Sharing the Biblical Story
Basing Christian education on the biblical stories helps us connect to God in a personal and communal way. Sharing these stories week after week in the liturgy allows us to become part of the story. John Westerhoff III states in Will Our Faith Have Children? (New York: Church Publishing, 2000), “. . . in the community’s liturgy, story and action merge; in worship we remember and we act in symbolic ways which bring our sacred traditions and our lives together, providing us with both meaning and motivation for our daily existence.” The liturgical Bible readings, the seasons and festivals of the church year, and the sacraments and other rites of the Church mark the growing points in each person’s life. Education programs that have the biblical story at its core will help all ages see their lives and their world through the eyes of God as revealed in the biblical story.
Using the lectionary as the primary emphasis for education comes from the school of “narrative theology.” This does not look at doctrine and a conceptual understanding of the faith, as important as that is, but rather at the stories that led individuals and communities of people to confess the one true God. Something happened to those people thousands of years ago to respond to God, “Hear I am!” and “We believe!” Using the approach of narrative theology, stories are not used as illustrations to explain a theological concept. They are seen as the primary source of God’s revelation. The preacher and teacher engage the listener through sermon and lesson plan. Participants are invited to step into the biblical drama; to experience the joy, the anguish, the tension and the hope in each story as experienced through God’s people. They are drawn into their own stories as they reflect how it intersects with the biblical story.
Telling the stories that come up in the lectionary week after week offers both teacher and preacher an effective way of helping children and adults engage in the study and appreciation of the scriptures. However, not every week has appointed texts that lend themselves to storytelling. Educators often call them “problem weeks” and find themselves at a loss with how to proceed. The key is to discover the story that lies behind the appointed lection. For example, when Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the reading for the day, turn to the sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and tell the story of Paul’s captivity in the city of Philippi. After telling this story, read or paraphrase the appointed epistle. The text will then have meaning as it is put into the context of the community of which it was first written.
Telling the Story
Before we can share the power of a Bible story, we ourselves must thoroughly understand the story. One of the basic approaches to understanding a story is to know the literary type to which it belongs. It will clarify what the author intended and what our ancestors had in mind when they repeated the story throughout the generations.
Bible Study Methods for Home and Church
- Lectio Divina
- The Aural Method
- Equipping the Saints
- Listen for the Word
- Modern Application
- Tranforming Bible Study
- Reflection Beginning with Scripture
Learn how to use these methods of studying scripture by reading The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education, third edition.
- Wondering how to choose a Bible translation? Check out Sharon’s post on her blog, Rows of Sharon