Storytelling ~ story listening
Become the storyteller you were created to be!
Become the story listener you were created to be!
As part of learning the craft and developing the art of storytelling, this section of Midst will also help you to become a great story listener.
So it doesn’t matter if you engage this section of Midst as a storyteller to be a better story listener or if you are a story listener wanting to become a better storyteller. No one of these comes first, but they must be present to excel in this skill area.
As you learn to observe and listen to the stories of others, your community, and God’s Story, Midst will also offer ways to share God’s Big Story, the stories of your community, and your own stories.
Want even more? These principles will also be helpful when it comes to preparing great drama, clown ministry skits, puppet scripts, upfront presentations, testimonies, sermons, and the like. They will also help you to deliver story versions of encouragement, blessings, corrections to behaviours, captions for photos, and more.
This section of Midst is presented in a workshop format.
Below is a series of introductions to posts designed to help you explore the principles and practice of storytelling and story listening.
- Posts are provided under the main headings.
- Perhaps reading the main headings and post introductions below will be enough to affirm and remind you of what you already know and practice.
- If time is limited, the posts marked with an asterisk are essential reading to grow your understanding and skills.
- The link for each post will help you navigate to areas you would like to engage with. Come back to this main page to navigate to the next post of interest.
Explore further …
The fact is, stories surround us!
Be part of the adventure to discover stories in every corner of everyday life.
It’s hard to imagine living life without a connection with at least something, or someone. This may be the dark sense of reality for some. The hope here, as storytellers … story listeners, is that we will not only discover and connect to the stories of others but also be better able to participate in, and be engaged by, God’s Story. May it be that God’s Story brings light to our lives and the lives of others.
The adventure begins!
This is section ‘SA’ of Storytelling ~ story listening.
Ever since the dawn of time …
- since the dawn of communication, one human to another;
- since the first tribe gathering around their camp fire;
- since the beginnings of the passing on of survival skills, dreamings, and traditions;
- since the start of handing down histories, one generation to another …
There were the storytellers.
What do you see?
Here is an iconic image depicting an age-old conundrum. You can view it by clicking on this link: what do you see? >>
Two people face to face? Or a lampstand?
- Two people sharing stories? Two people listening to the other’s story? Connecting into each other’s language, body language, their lives, or their histories in dynamic, relational ways? … or …
- A static, brass-cold candlestick? (As useful as such things are as a recent human invention.)
When it comes to seeing yourself as a storyteller, a story listener, or neither, the choice is simple. Engage with the person you are listening to in a respectful, creative, and thoughtful way as possible. Or be as passive as a lump of brass. Too harsh? The truth is that most of us are somewhere in between most of the time. Both at once. Like the icon image.
God’s story; Our story; Your story/my story.
Their are various ways of understanding the interplay of these three stories. Learning to engage and connect with each of these through storytelling and story listening helps us to respond and participate in each story. No matter where you start, growing a just-right relationship, a sense of belonging, or some appreciation or identification with each of these stories is the beginning of a journey to the centre of all three.
Share a highlight from your last week.*
First things first! A short exercise to get us going.
Imagine you are with one of your friends sitting in a cafe. You have both ordered and, while you wait, you simply share one highlight of the week.
1 story … 3 versions
Each re-telling of this story invites you to receive and respond/react in any way you like.
- some Bible verses: John 2:2-5 (part of a bigger story);
- a paraphrase of these verses; and
- a commentary.
Explore further …
Story as a meal of tacos!
Explore this metaphor and imagine the experience. Yum!
Deconstructing a meal of tacos will help us to deconstruct stories. Identifying the different parts that make up a story will help us to learn how to listen to everyday stories as well as Bible stories. As story listeners, we can improve our skills as storytellers. Then, as storytellers, we can improve our skills as story listeners.
- Put together or imagine a regular meal of tacos (or find your own diet-appropriate equivalent) to help you explore the metaphor.
- Experience this metaphorical meal and explore the 5 parts of storytelling … story listening.
This is section ‘SB’ of Storytelling ~ story listening.
Story deconstructed #01*
A story is like a taco meal!
• sitting back and appreciating the experience;
• considering seconds and wondering about desert, hmmm.
Disclaimer: Soz if you don’t like tacos, even if you leave off the cheese and substitute green lentils for the meat.
Story deconstructed SB01>>
Who, when, where, &/or what?
A bit like the taco ingredients prepared and then assembled, the facts are perceived to exist. There are the plates, the oven turned on, the veggies and cheese, the spicy meat and onion (or substituted green lentils), and the taco shells. These are the shared items that add to the taco story.
Getting the facts straight is the basis of any story. Sometimes people offer just the facts as their complete story … “I did this; I’m doing that; this happened; so and so did this; who; when, where, what.
Story facts SB02>>
The Thoughts, emotions, and sensations of story.
Tacos! Wow! Yum! I’m full!
Like the experience of eating tacos, there are different ways for people to express what is happening for them in the experience of their story. People view, express, or respond to experiences primarily, but not exclusively, through one of three lenses … Thoughts/ Emotions/ Sensations. Communicating something of these in your storytelling helps to communicate your story. Listening for these as someone shares a story with you, helps you to connect with them.
