A local church invited me to be the “storyteller” at an evangelistic block party in a rural town. I had four sessions. In the first one, I cut out a golden calf from gold foil wrapping paper and was good to go. Well, I asked what an idol was and explained that God didn’t like idols. And then I told the Golden Calf story from Exodus 32. Now, there were 20 in the place listening to me, 15 of which were under the age of seven or eight years old. I gave it all I had, but stuck to the story. I had their rapt attention!
In true Bible Storying style and unlike most storytellers, I tested for comprehension. After telling the story, I began the listening task by asking one very simple question.
“What did you like best about the story?”
“The golden calf!”
Uh-oh! All the kids said they liked the golden calf the best. After one said it, they all nodded in agreement. Smiles came from the adults. My wife rolled her eyes. When I asked what they learned about God, one little girl said, “God loves calves!”
It was a crash and burn moment. Note to self—avoid Golden Calf story in a farming community where the kids love their cows!
There is an important moral to that story. The small group leader can do all he can do to select and tell the story, but unless he asks questions he never knows what people–especially kids—are really thinking. Oh, and yes, I switched to another Bible story with better results in the other three storytelling times.
Asking questions or lecturing is as different as hooks and clubs. A club is intended with a different purpose than a hook. What implement did a shepherd carry? A shepherd’s staff is universally depicted as a long, hooked rod that could pull the sheep in the right direction. If smacked with a club, a startled lamb could dart in any direction. A club is like an exclamation mark (!) where a hook is like a question mark (?). Let that stand as a reminder that disciple-makers need to use questions to guide the “lambs” in a small group to explore biblical truths as the Holy Spirit leads.
A small group leader committed to disciple-making will want to use questions to guide the dialogue about the Bible story. The teacher turns into a facilitator who draws out Truth in alignment with the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
Bible Storying methods encourage the small group leader to know the spiritual condition of each person in the group. He uses three different types of questions:
1. Head questions are used to get the facts right. Did they understand the story? Discipleship is more than just facts, but this is the place to focus on biblical accuracy. Sometimes participants want you to speculate, but simply (and kindly) ask, “Well, what does the Bible say?”
2. Heart questions probe at intent and choices made in the story. What do they need to change? I find that it really helps to bow your head and lead the group in a prayer for the Holy Spirit to speak to each person in alignment with John 16:13. The standard four questions to ask include: What do you like? What don’t you like? What did you learn about God? What did you learn about mankind? So what? What changes do you need to make because of this story?
3. Hand questions are for personal application. Questions are geared toward others and their needs. Who do you know that needs this story? Who will tell this story? And then hold volunteers accountable for doing what they promised to do from one meeting time to another.
Making disciple-makers requires knowing the spiritual development progress of each believer. You never know, they might be off chasing golden calves.
Mark Snowden is the Director of Missional Leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association. The idea of hooks and clubs in Bible Storying is adapted from the book he wrote with the late Avery Willis titled Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truths in a Teflon World (NavPress 2010).