This week we are looking toward the festival of Pentecost, and with it, the end of the main “year” of the Narrative Lectionary. Although the lectionary here concludes its brief tour through Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, it also includes the briefest narrative describing the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The two readings are quite different from each other, but they do have a commonality in the Spirit, found in Galatians 4:6:
And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
The Christian festival of Pentecost is a celebration of God sending the Holy Spirit in power to the Church, and all of the faith formation of this day should be focused on the Spirit. And, what could be more perfect, as we confess that faith comes to us as the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (one might even say the “fruit of the Spirit”).
Pentecost provides a wonderful opportunity for what I believe is one of the most powerful tools of faith formation: storytelling. Effective storytelling captures the listener (or reader) and pulls them into the story, and isn’t that what we want to do, pull people into God’s story, and to help them tell their own story as a part of the greater story of God?
Effective storytelling is a skill that can be developed and an event that can be planned. So, here are some tips or techniques on how to tell an effective story.
- Don’t lose the plot: The plot (and specifically the conflict) is the skeleton of the story. The plot is centered around a conflict that builds tension until the final resolution. Identify the plot and conflict and build your storytelling around that.
- Integrate details: Concrete details bring the listener into the story and bring immediacy to the storytelling. Even when retelling a biblical story, feel free to invent details (that don’t change or detract from the original narrative) to engage your listeners’ imaginations.
- Immerse the senses: A key set of concrete details that are essential for listener engagement are the sensory details. What are the sounds, sights, smells, and tastes that surround us in this story? What sensations do we feel on our skin as we witness the action?
- Utilize emotions: Nobody likes a dry story. We connect to the characters of the story through our emotional experiences, so spend a moment thinking about how the characters would be feeling in the story, and show us with words, tone of voice, and actions so that your listener feels the same way.
- Invite participation: One of the wonderful things about live storytelling is that the storyteller (or storytellers) can invite their audiences to participate with them. Give out props, have them join in for a refrain, ask questions, and make them move!
- Make connections: As you tell the story, be sure to make connections to their lives (or “activate prior knowledge”) and to other stories they know. As a Bible nerd myself, it’s important to me when telling the story of Pentecost to remind people that it was not originally a Christian festival, but a Jewish one, one that by the first century CE, had come to celebrate the giving of the Torah in Sinai in addition to being a harvest festival (and there are lots of wonderful connections between those two stories!).
So, how are you going to tell the story of Pentecost in worship or in whatever setting you have?
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
This week’s FREE resource is a simple Pentecost-themed prayer activity from our Living the Word: Cross+Generational Worship product. This product provides a weekly interactive liturgy aimed at all ages designed to make our worship services accessible and engaging for everyone in the congregation, from every generation. Use this in worship or in any other context to help make this story come alive to your congregation!