Crafting Bible story presentations
Ways to use creative storytelling to engage young people
The best audience for my passion of storytelling has always been our own children. When they were young we cuddled together on a warm, comfy sofa; they enjoyed their mommy’s expressive and reassuring voice and their little fingers helped me turn the pages to reveal engaging and vibrant pictures. That nurturing atmosphere laid a foundation of intimacy, bonding, and memories that are valuable to us even today. Those attentive darlings we read to are quite big now. Our youngest is 15 and towers over all of us.
I love teaching English to the Japanese. While looking for students or my next teaching position, I usually aim at students around the same age as our own children. So, I presently find myself teaching Japanese junior and senior high school students at a Christian-founded school called Love One Another Academy (my translation). Most of our students and staff do not profess an actual belief in Jesus Christ; however, there are many opportunities to plant seeds in their hearts. The theme “Love One Another” is so often heard at our school that I believe the Holy Spirit is acting in the lives of these youth and teachers.
Our mandatory morning chapel time has an audience totaling about 1,300 students and approximately 100 Japanese teaching staff. At that time, they are usually all sleepy. During chapel we are all treated to the sweet-sounding voices of the girls’ choir accompanied by a melodious pipe organ looming overhead in the second floor balcony. If anyone’s sleepy eyes happen to gaze at the kaleidoscopic stained glass windows decorating both sides of the hall, one will surely be left in some kind of slumbering trance. So, when it comes my turn to give a presentation, I really need to work to keep my audience awake and engaged.
“Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17, ESV) often rings in my ears when I am considering which story and theme is going to fit in that particular week or season. In my opinion, preachy, programmed messages are not really the way to get young people to stay awake and inspired. Instead, I like to merge the past and present into creative, engaging, spirit-filled presentations that make the Bible look unbelievably interesting to them.
During the hallway encounters on the days I’ve spoken at chapel, I often hear the students’ feedback such as “I never knew the Bible was so interesting” or “Your sound effects sounded like a Disney movie!” Even for my own big kiddos these days, after our family worship times, I hear an encouraging remark such as “Hey, Mom, I really understood the story better when you showed us the pictures on the TV.” What joy fills my heart at hearing those comments from our youth.
I hope some of my ideas below encourage, inspire, and motivate you to create attractive presentations for the situation you are teaching or ministering in.
Free Bible Images
This website (freebibleimages.com) is my main starting block. I pick an attractive Bible story to print, download, and even edit. There are many generous Christian artists and publishers who have donated samples of their artwork in Bible storybook form for anyone to freely use for teaching purposes. Each story comes with an accompanying story planner transcript that allows one to make their own changes or prep notes. The publishers’ versions of the stories are usually aligned accurately with Scripture, although abbreviated in their own words in order to keep the story short, simple, and easy to understand. When possible, I prepare the version I am going to tell with a lot of the actual wording of my ESV. In addition, subtitles or non-subtitled versions of the stories are available.
My favorite collection on this website is the 1955 Moody Bible Institute’s Bible Story Collection, originally published in my hometown, Chicago, where their institute still thrives today (https://www.freebibleimages.org/contributors/moodypublishers). Pastor Moody was a well-known evangelist and revivalist at the end of the 1800s. You can find the original Moody videos on YouTube.1
Another option for images for storytelling are kamishibai (Japanese-style storytelling using cardboard storyboards). These Bible stories can be printed out and laminated into sturdy kamishibai storytelling format. Or you can just download them onto your device and have a digital version ready to go anytime.
Crafting a presentation
Here are some ways I put a presentation together:
- I used the stories and images from the Moody videos, but I recorded my own voice on our condenser mic at home. I thought my students would find it more familiar and interesting if their teacher was actually telling the story.
- Our eldest son helped me insert Japanese subtitles. You can add English too.
- Our son also sang a related song before the storytelling.
- My other computer whiz kid showed me an easy app for editing videos and adding background music and other sound effects (www.CapCut.net).
- I usually make an accompanying transcript and comprehension questions so the students can replay the video and spend more time later thinking about the vocabulary or the meaning more deeply.
For an example of one of our videos, here is one on Google Drive.
Just as I worked on the making of my presentation with our sons, you can invite a Japanese student, church attendee, or friend to join you in making it as a way to collaborate as a project.
1. Bethany Church – Clarbeston Road, “Bible Stories – Moody Institute Films,” YouTube playlist, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBCA38CBE84D821C7 (accessed October 27, 2021).