Using The Youth Retreat As A Vehicle For Biblical Storytelling

The three keynote talks I gave at the high school youth retreat last weekend were a convenient vehicle for reviving my flagging Biblical storytelling practice. After watching Casey Wait Fitzgerald tell Bible stories at a NEXT Church event in 2014, I started playing around with the technique (with Casey’s help). I’ve memorized and told about half a dozen stories in worship services since then. It’s been several months though.

So I said “Yes” to keynoting a youth retreat and convinced the organizer to let me try telling one long Biblical story over three keynote addresses. Since the retreat theme was “Anchored,” drawing on the phrase from Hebrews 6:19 about the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” that is our hope, I picked a nautical story: Acts 27, Paul’s sea journey to Italy and eventual shipwreck on Malta.

Breaking a long story into multiple storytelling episodes was fun. Also, since there were 45 minutes allotted to each keynote, I had time to explain the story’s context and educate the audience about nautical terms like “lee” and “weighing anchor.” I projected a map behind me and used a laser pointer to trace the journey. The drama of washing ashore on Malta and not making it to our destination was pretty satisfying.

I haven’t seen the retreat evaluations yet, but it felt like the students connected to the story. If nothing else, it allowed me to pick up storytelling as a discipline again, which feels important.

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