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How to Identify and Share Transformational Stories in Your Church

adult holding hand out to child in front of cross

The Bible is full of stories. Although it’s tough to give an exact count, most scholars suggest God’s Word contains between 600 and 800 stories. God’s story, the grand narrative of scripture, is a story of stories. 

God is a storyteller, and so is the church. Your church has stories. Any church that has people has stories. As your church communicates its message both internally and externally, your stories are the greatest asset you have. 

The Value of Storytelling in the Church

Storytelling can have an incredible impact in a church setting. Here’s why. 

  • It is the universal language of our culture. Just look at how much time and money people spend on movies and television. We love stories. When your church leverages transformational stories, you’re communicating in a way people enjoy.
  • It makes your communication more concrete. As a church, you’re often sharing abstract concepts, helping people understand grace, hope, love, peace, etc. Real-life stories about how those biblical principles play out make it easier for people to understand your message. That’s why Jesus told stories so often to teach important principles.
  • It illustrates discipleship and life change. Your church is in the “business” of making disciples. Discipleship is the story of how God changes us into the Christ-followers he made us to be. Stories provide hope, showing people that God is at work in the lives of people like them.

What Makes a Great Story?

To find great stories, you need to be able to spot them. You have good stories in your midst, but you need to know what they look like. Here are the characteristics of a great, truly transformational story.

  • A Relatable Hero – Every story has a hero. Your audience should be able to connect with the main character in your story. Even if they have experienced nothing similar, they should be able to imagine themselves doing so.
  • Conflict – In a classical story outline, every hero comes across some kind of conflict, whether it’s internal or external. Something is stopping the hero from getting what he or she wants.
  • Resolution – A conflict isn’t enough. Your hero must resolve the conflict for you to really have a story. For a compelling transformation story in a church context, your resolution should offer hope to your audience as they see how they might find a similar resolution to whatever conflict they face. 
  • A clear theme that matches your church messaging – Church stories shouldn’t be random. They need to highlight at least one core message your church wants to convey. 

Finding Great Stories

Great transformational stories likely won’t just come to you. You’ll have to develop a system to find them. Here are a few places to look.

Praise reports: If your church gathers praises along with prayer requests, you’ll likely find some story ideas within them. Praise reports tend to highlight personal testimonies about how God has worked in the lives of congregants (recoveries from illness, new jobs, etc.). Not every praise report is a story. You need to ensure it has the attributes of a story discussed earlier. You’ll often need to ask more questions before you’ll really know what you have.

By the way, prayer requests can also be a fruitful place to find story ideas. Although prayer requests rarely have a resolution yet, they eventually may. Follow up on them later.

Bulletin inserts: Your bulletin likely reaches a high percentage of your congregation. Add a flier to it, asking people to share stories of how God is at work in some area of their lives. 

This works best when you make a specific ask. Ask about how God has been at work in a certain part of your church life (Sunday School, small groups, ministry involvement, etc.) or a recent event (Easter services, a spiritual growth campaign, etc.).

Weekly/monthly reports: If ministries in your church turn in regular reports, you’ll often find stories (or at least kernels of stories) hidden in them. Look for unusual successes and patterns of growth. While they aren’t stories by themselves, they provide a clue about where to ask more questions.

Sometimes you’ll hit gold and find testimonies hidden in the reports, particularly if the reports specifically ask for stories. If your church’s reports don’t ask for questions, maybe you can influence future reports by having that component added. 

Small groups: In tight-knit small groups, people share a lot. Make it a regular practice to reach out to small group (or Sunday school) leaders to ask about what’s going on in their small group. If your small group leadership has a regular debrief or training time, try to be there so you can hear the stories shared.

Asking good questions: Every time you’re with people from your church, you have an opportunity to find stories. But unless you’re asking the right questions, you won’t know about them. The key is being inquisitive. You can ask a few stock questions about a person’s spiritual journey and experience with the church, but always be prepared to dig deeper. Good, active listeners are the best at unearthing good church stories.  

Sharing Stories in Your Church

Finding good stories won’t help your church if you don’t have suitable vehicles to share them. Here are a few places to start.

  • Church website: Of course, this is the primary place you’ll want to share stories. Consider including the newest stories on your church’s front page and spread the others out on pages related to those ministries.
  • Social media: Make it a regular practice to share stories through all of your social media channels. You may even want to pick a certain day of the week or day of the month when you consistently share the stories.
  • Electronic newsletter: Create a regular storytelling piece for your newsletter. Doing so gives your audience an interesting story to read as they review other important information about what’s happening at the church.
  • Sermons: Preachers love to have testimonies to share in their sermons — particularly when they relate to a specific theme they’re teaching upon. As you come across great stories, make sure your preachers have seen them. If you have an idea of upcoming sermons, you can be on the lookout for specific stories that fit those messages.
  • Testimonial quotes: Stories don’t need to be long to be helpful. A few sentences can be more than enough, particularly if they’re written by the person involved. Consider putting short testimonial quotes throughout your website and in your bulletin each week.

    Just don’t go overboard with testimonials about your church. Ideally, you want testimonials that point to God and what he is doing in your midst. 

Your Communications Superpower

Stories are the lifeblood of church communications. No organization in the world has more, better stories than Jesus’ church. 

John Quincy Adams once said, “Whoever tells the best story wins.” 

From movies to television to books, our culture tells many stories. What is your church doing to make sure your faith family is telling the best stories and pointing to the greatest storyteller of them all?

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