THINK of the last time you listened to a Sunday morning sermon. Maybe you were intently taking notes. Maybe you were struggling to pay attention.
Then the preacher said, “Let me tell you a story…”
What did you do? You probably sat up, looked at the speaker, and listened closely to what he said. Why? Because we all enjoy stories! And stories stick in our minds, even though we forget lists and bullet points.
That’s why Jesus taught using stories. That’s how God communicated his truth to us: 90 percent of the Bible is stories, songs and wise sayings.
The Navigator ministries in Nakuru, Eldoret and Tisinye are using oral Bible stories to share who God is, how we can know him, and how we should live. This storytelling or “orality” approach is fairly simple. Instead of reading directly from the Bible, the leader prepares in advance until he or she can tell the story accurately in his or her own words. After the leader tells the story, the group takes turns retelling it, and the leader asks discussion questions. The goal is that we will all learn the story well, so that we understand what it means and how we can apply it to our lives.
Storytelling Bible study groups are thriving in a variety of contexts: among farmers in rural Tisinye; among secondary school students in Eldoret; in several church small groups, and among impoverished young mothers in urban Nakuru. In storytelling Bible studies, everybody can learn the Bible and discuss it regardless of their education level or reading ability.
We get to do discipleship out loud! We teach classic Navigator tools like the Wheel Illustration by using hand motions and songs. And we can explain salvation through the story of the Lost Son—each of us has rejected the authority of our Father, yet He waits for us to come home.
In our discipleship process, we tell stories that chronologically journey through the Bible, giving us the big picture of who God is and how we can know him, while also covering key discipleship topics like prayer, memorizing God’s word, witnessing, living lives of purity, and more. The Nakuru team has written a curriculum which small groups in Nakuru and Eldoret are currently field testing. Navigators Kenya hopes to publish that curriculum when it is ready next year.
This approach is bearing fruit. In one Nakuru storytelling Bible study, four women have gotten saved since November of last year! When another woman accepted Jesus during a one-on-one visit in December, she inspired the Nakuru team to start a second storytelling group near her home. She’s a faithful participant and her teenage son loves the group, too. He’s not yet saved, but very curious, and he visits the group as often as he can.
One Nakuru woman said, “Before I joined this study, it was difficult for me to read the Bible, because I could not really understand it. So I only read it a little. Now, when I hear the Bible in stories and even in songs, I am able to remember it well.”[message_box title=”Storytelling Basics:” color=”dark green” width=”200″ align”right”]
- For several days in advance, re-read the Bible story out loud until you can tell it accurately in your own words. Do not add details or commentary.
- In the group, tell the story twice. Speak clearly. Make eye contact. Hand motions help, too.
- Ask group members to retell the story. They can help each other, if they get stuck.
- Once the group knows the story well and can retell it accurately, ask discussion questions. Application is key!