This year the workshop ‘Simply the Story’ or in thai ‘เล้าเรื่องเจาะใจ’ was organized for the third time. The main purpose of the workshop is to present and teach an alternative way of studying and communicating the word of God. For many years ministry efforts have been heavily based on written materials and a western method of acquiring knowledge. The majority of the world’s population prefer not to learn or communicate using written materials or are simply unable to. Much of the Bible consists of stories and very often Jesus included stories in His teaching. For these reasons it makes sense that we should make an effort to use the spoken word when communicating and teaching the Gospel.
This has certainly been my experience in working with the Thai people. Very often I have wondered after a conversation or a sermon whether or not my listeners understood what I was saying, if it meant anything to them and whether they could remember anything at all of what was said. Take into account the Thai politeness and it is very hard to discern what is really going on.
Using oral methods of communicating the Gospel, in particular Simply the Story, has helped me to solve a number of these problems.
In this method we learn stories and parts of the Bible by heart and by asking questions we help listeners to understand the meaning of what is said. After we have gone through a story we take a few things that spoke to us and apply it to our lives today. The method of communication is much more discussion style instead of one person speaking all the time. In that way it is much easier to discern where everybody is at. Another big advantage is that this method is easily reproducible. No materials needed except the Bible. Since we not only tell a story, but really teach it, the listeners should be able to retell the story to others. In this way the word of God can spread much more quickly.
Every Simply the Story workshop is very practical. During the workshop we explain the need for more oral methods. Participants also hear many testimonies of how stories impacted the lives of people. Other than that participants learn at least 8 – 10 stories by heart and hear many more. In small groups participants learn a story together for about 1.5 hours. By using questions, without the use of other books or commentaries, participants will together discover what the Holy Spirit wants to communicate through that story or passage. Lastly, one person of the group will go and tell this story to one of the other groups as a means of practicing their storytelling skills.
An exciting and fun part of the workshop is when we go out on the street in two’s and three’s and tell one of the stories we’ve prepared beforehand. After that we come back and report how it went. It is always very encouraging to hear the testimonies of how people are touched by a story and how a story opens up a way to communicate something about God to that person.
We continue to explore where and how storytelling can be used best. For example, during the time we had the workshop there was a meeting with about 180 former convicts in the same building. They were on a camp to prepare them to re-enter society. We got a chance to share using the Simply the Story method. The story was about the prodigal son. After the first telling we asked for a volunteer to retell the story as much as he could remember. Amazingly one of these guys retold the story without omitting anything, it was only the first time he had heard it! After that, we retold the story again, but this time the audience participated by filling in some details we omitted. After this we took a long time asking questions like; how old do you think this boy is? what was his life like with his father? what was his father like? instead of asking for the full share of his inheritance could he have done something different? etc. Through these questions you draw people into the story and they start to identify with certain circumstances or characters in the story. At last we took a few of the things that we saw in the story and applied them to today. For example, in this story we see a problem in the family, what kind of problems can a family have today? Did you or someone you know have an experience like this? Would you like to share? Other things we talked about were making choices and of course about the Father’s love. These convicts responded really well. One man was even willing to share in front of the whole group of how his life fell apart because of what happened and the poor choices he made.
If you would like to know more about storytelling you can have a look at: