The Power of Storytelling in Church Renewal

Written by Bill Whitt
February 14, 2023

Good storytelling should be a part of almost every aspect of church life. In fact, we have the most important story of all time!

The Super Bowl is an annual reminder of the power of good storytelling. Many football fans watch the ads just as closely as the big game itself because everyone loves a creative and entertaining story.

  • Companies spend millions of dollars because they know that storytelling is the most powerful way to change minds and even change lives. They’re very intentional about the way they craft their narratives, knowing that stories beat stats every time!
  • For example, if Kia’s ad for their SUV focused on its horsepower, fuel efficiency, and towing capacity, I would have immediately forgotten it. But they didn’t go that route. No, they introduced me to “Binky Dad,” a hero who would stop at nothing to provide for his family… and the Kia SUV that made his epic journey possible. I won’t forget that story anytime soon or the way it made me feel!

Smart advertisers have learned how to harness the incredible power of storytelling, and so should churches. In fact, we have the most important story of all time (and a mandate to share it)!

  • I believe good storytelling should be a part of almost every aspect of church life. Here are a few examples:
Five Places To Tell Good Stories In Church Renewal
Place 1: The Sermon.
  • Jesus primarily taught through storytelling. He knew that stories speak to the core of who we are because that’s the way God created us. Centuries later, we understand the psychological mechanisms at work. We have scientifically proven that people naturally and effortlessly remember stories, especially emotional stories with which they can relate.
  • Pastors today often stop short of developing good stories in their sermons. The doctrine is right, the exegesis is solid, but no one will remember it by Monday — often times, not even the pastor! Good storytelling can fix that!
Place 2: The Website.
  • When a person visits your church’s website, they are subliminally seeking an answer to this question: Could I fit in here? Facts and figures will not address that question, but stories will! My church contracted with Donald Miller’s StoryBrand consulting firm to help us understand and present our story well.
  • Does your website tell the story of who you really are? Text is good, but a picture really is worth 1,000 words. A video might be worth 1,000,000.
Place 3: Testimony Videos.
  • The gospel has the power to transform lives. Are you sharing how the good news has changed people’s lives in your congregation? The narrative arc is easy to present: living apart from Jesus, meeting Jesus, and living with and for Jesus.
  • Good opportunities for storytelling include when new members join or when people are baptized. Christians can celebrate what God is doing in others, and non-Christians can learn more about a power that is available to them.
Place 4: Testimonial Videos.
  • How are testimonials different than testimonies? Testimonies are about the power of the gospel, while testimonials are about the helpfulness of a particular church or ministry in a person’s spiritual journey.
  • People who are considering visiting your church will find testimonials very helpful in making a final decision. If they see that someone like them has found the church to be a welcoming family and a helpful spiritual resource, they will be likely to get out of their comfort zone and give it a shot!
Place 5: Vision Casting.
  • When it comes to rallying the troops around a shared vision, nothing is more powerful than a good story! Whether it is with your staff, your church council, or your congregation as a whole, storytelling is often the most potent form of casting vision for church renewal.
  • Choose a single story that embodies the problem and solution. Take your time to establish the full narrative arc — exposition, inciting incident, rising action, crisis, climax, falling action, resolution. You may be surprised just how effective this type of presentation can be!

Do you have a good example of putting this in action? Have you ever made the equivalent of a “Binky Dad” video for your church? Reply and let me know!

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