We’ve all heard a story or illustration that really produced an “ah-ha” moment for us. Pastors use them all the time to communicate difficult concepts to their congregations. Sunday school teachers can use them too. Here are 5 tips for crafting top-notch stories/illustrations.
#1. Use props. Bring a picture, trophy, t-shirt, cell phone, or whatever fits with your story. Pass it around and let the kids touch it. Props grab attention and hammer home the reality of the story.
#2. Speak in specifics. Which sounds better: “Three students were causing trouble in class one day” or “As soon as Mrs. Dukes turned around, Tom, Bud, and Wes launched their carefully-crafted paper wads at their unsuspecting teacher”? More specific is more personal. More personal is more powerful.
#3. Ask: Is it the right story? A reference to Lucy and Ethel’s experience at the chocolate factory may be a perfect picture of what it’s like to be overwhelmed, but it just won’t work with 1st through 6th graders. They don’t know or care about I Love Lucy. They’d much rather you reference an episode of the Suite Life.
#4. Tell stories of failure. Sometimes it’s good for kids to hear you’re not perfect. Tell them about a time you were impatient, unkind, etc. You won’t be the hero of the story, but your vulnerability will be memorable. Of course, the key is to be discerning about what stories you tell, and to always communicate sorrow for sin and a desire to change.
#5. Use Interviews and Testimonies. A story you tell about someone is fine. A story straight from that person’s mouth is better. If a member of your church has a powerful story, ask them to come share it with your kids. You may choose to interview them or give them the floor.