One pastor said, “I could give the same sermon with a different personal story, and everyone will think I’ve given a completely new sermon. But if I tell the same personal story with a completely different text, everyone will think I’ve told the same sermon twice!” Funny enough, it’s the stories that stick.
Why do personal stories strike such a chord? I believe it’s because kids want to know these things can really happen. These aren’t just ancient stories. These supernatural truths don’t just apply to bearded men wearing robes. Kids want to see the principles of God’s kingdom being lived out now–in our time, in our town, by real people.
Bible lesson teachers, telling kids that Jesus wants us to forgive is fantastic (Luke 17:4). Expounding on that truth by sharing a specific story of when you forgave someone is even better. Tell them about the knots that gripped your stomach each time you heard the offender’s name before you forgave. Tell them how the Holy Spirit nudged you (or dragged you) to the point where you knew forgiveness was not just an option but a necessity. Explain to them the process by which you laid the offense at the foot of the cross, because, after all, Jesus came to bear every offense. And express the joy you felt afterward–the crushing weight that was lifted off your shoulders. By telling your personal stories, you are testifying to the truths in Scripture. This teaching model is stated clearly by Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
And don’t just share the “good stuff.” Certainly we want to tell kids about the times we’ve seen God work, and the times when we were submissive putty in the Potter’s hands. But do not be afraid to tell of the times you missed the mark. Kids are incredibly forgiving of your faults, and they will learn from your mistakes. They will appreciate your honestly and be encouraged that you failed once and rose to make better choices another day.
The next time your young audience starts to fidget, engage them with a personal story. Watch what happens when you turn Biblical principles into a narrative that captures their imaginations.