"The ability to draw and communicate visually can no longer be seen as optional."
– Bette Fetter, Author
"The basic rule of storytelling is ‘show, don’t tell.’"
– Julianna Baggott
"A picture is worth a thousand words."
"I hear and forget. I see and remember."
"If one wants to reach younger people at an earlier age to shape their minds in a critical way, you really need to know how ideas and emotions are expressed visually."
– Martin Scorsese
As Sunday School teachers, how we teach is just as important as what we teach. Imagine trying to communicate to your children about the majesty of a mountain without ever letting them see a picture or video of one. Or imagine trying to teach your children about love without telling them a story that brings this concept to life.
Visuals help our children see with their eyes, while stories help them see with their minds. And when these two come together, your children's' ability to learn skyrockets!
In this article, we will examine the power of visual storytelling in the classroom. But before we do, consider the following five facts:
Approximately 65% of the population are visual learners. – Mind Tools, 1998
Although only 10% of students are auditory learners, 80% of instruction is delivered orally. – University of Illinois Extension, 2009
Visual aids in the classroom improve learning by up to 400% – 3M Corporation, 2001.
Research shows that our brains have a natural ability to remember facts told in a story better than facts provided in a list. 
God has chosen to reveal himself through the Bible, the greatest story ever told.
 Speer, N. K., Reynolds, J. R., Swallow, K. M., & Zacks, J. M. (2009). Reading Stories Activates Neural Representations of Visual and Motor Experiences. Psychological Science, 20(8), 989–999. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02397.x
Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. – Jesus
As Jesus traveled the region of Galilee, teaching, proclaiming and healing, he soon found himself atop a hill surrounded by a great multitude. It was there that Jesus delivered the most famous sermon ever recorded: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
This sermon is noteworthy for both its content and its style - what Jesus taught and how he taught. Jesus taught by leveraging the power of visual storytelling. He taught with images that stuck with his audience, images as powerful today as they were over 2000 years ago. The Sermon on the Mount provides any Sunday School leader with a powerful teaching blueprint to follow.
Sunday School lessons are life-changing; there is no subject more important than the Good News of Jesus Christ. But how we teach is as important as what we teach. To maximize our teaching effectiveness, leveraging the power of visual storytelling is not optional.
As we explore the exciting example of Jesus, imagine how your Sunday School could be transformed by applying his approach to teaching.
Matthew 6 contains some of the Bible’s most comforting words concerning worry. Here, Jesus uses the imagery of birds and flowers to help his listeners see the faithful provision of God.
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? – Matthew 6:26-30 (NIV)
Provision and worry are abstract terms. These words can be difficult for adults to define, let alone for children to grasp. However, all adults and children have seen birds and flowers. This simple, but powerful picture allows Jesus to do more than just tell us the truth, he is able to show us the truth. The visual story of birds, barns, flowers and grass all become the doorway to greater learning and deeper understanding.
In the Sunday School classroom, we must do more than just tell students what the Bible says. We need to show them what the Bible says! Let them see the regret in Adam and Eve’s eyes as they eat from the forbidden tree, the overconfidence of the giant Goliath, the father’s joy as the prodigal son returns and the agony of Christ upon the cross. These moments of showing open the door of telling.
The Sunday School teacher or volunteer has many resources at their disposal to show their children what the Bible says: Bible Videos, Bible illustrations, skits, games, activities, object lessons and more. What is important is that we, as teachers, are constantly looking for new and creative ways to show our children the greatest story that has ever been told.