What Bible Story are You Living Today?
Biblical storytelling as a language of growth and healing for teens and adults
Background and suggestions for using biblical story in a group setting
By Rev. Beth Galbreath
Background: Violence and self-harm among youth in the United States is out of control. This compilation of Bible stories was originally conceived as a non-threatening tool for youth workers to open conversation about the many hidden crises youth face but don’t know how to talk about.
But the same could be said of adults’ need. These stories can fill the same role in helping adults face their challenges and choose change.
When counseling adults with a good biblical education, sometimes the most powerful approach is simply to ask, “What Bible story are you living now?” Otherwise, the biblical storyteller, after simply listening, may say, “May I share a story with you? A story that may connect with you?”
Today’s people already live in a world of story provided by video games and TV/Movies, and they can affect and shape our character and modes of living.
Biblical stories can offer an alternative way of thinking and reacting to situations, or at least provide a vocabulary for talking about them.
And since reading is not the “heart language” or primary communication mode of many 21st Century people, young and older, such stories will have to be shared by heart.
Suggestions for a youth group session using the principle of “What Bible Story are You Living Now?
Telling: A Biblical storyteller tells a story, using a summary if the story is a long one, but generally trusting the participants to hear the whole story if time permits.
Reflecting: Some time for individual or small group reflection; possible different reflective activities… possible use of a digital storytelling clip, a song, an activity or game that relates to the story and the teens’ lives.
Not-Alone: Everyone (kids and adults) stands at one side of the room. The leader calls, “Take a step forward if you know someone who …” or, if appropriate, “if you have ever…” The idea is to create a safe way for folks to realize they are not alone dealing with whatever the issue is. Everyone will end up in the middle eventually.
Card quiz: Another form of this is to write down yes or no answers to similar questions on cards, collect the cards, hand them out again at random and then go over the questions with a show of hands. This allows more direct personal questions: “Have you ever…” It only works if the group is large enough (over 20) that personal information can be fully disguised.
Backstory: Participants sit in groups of four. Each person receives a card identifying a character from the story, and is invited to imagine and take two or three minutes describing the character’s back story and feelings in the first person: “I am John…” This is about empathy and imagination, not “facts.”
Teaching: Teach the story by call and response and other NBSI (Network of Biblical Storytellers International) techniques as appropriate. Questions may arise; take time to answer them, especially if they’re about context or understanding.
Invite participants to share the story in a Tell-Around.
Reflecting: Discussion of the story. How does it relate to the world participants live in? Not necessarily to their own lives – we want this to be a safe place for frank discussion, so we won’t ask for vulnerability, especially at first. See reflection games, above.
Dismissal: Invite participants to think about the story, and if possible, to tell it (or as much of it as they can remember) to a friend who wasn’t here, if they can, and share next time what the story meant to them in the intervening period (unless it’s too short).