Engaging the Storytellers

November 12th, 2013

I call it a story. Maybe you call it a testimony. I used to be part of a church that told people's stories on a regular basis. In a year's time we would hear twenty or more people talk about their faith in Jesus. Since moving across the country, I found something missing in many churches: they do not tell people’s stories.

I miss stories. I miss hearing about people's lives and how Jesus is making a difference in them. I miss the raw, unpolished, heartfelt delivery of someone's faith told in their own words about their real life. I miss hearing from “the Church."

Who are the Storytellers?

Your church is full of storytellers. I realize they don't think of themselves as a storyteller. And, unfortunately, I realize you don't either. In recent years, as creativity trended in the Church, leaders have taken on storytelling as an art and we are seeking to be good at it. This is a great endeavor and I am all for it! But, unfortunately, we have "professionalized" it to the point of setting it aside for the most talented of speaker/artists and have forgotten the power of a real story about real faith in real life delivered by the real person living it. Believers need to be encouraged to share what God is doing in their life. We are not asking them to make a movie or write a book. We are simply asking them to tell their story.

Who Benefits from Storytelling?

The storyteller. Sharing one’s faith story publicly is a step in spiritual growth and personal ministry. There is a great peace and joy that results from honoring God with your life and your words.

The body of believers. It builds up the church to hear about God's active work among His people. We gain strength from hearing about how God saw someone through a challenge. Our faith grows and our doubts are dealt with. We can sense the living, moving Spirit of God amongst us and we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.

The listener who identifies. “Their story sounds like my story,” someone thinks. Their life overlaps with the storyteller in some way, and what they just shared gives hope where the listener thought there was no hope. They are not alone, they know now. Someone else has been through what they are going through.

The listener who is lost. If I don't know Jesus, I have now heard how I could know Him. If I have not heard about how he can change lives, now I have heard it is possible. If all I have known about Jesus was political or tainted in some way, I can now balance that out with a true story according to a person like me.

One of the best scenes a church leader can witness happens after the gathering where a story has been told. A new unity among the people takes place. First, the community of believers is drawn to the storyteller, seeking them out to say something or give them a hug; this person is not a stranger anymore. Secondly, the community shares in knowing this person—we have all experienced their story together. And while people gather around the storyteller they find themselves meeting each other and sharing a new common ground.

Who Chooses the Stories to Be Told?

Suggestions for stories can come from anywhere and anyone. The body of Christ is alive and active and some people will hear things that other people don’t. Create a culture that believes in the presence and power of God in the lives of the people. Teach people to be on the lookout for stories and let them know that you, the church leader, want to hear them. Certainly, when it comes to choosing stories to be presented on the platform, the pastor must always be informed of what will be said and must approve it.

And let me add something here: It is OK if a story is not “complete.” Stories of life and faith are messy. Sometimes we don't want to tell messy stories where Jesus is involved: we want to present things finished and tied up in a bow. We think that neat and tidy stories will make Jesus look better. This is not the case. Most every one lives in the middle of something most all the time. Yes, it can be a challenge to put words to "the middle." But when someone finally does and says it out loud...well, there is a sigh of relief that can be heard in heaven because now we all know we are not the only ones “in the middle of something.” Therefore, allow God’s Spirit to lead when it comes to choosing a story to tell during the worship service. It could be that the sharing of the “unfinished story” is part of God’s plan for actually completing it!

Who Writes the Story?

Simply said, first the person with the story writes it out and secondly, the church leader edits it. It is important to see the first draft in the original words of the one who is speaking. The purpose of editing is for clarity and length.

It only takes three to five minutes for someone to tell his or her story. It doesn't have to be long and it doesn't have to be perfect. It does, though, need to be prepared. We can use the art of storytelling that we as leaders have a grasp on and help others prepare and present their story in a clear and concise manner so that the listeners can understand. We can also coach them on their delivery so that their heart can be felt by all.

Getting Started

If you would consider engaging your congregation in telling their story, a good place to start is for them to share how they came to be a believer in Jesus as their Savior. Some people call this a “salvation story.” It doesn’t matter if they were raised in a Christian home or if they had a life-changing experience as an adult. Each account of God’s work in the life of His children has purpose and relevance.

Here are some suggested guidelines for helping someone prepare their salvation story:

The Basic Elements

  • Describe your life before you believed in Jesus as your Savior
  • When and how you decided to follow Jesus
  • How your life changed
  • What Jesus is doing in your life today? What are you learning?

Additional Elements

  • What events have been significant in your faith journey?
  • Who are the people that have contributed to your faith story?
  • What Bible verses have been meaningful to you?


  • Are there any parts that are confusing and need clarity?
  • Did you use any religious language that the listener might not be familiar with?
  • Were you critical of any other religion or church denomination?
  • Did you include too much information about your life before Jesus? (Yes, you want to be honest about your life, but you don’t need to include every detail; most of your story should be about how God changed your life.)
  • Are your Bible references accurate?

God is at work in the lives of people. Hearing what He is doing is the good news that we need to hear in this day and age. Every believer does not consider himself or herself a storyteller, but every believer does have a story. Let’s hear them!

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