I love a good story. Who doesn’t, right? Stories draw people in and keep them listening. Some of the best moments in Children’s Ministry for me have been when the story has really come to life for the kids and I can see things clicking and making a serious impression on their little brains. Of course, I could use a little work on my story telling skills. That’s why I was so excited to see that story-telling was a major theme at The Gathering Conference I’m headed to in May. I was browsing the brochure and decided to get a little jump start on the whole story-telling thing by checking out some stuff by Chris Brown, one of the keynote speakers. Chris is one of the senior pastors at North Coast Church and has some great (quick) videos on Creative Leadership over at Think International. He also has sermons online at the North Coast site. Of course, being a kidmin person, I instantly clicked on Jonah. You should do the same. Here’s Why:
Painting a Vivid Picture
Chris opens his sermon with a description of the harbor, pulling in all your senses with details about waves slapping the sides of boats, arguments erupting over prices, and the hazing fog floating above the water before the sun comes up. In just a few minutes, he’s helped to make Jonah’s story more real to me. So often, I’m afraid of straying from the Biblical text that I don’t add any of the “extras”. But in reality, there would have been waves and haze and sand and commotion. Just because the Bible doesn’t include all the little things doesn’t mean we can’t incorporate them into our stories.
Common Ground for Everyone
He says, “If you’ve got a Bible, turn to the beginning and find the Table of Contents. Get the page number for Jonah.” He doesn’t assume people know where the book of Jonah is. In fact, he assumes they do not. He tells them where to find the book three different ways. Later, when he references other books of the Bible, he takes the time to spell them and explain where they are in relation to the book of Jonah. Great move.
Great Use of Humor
Loved this line, “You know what’s more ridiculous than this story? Some of YOU!” He acknowledges some of the things people stumble over (like the validity of the Bible) and deals with them in a light-hearted and endearing way. Other quips and one-liners are sprinkled throughout the sermon, keeping the sermon fun and engaging.
Seamless Historical Background
Who were these Nineveh people anyway? According to Veggie Tales, the worst they do is slap each other with fish. According to Nahum 3:1-4, they are a people of blood, lies, and plunder living in a city that is piles so high with bodies that people stumble over the corpses.
Bringing it Home
Of course, we’re quick to criticize Jonah for directly disobeying God. But Chris reminds us, “Are we really so different?” God has given us plain instructions, clearly written out in English and still we don’t obey. He then gives a personal example of a time he didn’t WANT to obey God’s call, just like Jonah.
Don’t Always Play Nice
I have to admit when this sermon first started, I was engaged, but I didn’t think this was going to be a hard-hitting sermon like some of the ones I’d heard from John Piper. However, about halfway in, Chris lays it out. He calls out some common adult struggles, some culturally accepted sins. This is something I struggle with in Children’s Ministry. How much conviction are we supposed to lay out for the kids? What kind of sins should we be calling out? Should I end every lesson with some version of “God loves you no matter what!” or perhaps something a little more challenging?
What About You?
What are your story-telling tricks? What are some of your favorite features in sermons you’ve heard?