Saturday, August 06, 2011

I did not begin a storyteller: learning a craft

I didn’t begin as one.

I hated public speaking at school.

Then I had kids. Kids love stories. Love “Once upon a time …” So I made up some bedtime stories. And when they began to squirm, I quickly realised some things hold attention and other things don’t.

And I watched tellers. In Edinburgh at the Good Craik Club. In New Zealand, Simon Brown with his Parables and poems.

And I practised in community. I invited folk at my first church (Graceway) to be part of a 6 week storytelling workshop. Together we practised. Worked on our craft.

Over the last two days I have been leading worship at the “Church &” conference here in Adelaide. The request was to model all-age worship with an unchurched awareness in a tradition church setting. Rather than come up with something new, for an audience I do not know, I went back to my archives. What had I done, on the ground, in community, in the past? The closest thing I could find where the Brigade services (Boys and Girls) that we used to run at Opawa Baptist.

Two services in which I found myself telling stories – Bill and Ben and their goat called Raisins (Mark 2:1-12); Jane and her rabbit called “Stu” (Mark 1:40-45).

I remembered that it was Friday and Sunday was coming. And with Sunday looming, sitting in my office, I found myself intrigued by the phrase “Son, your sins are forgiven.” What if the Paralysed person in Mark 2:1-12, was a son – not an adult, but a young boy? If so, what does sins forgiven look like for a young boy? And then in Mark 1 – what if the leper was an adult? A father? Who had a daughter? What might a healing from leprosy mean for that daughter? And so I found myself pushed – by the Biblical text, by a looming deadline, by the context of all-age worship, by having an audience that included kids – to tell a story.

At Opawa people seemed to really appreciate them. Both the community kid in the front row who kept being drawn back in. And the faithful over many years, who commented how much they learned from the sermon. (To which I couldn’t resist replying, Don’t you mean a story not a sermon?) Appreciation, at those two services.

And as I continue to tell them. And now at “Church &” people tell me I’m a great storyteller.

All I know is that I did not begin a storyteller.

So does this make storytelling a craft? Which anyone can learn? If they will simply practise with some kids. And watch other tellers. And practise in community. And then push themselves into a creative space.

Posted by steve at 12:28 PM

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

stories stories everywhere. mission and discipleship in Mark’s gospel

Today (UK Monday) has been a fun workday, preparing for the Network of Biblical Storytellers Conference annual conference, in Adelaide, this weekend coming. I’m down to do 3 keynote sessions, plus a workshop on storytelling in general. I’ve been looking back through the range of stories that sit on my laptop and framing them around three questions

  • What makes a good story?
  • Where do stories come from?
  • Where do stories take us?

My goal is to tackle these questions entirely by telling stories. It’s been so much fun. Stories allow one to be less linear and less structured. It’s been fascinating to lay different stories alongside each other and start to see how they talk to each other.

My thinking was that I would probably be in a more creative place before flying back on to Australia tomorrow.  So today was spent testing this theory. The big challenge today was writing a whole new story. The guts of my keynote sessions are stories emerging from the gospel of Mark. I had two already, which I wrote last year. At the time I had the creative germ of an idea for a third in the trilogy. So this conference was a chance to capture that creative germ.

I am fascinated by the fact that the world of Jesus was pretty small and his discipleship outside the 12 disciples seemed so haphazard.  So what might happen if a healed leper (Mark 2) had a chance meeting with the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5). Would the recognise the same Jesus in each other’s stories? Would they respect the potentially diverse discipleship path of each other?

Posted by steve at 01:52 AM

Friday, April 30, 2010

mission that’s out of the valley (1 of 4)

Updated: for what I said –
1) in relation to mission motivation, go here,
2) in relation to faith sharing, go here,
3) in relation to practice at an ordinary church, go here.

I’m speaking to youth leaders from around Adelaide tomorrow, at a training day called Out of the valley. I was asked to speak about mission and as I’ve been reflecting, I want to focus on the sharing of faith. More evangelism, but still a subset of mission.  I hope to do a number of things

  • free people from a 1 size fits all understanding of faith sharing
  • help people grasp more of God’s story
  • help people find their own unique story within God’s story.

(Update: according to 2006 National Church Life Survey data, the denomination least likely to have offered significant training at a congregational level for lay people in evangelism is .. yep, you guessed it, the Uniting Church! Only 5% of congregations in the last 2 years said they had offered congregational training in evangelism.)

Below is one of the tools I’ve just been working on. It offers 10 different ways people might understand the gospel. It’s based on Understanding the Atonement for the Mission of the Church but I’ve attempted to summarise (mangle) it in a few sentences.

What I hope it does is help people find an echo of their story and a way to link their unique story with a Biblical frame. I’ll let you know how it goes, but if you have time, I’d love to know which statement which might describe your experience. (For me it was, and is, the peace gate). If none do, can you sum that in a few sentences. (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:28 PM