Bible Storying in America, Part 3: How to Do It

(Editor’s note: This is the third of a 3-part article on Bible storying. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

Bible storying is a narrative presentation to convey a series of Bible stories that are discussed after they are told orally. There are many different ways to present the gospel or lead a small group.

The small group leader begins by reviewing the previous lesson. This is critical to tracking how the group is progressing. He or she has a listening task. Did the group get it? Is there disobedience or evidence of falling away? The previous session could be repeated.

The new story is selected based on the worldview of the members and issues in their lives. Story sets written for use among other people often fall flat and smack of irrelevance.

Contextualizing the story is important. The leader must describe where the story fits in the overall timeline of the Bible. Details that might be distractions, such as explaining terms or using a map, can be shared beforehand as well to help the story flow uninterrupted.

The leader then tells the story with enthusiasm and a certain amount of drama. He or she never embellishes or injects something not found in the story. Only by examining a number of Bible translations and “mastering” the story does the narrative come alive as the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the hearers.

Following the story, a sequence begins in order to make sure everyone caught the facts of the story, wrestles with the truth, and can accurately apply it to their lives. In order to drive home the story, participants may spontaneously act out the story, draw a picture that represents what the story means to them, or convey the truth through some other creative expression. After all, emotions etch memories and activities serve as a way to connect with the heart of the participants.

When leading a storying workshop, Michael Novelli said, “When you story, the responsibility for learning shifts from the teacher to the student.” In his book, Shaped by the Story, he calls this a “learner-centered focus” in which leaders become “experience architects.”1

When the stories are sifted by the group, the Holy Spirit reveals at least one Bible truth. Sometimes truths can be numerous as well as profound. People often say, “Oh! I get it! I have to totally rely on God just like Moses.” That’s when Bible studies become invigorating. Lives are changed and transformed at the deepest levels.

After people accept Christ, the discipler must not switch to a literate approach. Bible stories can certainly track along a theme for new believers, emerging leaders, and church multipliers. Most storyers start over in Genesis and begin discipleship and leader training efforts. A significant change among believers is that small group leaders begin giving them assignments after each story. Holding all believers accountable for spiritual growth helps believers live out God’s Word in their daily routines and relationships. They need to learn to model godly behavior within their own groups.


1. Novelli, Michael. 2008. Shaped by the Story. El Cajon, Calif.: Youth Specialities, 88, 91.

Mark Snowden co-authored a chapter with Avery Willis in Orality Breakouts (ION/LCWE, 2010) for Lausanne III as well as Truth That Sticks (NavPress, 2010). He was the Lausanne work group facilitator in 2004 that published Making Disciples of Oral Learners and launched the International Orality Network (ION). He is the lead storying trainer for the North American Mission Board, SBC.