Be sure there is drama in the story as well. There should be a situation (a conflict or predicament) building to a climax and resolution in the tale. The conflict can be introduced immediately or foreshadowed to increase the suspense and intrigue. Try to have the audience worry along with your characters and care about what happens next.
"As the suspense of your story builds, be sure to have some comic relief periodically. Approach the climax through ever increasing tension interrupted with periods of relaxation." Hanford, Puppets and Puppeteering, p. 101.
The story has to seem real to you. "Become so thoroughly familiar with it, it is a part of you....Don't just tell it, live it!" Barrett, p. 35
Children respond to sight and sound more than logic and plot. Look over good children's books, or anthologies of stories. Notice how the stories paint word pictures and use the sound and rhythm and repetition of words. In developing and learning a story concentrate on its visual and audio aspects: either assemble it into a series of visual pictures like a filmstrip, or consciously absorb the rhythm and arrangement of the sounds of the words. Repetition and Exaggeration has always been basic elements of story telling.
Even when telling an old a familiar story from the Bible, you must use imagination and all the storyteller's skills to make it come alive. Use your imagination to make the story come alive as you prepare. Give them personalities...live the story with them...know and feel their emotions...breathe the breathe of life into them, until they become so real to you that you feel like they are people you know. If you are convinced - your listeners will be too.
Bible truths can be made into stories in quite imaginative ways, ways that will cause them to ponder, to apply, to understand their Bible lessons from different perspectives.
Good inspiration for story ideas include the stories of George MacDonald, the Narnia tales of C. S. Lewis, John Bunyun's The Pilgrim's progress, and The Holy war. These men were masters at making Bible teachings come alive. The children's section of your local library is another place for ideas and inspiration in preparing stories.
The point should be summarized in one simple sentence. As I have told my son "A good preacher tells you what he is going to say, says it, then tells you what he said - and that is the sermon."
We retain only a tiny portion of that we hear, a little bit more what we read, and most of all that which we memorize. The VBS lesson is actually a combination of the story, the class lesson in their books, and their memory work. I suspect we would be rather humbled at how little they actually "catch" of the messages we aim at them.
VBS Bible lessons have depth and strong biblical content to aid you in your preparation, usually more than you will need for the actual story. But you must boil them down as you study the lesson till your focus is clear and precise. Develop sub-concepts only with strong reasons and make sure they remain subservient to the main message. Much as we wish children would catch the whole story, we must be realistic.
If you feel the prepared material covers too much, or misses the point then please adapt it. It's your lesson. Do however be sure that you look at what the children will be doing in their class workbooks when you are making your preparation. If the story departs too far from the lesson, they may become lost in the workbooks.
The key in storytelling is to be gripped by the message yourself. When the story has come alive to you- if your relationship with God has been touched by it- that will communicate that the point you are making is important. For this reason it is important that you allow ample time to prepare the story.
The Rotation Model: Idea and Lesson Exchange
Hints on your audience:
* They can't concentrate from a distance- take the story as close to them as you can.
* They can't concentrate for long periods- keep it brief and simple- especially for younger children. The secret is in your preparation- the last step of preparing is trimming all unnecessary or distracting details- paring down to the heart of the story.
* Children learn with their senses. They love to feel, smell, touch and listen and see vivid pictures. Describe the characters and settings vividly, help them sympathize with the character's feelings.
* They are fanciful and imaginative. They love pretending! There are no bounds to their imagination, once it is tapped.
* In a mixed audience, try to aim your story at the younger ones!
Children at different stages of development have different needs: "Youngest listeners respond to rhythm and repetition, simple direct plots in which familiarity is mixed with surprise, short dialog, clear and simple images, action that quickly builds to a climax and a satisfying ending....6-8 year olds have a peak interest in traditional folktales and fairy-tales. Through the story content they work through their inner fantasies and come to terms with the "real" world....9-11 year olds enjoy more sophisticated folktales. They are looking for something that will appeal to their developing power of reason and judgement and to their concern about competency. These children enjoy hero tales, myths and legends....11-13 year olds are experiencing sexual awakening and are involved in a search for personal identity. They are ready to appreciate the development of plot, the beauty of language and the deeper meanings that lie behind the words." -Baker and Greene, Storytelling: Art and Technique, pp 28-30
"Pre-school children understand you literally. They don't distinguish clearly between fantasy and reality....For younger elementary children, going to school, making friends, enjoying creating things, struggling to be persons in their own right, and handling the tension between being safe and taking risks dominate their lives." They need role models and affirmation as persons of worth....Older elementary children are trying hard to master and control reality...competition is uppermost in their minds." -Coleman, "Maximizing the Children's Sermon",Leadership -Winter 86, p. 83.
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