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


  1. yes, its a craft. dont you think so? my parents sent me to speech therapy (I revolted – hid, actually) and then drama school. i struggled to speak in front of people and still do, which is why i choke in front of big groups like synod. teaching primary school RE, running childrens day camps, reading to my kids, learning to preach, being in plays/skits/dramas. all about learning both to read and tell well.

    i presume you already think that people can learn the craft. but I also think that the kind of storyteller that you are is based upon your gifts and experience. did you not also discover an unrealised gift?

    Comment by craig — August 6, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

  2. I just loved the stories you shared at Church & and you most certainly have a gift that’s intertwined with the craft of story telling.
    Inspired me to ‘have a go’ myself 🙂

    Comment by Kathryn — August 7, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

  3. Thanks Kathryn. I’m so glad that the way the stories came across inspired you to have a go. That’s exactly what I hoped would happen.


    Comment by steve — August 9, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

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