Engaging Your Congregation in Narrative Story Telling

Published April 27, 2016

Chris Brown (GLS 2013), one of the senior pastors of North Coast Church, is best known for his unique narrative story telling style. North Coast Training sat down with Chris to find out the keys to telling a successful story.

Q: Chris, what kind of stories are you best at telling?

A: Your own. When you have that personal experience with a subject, your retelling becomes so much more engaging, emotional and real. Many church leaders will share personal stories in their sermons for exactly that reason. But what if there was more you could do?

Q: How do you use narrative story telling to engage your congregation?

A: So many of the parables and stories in the Bible are just that—stories. They’re already narrative teaching that we can tap into to speak directly to our congregations. So why do so many churches struggle with biblical readings of Scripture?

Let’s think about traditional Scripture delivery. It generally consists of bland retellings, which communicate the gist of the story, or a bullet-pointed outline that covers the main point. While these might be the quickest way to deliver the information, it doesn’t mean they’re the best.

Q: How do you craft a narrative to make it interesting and engaging?

A: Let’s think about a personal story again. How many times have you asked someone, “What did you do today?” and received a response like “I went to work and called 12 customers. After that I went to the gym. Then I had dinner.” While this response does relay the major points of the day, it’s incredibly boring. We’ve all heard hundreds of stories told just like this and forgotten every one of them shortly after the end of the conversation.

Now think back to a story you remember very well. Think about it for a minute and remember everything you can. Chances are this narrative seems so much more vivid and personal than the bullet-point play-by-play.

What did you think of? What makes it unique? The storyteller probably put much more care into the details. The way the wind felt as your mother rode on the back of your father’s motorcycle on their first date or the smells of the spice-filled booths in the streets when your sister was in India. Whatever the story was, it had these rich details and emotional experiences that made it memorable, not only to the teller, but also to you.

Q: How do you use story telling to bring Scripture to life?

While none of us were alive in the days of Jesus or Moses, it doesn’t mean we can’t tell the stories like we were there. The Bible is full of profound and beautiful stories that have the potential to speak to people just as clearly as the personal narratives we all hold dear. In order to tell them in an engaging way, we must put ourselves into them. Imagine yourself there. What does the sun feel like? What are the houses like? How do the plants smell? Imagine the emotional state of the people around you in the story. If there’s a crowd of people there waiting to see Jesus, what are they thinking? What is the mood?

If you can answer these kinds of questions for yourself and live the stories in the Bible, then you can tell them as a participant instead of someone millennia away from the source. If you can do that, you can get your congregation engaged in Scripture in a way they have likely never been before.

This article originally appeared on the North Coast Training website.

About the Author
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