In the beginning there were stories. Storytelling is found in every culture. Still today, in many places, stories remain the preferred way that people learn, both children and adults.
Studies show that most people, about 70% worldwide, favor learning through stories. That statistic reflects a significant difference between education in the West as opposed to everywhere else: whereas Western thought generally stresses facts, theories and systems, much more of the world transfers information and values through stories. Too often, missions programs rely on Western teaching methods. Jesus, however, told stories to convey spiritual truths. He described lost sheep, a pearl of extreme value, houses built on rocks or sand, a tale of two sons and dozens more tales. In fact, Matthew 13:34 records,
[Jesus] did not say anything to them without a parable
The Bible is mostly a book of God-inspired stories: the main way he chose to communicate with human beings. Teaching with stories is powerful because:
Stories win attention
Stories stir emotions
Stories help people remember
So, one of the most important skills teachers, preachers and parents can develop is storytelling. Oral stories followed by insightful discussion leave lasting impressions.
Stories feature prominently in the Global Mission programs of David C Cook. Curriculum we provide, whether for millions of children in African churches or orphans in other parts of the world, engage kids through stories. Often vivid illustrations from the Action Bible support and enhance our stories. This award-winning book contains 215 Bible stories with bold, energetic illustrations throughout.
Colorful booklets called the Story of Jesus take picture stories from the Action Bible for churches in 47 countries to use for outreach. In the first year, local churches in the developing world gave more than 17 million copies to their neighbors. The stories prompt conversations about Jesus.
The drawings to the right, of Peter walking on the water, come from the Arabic version of the Story of Jesus. Churches in more than a dozen Middle Eastern countries report that they are well received. The Arab world may have a reputation for close-mindedness and militancy, but the culture is open to stories.
Presented with the Gospel in story form rather than as a philosophical argument, people everywhere are more receptive.
Demand for these stories is growing. Another 60 church networks in foreign countries are now asking for millions of copies to share the Gospel story with their neighbors. David C Cook charges nothing for the art and copyright. We even help pay some of the printing costs. Last year, local churches in developing countries were able to pay about one half of the the printing and distribution costs. This left a remainder of 5 to 10 cents per copy. That’s where your giving makes a big difference. Your giving provides the final amount required to get these story booklets into the hands of people who interested in discovering who Jesus is.
God’s Word has power, most of it delivered through stories. Anyone who cares about bringing people to know Jesus or helping believers grow in faith will want to develop storytelling skills.
Dennis Johnson is an enthusiastic champion of the storytelling movement and a member of the Board of Trustees for David C Cook. His new book, Tell Me a Story, is an excellent resource for learning more about effective storytelling. Using stories, of course, he relates many successes resulting from sharing the Gospel with people in a way they can hear and embrace.
Story-based communication of the Gospel is rediscovering an old and proven practice. It works.