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Storytelling – not just for kids

By AfriGO Team

 Have you enjoyed the stories in this issue so far?  Everyone loves a good story; they are a great way to connect principles with real life. In fact, for two-thirds of the world’s population, it is their preferred way to learn.

Perhaps your great-grandparents were more likely to tell stories than read books, but modern people?  A surprising number of people groups around the world still function in oral cultures by choice or by necessity. Why not just teach everyone to read and move on then?  We endorse oral cultures because they are valid, and learning by hearing can have significant advantages which bring people to Christ.

It took organizations in the West many years to use the story approach regularly – actually, just in the last 30 years. Here in Africa, we’ve known it all along. Now called “the storying movement”, people around the world are being taught to share Bible stories and other stories with a moral lesson to help people 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 the unreached around the world, storytelling is an ideal way for believers to share the Gospel. Some sisters in Vietnam and Laos 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 believing women in the same storytelling skills, thereby multiplying the concept of Travelling Bible across the countries. (Excerpt from the book Orality Breakouts.)

 Do you want to use storying or storytelling in your ministry to reach people’s minds and hearts?  It may not be as easy as you think. AfriGO interviewed Tom Stout, head of orality for SIM. He cautions strongly: Pastors, don’t just add a few illustrations to your sermon and consider that you’ve done your bit for the oral learners. People in these cultures actually learn very differently from the literates in your congregation. 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 warned 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. Africans have a great advantage; many of us have grown up in this tradition and are comfortable with it. We’ve listed some resources to peruse and get started, as well as links to audio Bibles and stories which you can share with others.

Other articles and resources from around the web on this topic:
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