Telling the Greatest Story
Bible lessons that capture kids’ attention and hearts
The Bible is the greatest story ever written and the most thrilling adventure ever told. Yet all too often in children’s ministry, kids groan with boredom when it’s time for the Bible lesson.
It doesn’t have to be that way. As children’s leaders, we can share God’s truth in such a compelling manner that kids hang on every word. And while we have their attention, we can help children see their part in the divine narrative.
Interacting with Scripture is critical for the spiritual growth of young people. In fact, reading the Bible during childhood is the biggest predictor of whether a person will practice Christianity as a young adult, according to a 2017 study by Lifeway Research.
Lifeway found those who read the Bible growing up demonstrated greater overall spiritual health during their early adult years (aged 18–30) than those who did not read Scripture. The most spiritually healthy young adults identified as Christians and practiced such disciplines as regular Bible reading, evangelism, church involvement, serving, and supporting missions.
A lifetime of Bible engagement starts with developing a love for God’s Word. Even before kids become readers, they can begin learning the truths of Scripture through storytelling.
One of the simplest ways to make Bible storytelling more effective is by remembering the word SOAR. This acronym stands for sounds, objects, actions and repetition. Each time I plan a Bible lesson, I try to include all four elements in my story presentation.
Interesting auditory experiences aid kids in retaining information.
Consider singing a song or playing a video each week to mark the beginning of Bible story time.
Also find creative ways to work sounds into the stories. Often, there are some obvious places to do this.
If animals play a role in a story, kids can imitate the vocalizations those creatures make, from the monkeys and elephants aboard Noah’s ark to the cattle and sheep at the nativity.
Make a trumpet noise and lead children in a shout while telling the story of the battle at Jericho. Mimic the shuffling sound of feet as you talk about the boy Samuel running to Eli during the night.
Have kids recreate the noise of the storm Jesus calmed. Or invite them to snore as they learn about the disciples sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Try incorporating audio sound effects as well. A musical cue can highlight key words or phrases, such as, “God can do anything!”
Game show sounds, such as a chime or bell for correct answers, adds to the fun when posing questions.
Introduce objects that will help children visualize the Bible story. This can include props, puppets and even costumes.
Bring to class an item that appears in the Bible lesson, such as a staff, fishing net, or pitcher of water.
Use a surprise bag to tell the story, pulling out objects for kids to see, smell or touch as the narrative unfolds. Children will pay close attention, wondering what will come out of the bag next.
During the application portion of the lesson, a simple object lesson can make it easier for kids to understand difficult concepts. For example, swapping out a dirty, crumpled piece of paper for a clean, new one could illustrate the fresh start Jesus offers.
One of the simplest ways to make Bible storytelling more effective is by remembering the
word SOAR. This
for sounds, objects,
actions and repetition.
Kids love moving, and there is no shortage of action in the Bible. Include movement to pique the interest of young listeners and encourage their active participation.
Choose action words — such as run, climb, leap and splash — combining them with motions.
Use dramatic gestures and expressions during storytelling. And give kids an opportunity to respond.
Imitate the swinging of David’s sling. Sway back and forth to show how the storm rocked Jonah’s boat. Pretend to pass out bread and fish to a hungry crowd like Jesus and His disciples did. Have kids reenact the healing of the lame man in Acts 3 by walking, jumping and praising God.
When inviting kids to engage in movement or dramatic actions, create an atmosphere that is safe and fun. Encourage participation, but don’t force it. Clearly explain when kids should join in, what they should do, and when they should stop.
You might say, “I’m going to tell a story about Daniel and some lions. Whenever I put on my hat, you’ll start acting like lions. But when I take it off, you’ll stop. Let’s practice.”
Repetition is an important learning aid, especially during early childhood and elementary school years. Hearing the same information over and over increases kids’ retention and boosts their confidence.
The more they hear about God’s love and forgiveness, the more likely children will be to receive it and even talk about it with others.
In addition, repetition can establish a storytelling routine. A verbal cue at a certain point in every story helps kids anticipate what comes next.
For example, to signal the application portion of a lesson each week, you might say, “Everything we read in the Bible has something to do with you and me and our everyday lives. So, what does this story have to do with you and me?”
Capitalize on repetition that naturally occurs within a story, and have kids say key words or phrases out loud. An example from the creation account is, “God saw that it was good!” For young children who can’t remember that many words, start the phrase and have them fill in the word “good.”
Look for repetition within a series of events. For instance, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, three individuals encounter the injured man on the road. Each time someone approaches in the story, invite the children to join you in saying, “Please help!”
Craft rhyming phrases that are easy to repeat. When I tell the story of Paul, I often say something like, “Let’s talk about Paul, who used to be Saul, who did not like Christians at all, until God changed his ways.”
Storytelling is more than just entertainment. Children learn through stories. So make the most of every opportunity to instill in them the truths of Scripture.
There are many ways to teach kids the stories in the Bible. The best storytellers combine careful and thoughtful preparation with a warm sense of spontaneity. Don’t worry about having everything perfectly scripted. Learn to improvise and interact with children as you go.
Keep your young listeners in mind as you prepare. Consider their ages and developmental stages, and choose words and illustrations that will be understandable, relatable, and memorable for them.
Use your unique gifts to communicate the story as only you can. Tell it from your heart, smile, and have fun.
Value this time of connection. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, the kids probably won’t either.
Ask the Holy Spirit to work through you to help kids fall in love with the greatest story and the greatest Storyteller of all.
This article appears in the Summer 2023 issue of Influence magazine.