Shaped By The Story

Anyone who had read some of the articles on this site will recognize that one of my passions in Children’s Ministry is finding ways to get children excited about the Bible.  I want them to read it.  I want them to absorb it.  I want them see how it applies to their lives.  I want the Bible to some alive for them.  I want them to hunger for more. I am constantly striving to find new and better ways to achieve that goal.

In last month’s Children’s Ministry Blog Patrol (January 2010) I featured a couple of blog posts from   Amy Dolan (Shaped by Story) and  Henry Zonio (Stepping Into the Story) about an article written by Amy Dolan called “Shaped By Story” and published in the January/February issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine.  In the article Amy Dolan looks at a “new” method of conveying Bible stories developed by Michael Novelli and discussed in his book Shaped by the Story: Helping Students Encounter God in a New Way.  I have not yet read Mr. Novelli’s book, but after reading Ms. Dolan’s article I will certainly add it to my reading list.

I was drawn in by the very first paragraph of Ms. Dolan’s article:

“Imagine your elementary kids completely enthralled as you retell the disciples’ experiences at the Last Supper.  Kids’ imaginations fully engaged, they picture what happened, then eagerly discuss their questions and thoughts about this incredible moment and how it makes them feel.”

That is exactly what I want in Children’s Ministry.  I want enthralled kids who are fully engaged and anxious to discuss their take on the story at hand.  Mr. Novelli’s method is actually quite simple, but by all accounts very effective.  He terms the method “Bible storying” which he says is:

“rooted in the ancient Hebrew approach to Scriptures, with a belief that we must allow the voice of the biblical narrative to speak.”

The method includes five key elements to get kids involved:

  1. RELATIONSHIPS – Relationships between children and leaders, and between each other, are critical to storytelling.  In order to help kids be shaped by story, we must allow time for these relationships.
  2. PREPARATION – In order for kids to hear what God is speaking to them through his word, they must be given time to prepare for the story.  This is as simple as setting up the story for the kids before presenting the lesson to start them thinking and get them ready to hear the story.
  3. TELLING – This is the actual retelling of the story in a dynamic and exciting manner.
  4. REWIND – In this step, kids are asked to retell the story in their own words or their own ways.  This can be as straightforward or creative as you desire.
  5. DIALOG – In this portion of the lesson, open-ended questions are used to get kids talking about the story.

The goal of these steps is simple.  Kids become more engaged in the story rather than being merely recipients of the story.  As a result, the stories have a transformational effect on the kids lives and they become less intimidated by the Bible.

Ms. Dolan, through the example of Rolling Hills Community Church in Oregon shows how Novelli’s methods can easily be adapted to existing ministry structures.

The original article from Children’s Ministry Magazine is available on Mr. Zonio’s site (reprinted with permission from the magazine) can be found here:

Ms. Dolan’s article is one of the better articles I have recently on conveying Biblical stories.  It is certainly worth reading.  I fully intend to purchase Mr. Novelli’s book, and I appreciate Ms. Dolan bringing this great resource to my attention.

You can check out more information from Michael Novelli on his site at Echo the Story.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Wayne!
    – Michael Novelli
    My recent post Enter the Story

    • Michael,

      Thanks for your comment. As I said above, I really enjoyed the article Ms. Dolan wrote about your book. Based on her summary, I can't wait to get my hands on it, read it and learn from it. I'm planning on reading it and offering a thorough review on my site.

      I enjoy your website as well! I saw from your blog that you have a new book out as well. I'll have to add that to my list of things to read too. You're going to keep me busy! 🙂
      My recent post Dad in the Middle Needs YOUR VOTE Today!

  2. wayne, thank you for your kind words! i look forward to your comments after you read the book – i can only imagine all that you will apply!

    My recent post lemon lime kids

    • Amy,

      Thank you for your article. I am constantly looking for ways to more effectively convey the excitement of God's word to kids, and you article definitely offers practical advice. It is always good to here from someone who has implemented a theory to understand the practical implications. Thanks again for turning me on Mr. Novelli's book. I can't wait to get my hands on it and have a read. 🙂
      My recent post Dad in the Middle Needs YOUR VOTE Today!