Worshipping with the Children’s Story, part II
In my last entry, I explored children’s story time during worship as an opportunity to invite children to participate in the worshipping family of God.
Preparing the story:
- Remember that you are emulating Jesus, who said “Let the children come to me” (Mark 10:14), took the children on his lap, blessed them, and challenged his disciples to become like them.
- Prepare yourself spiritually. Pray for yourself and the children who will receive your story, trusting God to work through you.
- Gear your story to a 4 to 8-year-old audience. They are the ones who will not understand most of the other words of worship. Adults benefit from listening in, but this is the bonus rather than the focus. Four to 8-year-olds are highly visual and tactile, and long to be reminded of God’s unconditional love for and acceptance of them.
- Keep your story short. Practice it. Try to tell it in about 5 minutes.
- Use a simple vocabulary that links to children’s experiences.
- Connect Bible passage themes to contemporary children’s lives in a concrete way.
- Stick to one main point and image. Using a concrete object or symbol can be helpful. For instance, this weeks’ Lenten theme in my denomination focuses on being fruitful. So, if I were doing a children’s story on that I might use a picture of a laden apple tree, or a bag of fruit candy as a focusing symbol.
- Share the good news of the passage without moralizing. For example, if a story character responds in a Christ-like way, we would inspire a more internalized response from the children by saying something like “I wonder if that made Jesus smile” rather than “This is what Jesus thinks we should always do.” Plan a few reflective questions that help children worship and internalize the Biblical message. Reflective questions encourage children to wonder about the signs of God at work in the story, and help them to identify and claim God’s presence in their lives as well. They move from a story focus to a personal response opportunity. In the short example just cited, an internalizing personal response question would be, “I wonder how each of us could make Jesus smile today.” Honour the children as spiritual beings. For a story that does this, see http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/43/12227
Telling the story:
- As the storyteller, be conscious of the sacred function you are serving and continue trusting God to work through you.
- Give the children time to settle as after they gather for the story. Are they comfortable and ready to listen to this special message from God? You may find it helpful to remind them that Jesus invited the children onto his lap; that he appreciated and blessed children, and that Jesus still wants to bless them during this special worship time. A short prayer to open the story can help everyone settle into holy expectancy.
- Make eye contact with each child. Your eyes speak at least as much as your voice and gestures.
- Follow a predictable pattern of gathering, listening, telling and departing. This enhances the worship experience for children, whether in a special season, or throughout the year.
- Tell the story from your heart. Enter into the story with all your presence and attention. This is easier to do if you have practiced. If you are using props, practice in front of a mirror.
- Let the story do its own teaching and resist explaining its lesson. If you present the story well, the children will hear and reflect on God’s voice rather than yours.
These reflections are the result of conversations with effective children’s story tellers over many years. What resonated with you? What do you have to add to the conversation?