Shaped by the Story by Michael Novelli || A Review

03 February 2015

This semester I am in a class called Issues in Children's Ministry and one of the books we were asked to read right away was the book Shaped by the Story: Discover the Art of Bible Storying by Michael Novelli. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect based on how my professor was describing the book and Michael's way of teaching, but it was required reading so I dove in. I was immediately intrigued by what Michael was sharing and found myself reading this book in less than 24 hours.

Before I go into my thoughts on this book, here is what the back of the books says:

After ten years in youth ministry, Michael Novelli felt like he had tried everything to help his students connect with the Bible. Then a missionary taught him the are of Bible "storying," an imaginative way to engage in the scriptures through storytelling, creative reflection, and dialogue. When Michael tried storying, he saw his students discover meaning and identity in the biblical narrative. This approach proved to be both deeply theological and experiential. Michael has invested almost a decade in refining this Bible storying approach, and has found it effective with groups of all ages. Shaped by the Story helps you engage your group with the Bible in a new way.

Michael starts out by sharing his journey to Bible storying and it is extremely relatable. Right at the beginning he talks about the issue of doubts and questions for those of us who grew up in the church. We find ourselves being told that we shouldn't have doubts or questions if we are Christians. Michael's statement about his feelings regarding this hit me:

I was afraid I'd get kicked out if I doubted or had any questions.

How often do we find ourselves echoing this sentiment? Likely more often than we want to admit. This notion that as Christians we should have everything together and know it all is something that many of us have grown up with. And guess what? We are passing that notion on to our kids and teens. We likely aren't explicitly stating that but it is implicit. This notion shapes how they view the Bible and how they view their faith. Do our kids and teens really have a solid knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures along with a healthy dose of questions?

Michael challenges us to think about that in this book. He challenges us to change our view of Scriptures so that we can change and help to shape the view that our kids and teens have of it. The Bible is full of stories, but not stories that we cannot relate to or stories of people who didn't exist. These stories are totally relatable and most importantly they are about real people, real situations. 

Michael makes a statement about the scriptures that actually kind of surprised due to the sheer size of the number:

Most of the Bible-about 75 percent-is actually narrative, meaning it was written in the form of a story.

Wow! The Scriptures are intended to be told as stories, not as lectures. Novelli shares this throughout this book and he shares why it is so important that we understand them as such. This approach to teaching and sharing the Bible is so much more than just another curriculum or tool, but rather a way to revive people's desire to really learn about and come to better understanding of the Scriptures. Michael shares how this approach can have an impact on you, your students, and those who don't yet believe. He shares about the value of returning to this style of teaching. The incorporation of creativity in the process makes it so much more than just another lesson. It opens the doors for people to connect with the story on another level and it draws in a variety of learning styles.

One of the best parts of this book is that Michael shares some tools for diving into storying and building your own narratives to use in your ministry. He gives you the information on how to go about making questions that will help your students to really dig into the Scriptures. There is all kinds of information on how learning theories actually back up and guide this approach. Michael Novelli has done such a great job of really sharing his heart behind this and of really striving to show others how storying can be beneficial for the growth of knowledge and faith. 

The Bible story is not just a story from the past; it's a living story, one of vibrancy and dimension.

By the end of this book I was rearing to go and wanted to implement this structure in my youth group, as well as in my preschool and children's ministry. I am still working on getting it started but I am excited to see how this could have a difference. It is actually very similar to what we use for our small groups already, but I think there could be a few tweaks in how we go about it with our kids and teens. It was even more exciting when Michael Novelli came and visited our class last week! My professor asked him to come talk with us and share in more detail how to go about storying. Michael actually shared one of his story narratives with us that was from the creation story. It was so great!!

I love this book and I have already recommended it to friends. If you work with children or teens, or really anyone, then this is a great book to read and learn about a new approach to how you are teaching the Bible Story. Novelli uses real life experience and stories to draw you in and he uses practical information to support the approach which makes you see how this can be applicable for your group. 

If you have a chance to pick up this book and read it I highly suggest that you do so!! Click on the picture above for a link to the website where you can buy it!



  1. This sounds like an amazing book! I can definitely relate to feeling like I should know more and not question the things that I doubt or don't understand. I think we often lose sight of the fact that we are all learning and it's okay to be at different places in our spiritual journey. I can't wait to read this book!

    1. It really is! I have been in the same boat way too many times in the past, but I think those questions and doubts open us up to grow more in our knowledge of Scriptures and in our faith in God. I totally agree with you!! It is a constant journey of learning and questions or doubts are a natural part of that. How we respond is what makes the difference! I hope you enjoy it!! :)


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