Putting the Story Together

When you prepare stories for children, your challenge is no less significant than when you prepare a sermon or a lecture for adults. In order to be successful, key elements should be introduced.

Introduction: What you say during the first sentence of your story will likely determine whether your audience stays with you or decides to take a nap. It is not necessary to oversell your story, promising what is not there. But there has to be something that captures the audience’s imagination: Jakill had to walk three hours, one way, to get water for her household . . . Melita was 72 years old, but she had a strong desire to learn to read and write . . . Martha had always wanted to be a school teacher, but she was barely able to finish elementary school . . .

Delivery: The main ingredient is sincerity. You must try to sell your story to your audience, but that doesn’t mean artificial or noisy enthusiasm. Your listener will know when you have a good story by your sincerity, not by your pyrotechnics. Be sensitive to your audience. Talk to them as if you were telling the story to a friend. If you can make them laugh, make them laugh. If the story makes them cry, let them cry. But do not make them laugh or cry for that reason alone. The only thing they will remember later is that they laughed or cried.

Keep their attention: The message of the story should be well-defined. It should have content, emotion, intrigue, entertainment, passion. But do not make these up if they are not part of the story. Try not to quote too many people and avoid dates, unless they are very significant. Nobody will care about a date in November unless it’s Thanksgiving and December 12 means very little to most Christians in the U.S., but Christmas is a totally different story.

Conclusion: The story shouldn’t end abruptly. The audience should be looking forward to the end of the story. It could be anticlimactic: Oz couldn’t really give a brain or a heart. It could be heroic, dramatic: She was finally rescued through a hole in the roof of her house. It could end with a key scene: They couldn’t go back home; this is home for them now. It could end with some final words: “I shall return.” It could promise greater things to come: Melita not only learned to read and write, she is now going to high school!

Dr. Wilma McClarty, from Southern Adventist University, in her Analysis of the Book of Esther as Literature, provides these elements:

Plot: The sequence of events and their relation to one another. Plot usually involves conflict or struggle. In the book of Esther the conflict centers on Haman and Mordecai.

Character: Those who produce the action. They are known to us through their actions. The characters in the book of Esther are: Esther, Haman, Mordecai, Ahasuerus, and Vashti.

Setting: The place and time of the story. In this case the events take place in the kingdom of Persia during the reign of Xerxes.

Point of view: The way the story is told. The story of Esther is told through a third-person point of view; in other words, the narrator of the story is not a participant in the story.

Style: The language used to tell the story. In this case the elements of style are the use of symbols, the word choice, and phraseology.

Theme: A generalization about the meaning of a story, whereas a plot is what happens. The SDA Commentary indicates four themes in the book of Esther: God’s providence, the origin of the feast of Purim, the changeable nature of earthy power, and the union of divine power and human effort.*


* Adapted with permission from the iFollow Discipleship Resource, ©North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.