One invaluable skill to have as a Christian disciple is to be able to remember bible stories in as much detail as possible. I’m not talking about necessarily memorizing an entire bible story word for word. But, being able to recall and retell a story in your own words is tremendously beneficial.
For example, when you can recall stories readily, you will inevitably make more connections as you study. Your comprehension of the bible is accelerated with each story you can recall. You will see parallels, themes, contrasts, and concepts that other people miss. Plus, being able to recall stories can be extremely helpful in ministering to people, providing leadership, or teaching. Retelling stories is also the backbone of passing your faith down to the next generation.
Being able to remember bible stories quickly and well does not have to be difficult. With just three simple steps you can internalize story in a matter of a few minutes. The first step to better recall is an obvious one, repetition.
Step 1: Read through the story two or three times.
Repetition aids memory. To get the most out of your reading, read slowly and pay attention to details. This first step is just priming the pump and laying a good foundation.
Step 2: Talk through the thought flow.
This memory trick was one I learned doing theater. The first time I was a lead in a play I had to memorize my lines word for word. The script was thirty-eight pages long and I was literally on every page. I was playing Scrooge in a Christmas Carol.
One of the techniques the director gave me that was life-saving was to walk through the ‘thought flow’ of a scene and speak it out loud. So, for example, after Scrooge gets initially scared in the streets, he enters his home frightened. I walked through that scene thinking out loud things like, “Okay, I have just been frightened and I have walked into my home. It’s dark and I’m scared. What’s the first thing I want to do? Get some light. So, I cross over and light a lamp. Then, I look around carefully to insure I am safe? Knowing that I am I settle into my routine. I’ve been gone all day and hungry so I get some soup…and so on.”
The director explained to me that even if I completely forgot my lines, if I could recall the why behind what was going on, I would behave and speak completely in character and appropriate to the plot. Doing this hyper-accelerated my ability to devour scenes and get “off book”, meaning, away from needing a script.
You can use the same technique with internalizing bible stories. In the podcast, I share an example of how I would walk through the thought flow of a story about Jesus casting a demon out of a man. Listen if you want to see a bible based example of this.
Understanding the thought flow of a story or passage makes it more readily accessible to your memory because you are building conscience connections between elements of the story. Don’t take the term ‘thought flow’ too literally. This isn’t just about what characters may be thinking. The idea is to reflect on the story in a way that you are consciously thinking about what’s driving the action from one scene to the next.
Step 3) Try to recall the story without looking at it, and then re-read and see what you missed.
Do this several times until you iron out the difficult patches. You can steeply increase your results with this method by either writing out what you recall or practicing with a partner.
When you work with a partner, the other person follows along in the Bible while you tell the story as best you can without the text. Ask your partner to stop you if you skip anything. Don’t let your partner immediately tell you what you missed. Have them give you clues or answer questions until you figure out what you are missing. If you absolutely can’t figure it out, then let them tell you. I can tell you from experience the harder you work at recall it the more likely you are to never for get the details your skipped.
BONUS TIP: Don’t let all of your handiwork go to waste. Once you have a story down decently, review it regularly. Wait a couple of days and then repeat step three several times. Always be sure to try to recall as much of the story BEFORE you re-read the passage. This will definitely, help you remember more quickly.
This three step bible study process won’t necessarily create a word for word recall of a story, though it can if repeated enough. But, this process will help you quickly and painlessly internalize a story enough to be able to accurately recall the story in your own words. Again, this ability is an invaluable bible study skill set.
Your Next Action Step
Go pick a story right now that you either don’t now or are limitedly familiar with. Apply the three steps until you can retell the story in your own words easily.