I can remember teaching a Sunday School class many years ago. In my class were kids, 9-12, most of whom had grown up in church. The problem I most often encountered was the fact that they were what I would call "gospel hardened."
From the time they were in preschool, these children had heard stories about Daniel in the lions' den, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, Moses parting the Red Sea, and Jesus teaching the disciples. They'd seen flannel board presentations, colored or painted hundreds of pictures, and been in plays that told of these things. So these kids were certain they knew all there was to know about Daniel, David, Moses, Jonah, and Jesus. (Been there, heard that, put glitter on it, played the part of a shepherd in the play.) And, because they were certain they knew all there was to know, they weren't about to let someone tell them any of these things yet again. They wanted to tell jokes or throw paper airplanes or talk about sports . . . they wanted anything but those tired, old Bible tales. If you insisted, they would blurt out the whole outline of the lesson in three sentences, the end. Now back to sports.
With fiction, you can break through what people think they know.
So one Sunday I decided to tell a story of a man who owned a large company that made and sold musical instruments. They made everything from cool guitars, to drums, to concert pianos. Now the man who owned the company had two sons. One of them was really good with numbers and organizing things, so he was a natural when it came to business. But the other son . . . well he was completely bored with math and paperwork. He was, however, a musical genius. His talent for music was a marvel--and creating it, playing it, performing it was all he ever wanted to do.
I told the story--and (amazingly) you could have heard a pin drop in the room. I told them how the musical brother went off on a world-wide concert tour and became increasingly involved with wild living (which eventually hampered his talent and then his finances). And I spoke of the "good son" who ran the business for dad . . .
I'm assuming here that you catch onto the fact that this is the story of the Prodigal Son (and, by the way, the word "prodigy" comes from "prodigal"). But it wasn't till the last sentence of the story that the kids caught on. This new version of an age-old concept caused them to actually stop and ponder it with fresh eyes (and hearts).
That's the power of storytelling.
Terry L. Craig is a is a follower of Christ, a Bible nerd, and comparative thinker who is an author, an indie publisher, and occasional speaker. She likes to engage people and get them thinking about why they believe what they believe. You can learn more about her on the Wild Flower Press, Inc. website ) or on her website.