Storytelling is not just for kids

By AfriGo Magazine (adapted form original) | International

At Christmas, we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus with the stories that surround it. Indeed, memories of hearing or seeing the nativity story may be the only connection many people around the world have with the true significance of Christmas.

Stories have a way of staying with us. We lean in to hear them and we all love a good one. They are a great way to connect principles with real life.

In fact, for two-thirds of the world’s population, storytelling is the preferred way to learn. A surprising number of people groups around the world still function in oral cultures by choice or by necessity.

When trying to share the gospel story, we may be tempted to think it would be better to teach such people to read so they can have access to the Bible. But endorsing oral cultures, where learning is done by hearing, can have significant advantages in bringing people to Christ.

Whilst this has been known all along in Africa, organizations in the West have only really begun using the story approach regularly in the last 30 years.

Now called “the storying movement”, people around the world are being taught to share Bible stories and other stories to help others understand God’s message to them. This method of sharing God’s truth is attractive to everyone and a powerful tool.

A storying leader with ‘Spoken Worldwide’ was travelling to visit people in an Igala village in Nigeria. Along the road he met some other Igala people who asked where he was going. He told them he was going to another village to tell stories, so they asked him for one.

He stopped and shared the Gospel with them in story form. Many of the people accepted Christ right there, and a church began in that village. It became part of the leader’s regular route of storytelling and relationship building.

For millions of unreached people around the world, storytelling is an ideal way to communicate the Gospel. One writer* shares how some Christians in Pacific Asia learned to use storytelling as a ‘Travelling Bible’.

“They journey from village to village, to places where the Bible is not allowed. They choose from their repertoire of memorized narratives for the appropriate audience and situation at a moment’s notice.

“As they travel, they train other [believers] in the same storytelling skills, thereby multiplying the concept of Travelling Bible across the countries.

Storytelling is a superb way to reach people’s hearts, but it does take a bit of work to get right.

AfriGO interviewed Tom Stout, head of orality for SIM. He says: “People in [oral] cultures actually learn very differently from the literates.” For instance:

​​​​​ • Oral learners absorb information by hearing, observing and imitating.

• They learn from real-life events and like to receive information in group settings with strong community fellowship.

• It may take more time to learn new things because of different ways of processing.

Tom also cautions that it is not possible to become a proficient teacher in the oral tradition just by reading a book or attending a workshop; rather, it is a style which is best developed through long interactions and considered learning.



• Give thanks for the success of ministries which are using storytelling to communicate God's word.

• Ask that the gospel message cmight be shared more and more effectively in the two-thirds of the world where storytelling cultures are dominant.

• Ask that more workers would be raised up to fulfil this hugly important role.



If you would like to explore storytelling roles with SIM, why not run a search for ‘oral learners’ in our opportunity search.



Here are a few suggestions for further exploration from the team at AfriGo Magazine.

• According to orality specialists, the best and most current training can be found on the EMDC website.

‘Three reasons storying is essential for making disciples globally’ by the International Mission Board.

OneStory is a network of organizations who have joined together to promote storying as a ministry approach.

• Orality Network’s website explains what storying is when using the Bible.

• The E3 Partners website has a wealth of helps, including materials from their disciple-making training.

This website has 262 Bible stories and tutoring on how to tell them. Stories are in English and five West African languages.


*from "Orality Breakouts: Using Heart Language to Transform Hearts" (a free downloadable book)


[This artlicle is adapted from a piece origianally published in AfriGo Magazine (Volume 7, Issue 4)]

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