A Storytelling Refresher for Your Church

A Storytelling Refresher for Your Church

October 14, 2014 by

The church loves stories. We’ve got a holy book full of them and Jesus loved to spout them. Parables FTW!

But as much as we love them, we need more practice in making stories work in our communication. So it’s nice that the Harvard Business Review offers this storytelling refresher.

“Stories don’t have to be video or huge, epic productions. They can just be short snippets of text.”

A Few Storytelling Highlights

  • Get to the Point: “Parachute in, don’t preamble.”
  • Fewer Words, More Meaning: “My high school English teacher, Mr. Wessling, used the analogy of the ‘magic grain truck’ to educate us about poetry. He said ‘imagine if a magic truck allowed a farmer to haul seven times the amount of grain that a normal truck usually holds?’ (Can you tell I grew up in Kansas?) We developed a long list of benefits such a truck would provide: fewer trips, less fuel, more free time, etc. Then he concluded: ‘Well boys that’s what poetry is. Using just a few carefully chosen and arranged words to carry much more meaning than their usual weight.’”
  • Be Quiet: “Use silence for impact and emphasis.”
  • Connect With People: “Don’t wash your eye contact over the crowd like a lighthouse, but actually connect with individuals.”

Read the full post for more details.

Stories in Social Media

Storytelling can also help to shore up your social media. PR News talks about finding stories in a corporate setting, with clear applications for the church. They talk about three ways to find stories:

  1. “Ask who’s creating the big ideas.” – Where is the ministry happening in your church?
  2. “Gather internal status reports.” – Corporations “produce a plethora of status reports”—sounds like a church. Loads of sermons, ministry reports and more you can mine for good stories.
  3. “Step away from your desk.” – Get out there and find the stories. You can’t collect stories bunkered down at your desk with the door shut.

Practical Story Lessons

“Poetry is using just a few carefully chosen and arranged words to carry much more meaning than their usual weight.”

The recent Innovate 4 Jesus hangout with our Certification Lab instructors included a ton of great nuggets on storytelling (and some Internet hijinks… nerds). You can watch the full video, but here are some story-related quotes:

  • “Churches need to avoid the spin machine and tell real stories. Be authentic!” -Justin Blaney
  • “We have staff lunch every week and start it with stories. I take notes and chase them down later.” -Stephen Brewster
  • “We keep and tag a database of great stories, which we save until we need them.” -Jon Batarse
  • “Stories don’t have to be video or huge, epic productions. They can just be short snippets of text.” -Kelley Hartnett
  • “Too many churches that do tell stories fall into the trap of telling stories without conflict.” -Phil Bowdle

Story Books

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Tell Me a Story: Finding God (And Ourselves) Through Narrative by Scott McClellan. Loads of insight into stories and how to tell them.

Photo by Alejando Escamilla
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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One Response to “A Storytelling Refresher for Your Church”

  • Steven W. Murray
    October 20, 2014

    Great reminders and ideas!

    And yes — Scott’s “Tell Me a Story” is a great resource. I gave out copies and provided a brief review of it at our Leadership Team meeting in an effort to get them thinking about the power of stories, the need to find them, and how to integrate them into what we do as a church — and to emphasize that it cannot be limited to just what I am able to find and tell as the communications guy!



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