Bible listener … Bible story teller
When it comes to being a Bible storyteller, the task begins with the need to gather a team of people prepared to engage the tasks of being the best Bible story listener they can be. There are three tasks that can be symbolised in 3 images …
- A detective,
- A ministry clown, and
- An Olympic wrestler.
It is uncommon that all three tasks can be performed by one person, so a team of two or three people would be better.
The Detective’s Task: Story listening
Who do you think of when it comes to famous detectives? Sherlock Holmes? … or, more recently, Enola Holmes? >> … are you old enough to remember Columbo? … and then there’s Veronica Mars. Who’s your favourite?
The images evoke all sorts of things, like old fashioned pipes, clothes, and quirky characters. These quirks don’t relate to the task of Bible listening, but these are worth mentioning because hopefully this metaphor will help us remember the aspects of story listening that are important. Firstly, ignore any scriptwriters’ additions of luck and predetermined outcomes. The metaphor fails at this point.
A detective’s qualities and abilities related to being a Bible story listening detective include: … being insightful, intuitive, and persistent … piecing together the background to a Bible story from multiple sources (what actually happened) … determine what would the characters be culturally thinking, feeling, sensing? … what was motivating these characters to think, feel, or sense things these ways? … work to keep the story uncontaminated from personal biases/prejudices … ask, “Why is this story in the Bible?” … wonder, “What did this all mean for the original story listeners who these stories were first told and written down for.” Further wonder, “If this is what it meant then, what would the original hearers think/ feel/ sense? … and how would they respond/ react?”… be a Jnr Partner in the Holy Spirit detective agency … wonder how this story helps us to be Jesus/The Church today?
The Olympic Wrestler’s task: Story preparation
The image that comes to mind is a powerful person, committed to the task of doing their very best in attaining a gold medal. It will mean using their qualities of strength, control, endurance, skills, and commitment related to Bible story preparation. This will mean taking responsibility for preparing the story elements for an audience in a current context. To wrestle the preparation of a story to the ground, it will require the balance between protecting the original story integrity while working out to communicate the story with integrity to today’s audiences. It will mean finding the hooks that will hold the interest of today’s audience, making it relevant. It will mean developing a list of ‘I wonder … ” questions to choose one or two for a more engaging story. It will mean plenty of training and experience in this task to keep the truth of the story from not being diluted with storytelling approaches that would actually distract hearers from the Bible story’s message.
The Ministry Clown’s Task: Storytelling
Keeping away from the more recent sinister images of ‘clown’, the more traditional images of clowns have a lot to offer here. Memories of ‘clown’ include memories of laughter, engaging skits, fun antics, friendly to audiences, and relatable messages. Adding in the idea of ‘ministry’ here, a clown minister will ALWAYS act in very appropriate ways, not put anyone down, and be sensitive to the context they find themselves in. The task of the clown minister is to draw people into the world of stories with grace and humility. They will find appropriately EXCESSIVE ways to express emotions (feelings), verbs (tactile/facts), reflective (thoughts), senses (awareness/vibe/sensations) into the role of storyteller.
Clown ministry is a lot larger topic for another space in Midst. It is important to stress here this section DOES NOT propose we should always dress up as a clown to tell a story. That is only one of the dozens of ways to approach storytelling.
Rather, this section highlights two simple clown ministry principles applicable to drama, public readings, puppets, and other ministry arts.
- Be appropriately excessive in expressing thoughts/ emotions/ actions/ sensations.
As a Bible reader in a pulpit, DO NOT put on a red nose! However, after doing the work of detective and wrestler, it is possible to bring appropriate levels of vocal, facial and body expression to the public reading of a Bible story.
- Focus storytelling on God
Another way to say this is to avoid the idea of storytelling as a performance to evoke applause. While storytelling can be viewed as ‘performance art’, it can also be viewed as ‘ministry art’ … this has more to do with leading a celebration of worship: E.g. song leader, preacher, drummer. The storyteller’s attitude is to be focussed on leading hearers of the story to focus on the Truth of God’s Big Story rather than on themselves as the storyteller.
Note: We can’t stop applause, especially if it is spontaneous. However, there are ways to start and finish storytellings that help the focus to remain on the story’s meaning or learning point. Concluding a story by saying, “Let’s pause and quietly sit with this story for a moment or two.” is one of these ways. Use appropriately.
If you don’t like any of the metaphorical images suggested, feel free to suggest your own with a list of attributes that make then an ideal candidate for the job!