Story experience SB03>>
The meaning, consequences, outcomes, so what? what happened next? where to from here?
What happens in a meal of tacos? A beautiful mess! That’s generally the outcome. A lot of leftovers on the plate to scoop up with broken pieces of tacos or a fork. Do the other outcomes include a full stomach? Salsa sauce all over everyone’s faces? Dirty napkins or shirt fronts? Perhaps the discussion has started, “Let’s do this again!” or, “What’s next?”
Lot’s of possibilities like this happen in every story, from the simple sharing of highlights to the complex narrative of novels! All options sit together in this category, all the same but different. Some of them sound like thoughts or feelings, but that’s OK. They belong in this part too.
Story meaning SB04>>
A moment to pause to check responses.
This is the brief moment of ‘sitting with the experience of a meal of tacos’ stage. Blink, and you might miss it.
In storytelling, it is the pause you take to observe what is happening for your listener. For the storylistener, it is the moment you use to listen to yourself (your responses/reactions) and to Holy Spirit (discernment/prayer).
Story pause SB05>>
Story: What’s next? Your Choice!
An opportunity to choose a direction to affect desired outcomes.
Ahhh … the meal of tacos’ is done … that moment of pause has passed … the first course over … all cleared from the table … now, the choice. That’s enough? What to do now? Maybe dessert? “Ice cream would go well with tacos. Have we got any?” “Something more to drink?” What to do? … Let’s put on a movie?”
So how is this a part of the storytelling … story listening process???? Surely the metaphor breaks down at this point!!
Nup. Let’s push it a little further …
Story: What’s next? Your Choice! SB06>>
Explore further …
Ok, that’s the theory! So what?
This is where sharing and listening is applied to real-life contexts.
Having spent some time understanding a range of component parts of stories, the next step is to see how this applies to real life. The old adage of, “You need to learn the rules before you can break the rules.” also applies to storytelling … story listening.
- Once you know the order of the different parts of stories, you can change them.
- Applying storytelling principles helps you to improve your communication skills.
- Talking to shop assistants or answering your phone differently will help you to become better storytellers.
This is section ‘SC’ of Storytelling ~ story listening.
This is where the taco metaphor breaks down and will be discarded.
A taco meal cannot be cleared away and cleaned up before it is cooked and prepared. However, the story process outlined above can be changed. The elements of storytelling … story listening can be reordered.
Story reconstructed SC01>>
So … truth and grace
Let’s not be too hard on ourselves or others.
Sometimes we can’t tell if anyone is listening to our story. Sometimes we don’t listen. Not everything is happening according to any set of rules. Like when we prepare a meal of tacos, we sometimes forget an ingredient or two. We get all the parts right but in different orders. And that’s OK.
Truth and grace SC02>>
Short Story Format
Here are a few examples of story telling for a variety of contexts in real life.
For each of these storytelling formats, there are two tasks.
1. Imagine you are delivering the story. Use storytelling principles to deliver the story, pause (gauge responses … imagine possibilities), and ask yourself and Holy Spirit, “What next? What choice?”
2. Imagine the story is being shared with you. Use story listening principles ‘story’ outlined above. Pause to note your response/reactions. Ask yourself and Holy Spirit, “What next? What choice?”
A storytelling exercise
Tell stories whenever you are asked, “How are you?”
You know the general pattern. The shop assistant says, “HelloHowAreYouToday?” and you reply, “GoodHowAreYou?” and they say, “Good.” This is little ritual happens even though any one of you may not be ‘good’ in the sense of physical wellbeing. It’s may not be the time or place to discuss ‘good? in the sense that we are all created ‘good’ and it’s our behaviours that may not be acceptable at times. And the queue waiting behind you may not appreciate a drawn out pop psychology session related to the mental well being of either one of you.
Here’s a quick alternative to help you practise your story telling.
A storytelling exercise SC04>>
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.
Bible listener … Bible story teller SC05>>
Learning to be a Bible Story listener
Mark 9:33-37 … Who Is the Greatest?
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:33-37 … Who Is the Greatest? SC06>>
Practising to be a Bible story listener.
Here is an exercise on Padlet for you to contribute in the preparation stage for storytelling.
Follow the link then read the instructions in the left hand column of the Padlet. Reading this carefully will make it easier for you to add your contribution to the discussion.
Connecting to your storytelling context
Key here is to consider where and to whom you will be sharing a Bible story.
Included here are two insights that add to the discussion. They support the importance of connection and to be fully present in the moment of listening to others.
Different ways to share God’s Big Story
Having done all the work of Bible listening, there are various factors to consider that will influence your choice of the style you use tell the story. From simply expressively reading the text from the Bible through to using visuals or even presenting it as a clown skit.
Storytelling Consultancies & Training
There are a number of options to help get the direction right for you in this area
- A phone or coffee conversation with Phil on this topic.
- A review of your program and training against these keys to affirm and encourage those areas you are doing well and suggestions for improvement where and if required.
- A presentation of an overview of these areas with discussion. (20 minutes or up to 1hr)
- A 4hr workshop exploring one or more of these themes in a interactive discussion.