telling the story.

How are we to tell the Bible story?

1. We need to pray to God that He will guide us in telling the story. We have been given God’s Word as one o f the main means to learn about ourselves and about God. We have the duty to use God’s Word in our families so that by His Spirit that Word may bring about the true change of heart, which we pray may take place in our heart and the heart of each of our loved ones. When we set out to do that by retelling the histories given by God, we need His guidance and blessing upon it. So often and so likely we are the blind, leading the blind....

2. We need time to let a story grow in us. Bread is more than a mixture of flour, water, salt and yeast. The dough has to be prepared and given time to rise before it is baked and turned into wholesome bread. A series of facts and ideas need time to become a story and we have to give our mind proper time to get it all together. This has to he done partly consciously. We need to think about thc history we have read and are to tell. We have to consider what it meant to be there, to be part of the things that took place, etc. We also need to consider how we would have reacted it’ we had been there, etc. Such a careful consideration will help you realize what you need to know yet before you are ready to tell the story. Part of this preparation we do not have to worry about. Our mind is a marvelous thing. It will continue to work on the story while we may be involved with much other work . Along as we give it time, it will prepare itself no matter what we are about, and it will come up with amazing solutions.

3. We need to make a proper story. This means that we have to have an interesting opening, different characters. a true climax, a proper closing and an important lesson. Usually the history gives most of this already, but we need to properly plan it for our retelling of the story so our children can more easily listen and understand better what the story is about. This takes some planning, some courage and come practice.

To Be Continued