I did a little experiment this weekend at a workshop about Sacred Storytelling for and with teenagers. The audience was both teens and adults who had been trained and were experienced in youth ministry.
For the first 3/4 of the workshop, I integrated stories into the presentation, interweaving a series of 4 stories into each other, building and connecting one upon the other.
I also gave the group time to share their own stories with a couple of other members of the group. The stories I told became the point where people could "jump off" and discuss their own experiences. There was lively discussion and the group was "mad" at me when I told them time was up for their small groups. I asked them how they felt. "Energized." "Closer to the people I just talked to." "Challenged." "I think I learned something." That last one was from an athletic looking teenage boy. You know teens like him. He was the type that they say wonít listen to any stories or wonít learn from them. I really like it when the boys get it. Storytelling works.
After this first 3/4 time, I began a 15 minute lecture to teach the basics of storytelling: eye contact, gestures, vocal control, etc. I could feel the energy of the group change. It dropped and drooped. Oh, they were still in the room with me and responding, but they were not as engaged.
After my experimental 15 minutes, I asked them to tell me how they felt. "Well, a little tired." "Slower." "Thinking about something."
"Hereís my point," I continued, "we spent the majority of the session immersed in stories. My stories. The stories of Scripture. Your stories. You were engaged, connected and maybe even surprised to learn something personal. When I switched over to lecturing you about technique, the room turned quiet. In your own churches and classrooms, what are you using the most of? You have had a first hand experience of the WHY of storytelling. Yes you can still give some content even in the midst of the whole brained fun."
We then switched to a few minutes of demonstrating the lecture material and the room came back to life. Great fun.
At the end, one woman who had been essentially sitting non-committal during most of the session approached me and said, "I didnít know why I came to this today. But, now, I get it. I am going to try to do this, next week with my kids. I get it."
And, isnít that what we want to hear as tellers? Donít we want people to get it? Sadly, so many people think that storytelling is some kind of sit-down-and-read-a-book thing that is used only for small children. Rather, we need to help people learn and experience that telling is for all ages, teens and adults included.
I am hoping that this last woman will let me know how her first encounter of telling worked out. I will let you know when and if I hear from her.
Isnít it great when they "get it?"