KAHOKA — The way Jesus taught small groups – stories – is the focus in “Truth that Sticks” training sessions.
Since January, Mark Snowden, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) missional evangelism/discipleship strategist, has held twice monthly in-state conferences. He came here to First Baptist Church in the northeast corner of Missouri on March 16.
“The Bible is 75 percent stories,” Snowden said. “There are up to 700 Bible stories.”
The training is based on a book by the same name he co-authored with Avery Willis. Snowden uses several learning zones, each with intentional purposes. He and his wife, Mary Leigh, set up a conference room the day before.
Zones include empty chairs, each with a learning hindrance; a felt target and crossbow plastic darts; chairs in concentric circles, the inner one called “fishbowl”; a human time-line; matching Bible stories to church issues; and a working lunch to survey someone outside the class. Props further encourage audience participation.
“Is there a difference in teaching a class and making disciples?” Snowden asked.
He and participants have open Bibles as he tells a story. Neither he nor participants read the stories or Bible passages. He wants his classes to hear the story, following in their Bible.
“We don’t want recitations,” he said. “Make sure not to add to a story. Stick as close to the scriptures as possible. Get the facts straight. Stay on the passage and don’t jump around.”
Verbal opinions should be handled before the story is told, so hearers do not mix comments with scriptural truth.
Snowden said Psalms, Proverbs or the epistles can be paired with a Bible story, with an appropriate transition phrase.
“Oral learners love lists, like the Ten Commandments, Psalms 23, Psalms 100, and Matthew 1,” Snowden said.
“Do not embellish a Bible story, but you don’t have to make it boring.”
After hearing a story, class members retell it. Accuracy is stressed. This is called starting at the head.
Snowden tells participants to move to the heart, asking their opinions of the story. He “moves to the hands,” employing the gist of James 1:22 being not only hearers of the word but doers. “Can you share this with someone this week?” he asks, prompting hand-works.
“Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go find someone else to teach them, but to go out and teach.”
Group size is important. He suggests no more than 20. Otherwise, people more easily “hide” rather than participate.
He identifies five stereotypical Bible storying questions: “What did you like about the story?” “What did you not like?” “What did you learn about God?” “What did you learn about man?” and “So what?”
He compared a Bible study minus Old Testament stories to a ladder missing several low rungs, figuratively asking hearers to jump to reach Jesus.
“Don’t assume a hearer knows all the Old Testament stories,” he said.
Snowden, who has written Lifeway materials, said a church can develop its own Bible story curriculum, without using resource agencies.
Bible storying works for home groups, prisons, and campus ministries. Some people, including youth, successfully use Bible storying on mission trips, learning a dozen or so Bible stories to share. Snowden recommends teachers read a passage at least seven times in different translations, and make a stoyboard on index cards, if needed.
“An oral Bible is what you have in your heart,” he said. “It depends on your energy, umph, and how well you know the stories. Practice in front of someone who will tell you straight your problems, with them following in a Bible.”
Bible story groups should multiply within six months.
“Some places say if you are not starting a new church group every six months, you are not a healthy church,” he said. “Make disciples to make disciples. It is more than Bible information. It is Bible transformation.”.