WEAVING STORIES INTO WORSHIP - Youth Sunday – 5 February 2017

Dear worship leaders and Sunday school leaders

Welcome to our pack on storytelling. This pack gives you some tips on telling stories and then provides you with some stories you can use in any way you like. These have been gathered from across the Unitarian community. You may wish to choose one of the stories to form part of some worship for Youth Sunday (5th February 2017) or you can use it for another occasion. The idea of Youth Sunday is to encourage our children and young people to lead or take part in the service or for congregations to make their worship more child-friendly, interactive and intergenerational. You may wish to focus on the Youth Programme and bring attention to our forthcoming Unitarian youth events (for up-to-date information go to General Assambley website) or contact John Harley.

Thank you to all of you who sent me stories. Unfortunately I could not include them all. Please keep sending them as I may be able to publish a sequel!

Any feedback on this material to help us choose themes and compile packs for future Youth Sundays would be gratefully received.

Happy storytelling!

Rev John Harley – GA Youth Coordinator

Storytelling tips

Why bother with stories?

  • Everyone likes a good story. Whether you have children in worship or not, a well-told story can change the dynamic and energise the atmosphere. People of all ages can access and enjoy stories.

  • Stories provide contrast to other aspects of the worship. Memorable and valuable worship usually provides a range of ways of being and doing: e.g. a song, a story, a meditation, a silence, a ritual. Good worship has a variety of terrains and a story can act as a useful change of gear.

  • Stories can explore a theme in an intuitive and unconscious way and can work on many levels, compared to a reading or sermon.

Suggestions for telling stories

  • Ideally tell the story from memory. I would always say it is better to tell it rather than read it off a sheet or book even if you don’t tell it perfectly – in fact an occasional mistake can add humour and interest! If it really is a story that relies on getting the words exactly right then read it with as much body language and eye contact as possible and use props if you can.

  • One tip I have to help memorise stories is to write it out in your own handwriting first – this helps to internalise and learn it. Something I also do is to place this piece of paper in my jacket or pocket so that while I am telling it I know that I have it close at hand. This can give me the confidence to tell the story from memory as I know that I can refer to the words if I get stuck.

  • Feel free to ask questions to draw in your ‘audience’ especially before you tell the story in order to set the context. For example if the story is about a dream then you could ask if anyone has had a dream recently or did everyone sleep ok.

  • Use props, soft toys or finger puppets as visual aids. It is incredible how a simple object can bring a story to life.

  • If children are present try and involve them. In fact try and involve people of all ages. You can ask them questions, ask them to make sound effects, operate a puppet, blow up a balloon etc. This can generate a lot of fun.

  • Ask some volunteers to mime the story while you narrate it. Again this can create a lot of movement and humour especially if the actions are out of sync with the words at times.

  • Be flexible in whether you tell the story totally accurately or not – it all depends on the occasion. Sometimes it is appropriate to tell the story without any changes while other times you may make changes to strengthen the message. There is a Brothers Grimm story about two brothers which I have adapted because the original ending goes off on an unnecessary and violent tangent.

  • Where in the worship do you want to tell the story? At the beginning to introduce the theme, or in the middle of the address to illustrate a point, or right at the end of the service to create a finale?

  • Consider telling the story in parts throughout the worship. This can work well for quite a complex story like The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen or a very moving story like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. Divide it into three natural parts and weave the other aspects of worship between each stage.

John Harley

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2017 Youth Sunday Pack353.12 KB