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Discipleship, Orality, Storying Basics

Reading Deficiency and Bible Storying

TS Concord Jeff City 2-13 -- groups

The world of literacy is a barrier to following Jesus for many Americans.

After attending a TruthSticks Training in Bolivar, Mo., in September 2012, a godly lady with her doctorate in nursing began storying with those who are in Celebrate Recovery, a biblically-based addiction program in her church in Golden, Mo. They have begun using Story Thru the Bible, a collection of 52 Bible stories by Walk Thru the Bible.

She said that Celebrate Recovery has found over and over again that people in need had long-ago stopped reading as they fed their habit. In fact one man said, “After graduating high school, I have never read another book.” Yet Bible Truths come alive through Bible stories shared in every session.

In 2004 the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) held a press conference at the New York Public Library. NEA chairperson Dana Gioia stated the obvious: “America can no longer take active and engaged literacy for granted.”[1] She then reported on a reading-related research project of eighteen thousand adults in the United States:

1. Only one in three American men are reading literature of any kind, and women are not reading like they used to either. In fact, over the past twenty years, twenty million people have completely stopped reading.

2. The largest drop in reading rates was among young adults eighteen to twenty-four years old, compared to the rest of the adult population.

3. Overall, fewer than half of all Americans read literature such as the Bible.[2]

Now, of those who are the literate elite, 14 percent still read prolifically—and one-third of college graduates fail to read with proficiency.[3]

A staggering 63% of those in prison cannot read and 19% of all high school graduates in America cannot read.[4]

A 2004 study reported that “literary reading in America is not only declining rapidly among all groups, but the rate of decline has accelerated, especially among the young.”[5] This reflects a significant shift toward nonprint media for entertainment, information gathering, and education.

Just yesterday, a woman that I met in a training workshop said that her son is very dyslexic, but has a wonderful memory. Although he struggles to read, he remembers Bible stories and can tell them with ease. He would never use a print-based tool to witness, but freely shares God’s Word in oral form.

The Missouri nurse working with Celebrate Recovery was drawn to training in Bible Storying because her dissertation had been on storytelling among nurses as a way to train them. The Lord is now using her to introduce Bible Storying to other leaders and make a difference among those with addictions and poor reading abilities in America’s heartland.

How can I help you use something as simple and reproducible as Bible Storying in your ministry among those with reading-related challenges?


[1] Sally Gifford, “Literary Reading in Dramatic Decline, According to National Endowment for the Arts Survey,” National Endowment for the Arts, Washington DC, 8 July 2004, http://www.nea.gov/news/news04/ReadingAtRisk.Html (accessed 30 May 2009).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Excerpted from Truth That Sticks, p. 27.

[4] “Illiteracy Statistics” http://www.statisticbrain.com/number-of-american-adults-who-cant-read/ cited 4-29-13

[5] Results of the first tests since 1992 are available in the publication “A First Look at the Literacy of America’s Adults in the 21st Century.” To download the report as a PDF file, visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006470.

About Mark Snowden

TruthSticks originated from the book I co-authored with the late Avery Willis. Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truths in a Teflon World was the book and this blog and Bible studies have resulted. It's great to be partnering with churches who are committed to making disciple-makers. Request a catalog of Bible studies using orality at SnowdenMinistries@gmail.com.


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