Special services. Plan evening or summer services that focus on faith stories. For an example of how one church did this, see the book The Storytelling Church by Jeff Barker, pp. 25-33.
Thanksgiving Day service. Leave a generous amount of time for people to tell brief stories of thanks for how God worked in their lives over the past year.
Testimonies interlaced with Scripture. See point 6 of the excellent CICW article Planning Worship with Teens for a beautiful and creative way to help people share a testimony interlaced with Scripture in a worship setting.
Baptism. Encourage parents to give brief testimonies before the baptism of their child if they wish.
Profession of faith. Encourage and equip persons who are professing their faith to tell their faith story in a comfortable and natural way. See the Shaping Our Stories section of this toolkit for many different ways to do so. See also our Professing Our Faith toolkit, which includes dozens of profession of faith resources for CRC churches.
In the sermon. Pastors sharing their own faith stories openly and honestly paves the way for the congregation to do the same.
After a sermon series. After the final sermon in a series, include time for members of the congregation to tell stories of how the sermons have borne fruit in their lives.
At offering time. One church gathered video faith stories from members who are house-bound and shared them during the offering as a way of including those members in worship.
While leading worship. Thereare appropriate ways to tell short but powerfully evocative stories while leading worship. For example, before reading Psalm 139 one worship leader shared that his mother had chosen the psalm as her funeral chapter, and knowing that has deepened the way he lives into the psalm.
Vocation and faith. One CRC church saves space in worship for a faith storytelling time they call "This Time Tomorrow." Members of the church talk about their vocation and how they see God in their work, or how they were called to their work.
In the bulletin: On Easter morning at Second CRC in Grand Haven, Mich., the pastor invites the congregation to write down where they see "glimpses of the resurrection" in everyday life. The responses are collected, and each week the first thing people read in their bulletin are three of those glimpses, which include observations like "I see a glimpse of the resurrection in the lives of my grandchildren."
Opening question. Begin each youth group meeting with the question, “Where did you see God this week?”
Year of stories. Plan a year-long focus on storytelling. Explore stories of faith from the Bible, from Christian history, and from the members of your congregation. Encourage teens to identify their own stories of faith and share them with each other and with the congregation. This could become one of the most memorable experiences of your youth group’s time together.
Modeling Faith Storytelling with Teens. Jubilee Fellowship in St. Catharines, Ontario has been intentionally incorporating faith storytelling into the church's youth ministry. They asked adults in the congregation to model storytelling before the teens did it themselves. First they split the large youth group into several small groups with one leader per group. Then they sent them off to the homes of adults who were willing to host and share a faith story with the teens. The storytellers were asked to do three things:
1. introduce themselves, tell about what life was like when they were a teenager: what questions, fears, faith did they have? (The adults were encouraged to show pictures, set the stage, put youth in their shoes)
2. tell a portion of their life story that tells of God's faithfulness and presence in their life
3. avoid sugarcoating: talk to the teens like they're adults, be truthful and even vulnerable, so that they know the real trials of life and the truth of how God works.
As they neared the end of the year, the youth leadership team decided it was time for grade 12 teens to tell their story. They were invited about a month in advance and given a variety of storytelling options (talk about their faith journey, read a poem, share a song, display art). View a video of some of their faith stories here.
I am Second videos. These videos are compelling real-life stories of people who are putting God first in their lives. Some stories are quite raw, so choose carefully when showing these to teens. Your youth group could make its own “I Am Second” videos as a way to tell their own faith stories.
Storytelling Game. Faith Formation Ministries team members created the storytelling game Fun-Co (Fun in Community) to use as an icebreaker in many different group settings. Check it out here.
Newcomers group. Granite Springs Church developed a program to help newcomers get connected to the church and to help regular attendees and longer-term members get to know each other in a fun way as they tell their stories. They call it Connect Four.
See the Intergenerational Group ideas section of this page.
Senior SHARE group. Seniors have many faith stories to tell, and Senior SHARE group like the one described in this brochure provides a time and place for them to share with each other.
Writer’s group. Form a writer’s group that focuses on faith storytelling. Collect the resulting faith stories and share them with your congregation.
Family storytelling training. Peter Tuininga, the pastor of Smithville CRC in Ontario, recognized that faith storytelling in the home is crucial but that parents need help learning how to do it. Once a year during the worship service, parents are invited to a training session that gives them tools for sharing their faith with their children. The training is held during the worship service in recognition of the fact that young families are busy families and often are unable to come to a separate event.
At dinnertime or bedtime, ask your family members, “Where did you see God today?” Share your stories with each other.
Tell your children the faith stories of people in your family. Include the story of each child’s baptism and growth in faith.
Create a photo album or scrapbook that tells your family’s faith story. (See the Pinterest board "Faithbooking" for some interesting ideas.)
Purchase a set of God's Big Story cards from Faith Alive. These cards are great discussion-starters that help families dig deeper into God’s story and find their own stories there.
Create a "story jar" together. Tell the Easter story, another of God’s stories, or your own faith story with this fun and open-ended craft. Talk together as you create.
Lego stories—This blog post focuses on retelling Bible stories, but Legos could be used to illustrate your own faith stories.
Consider offering a 10-minute Faith Sharing time right before Sunday school classes. Invite kids and parents to gather to tell stories of how they saw God at work in the previous week.
Begin each Sunday school session with the question, “Where did you see God this week?”
Invite adult and teen guests to share their faith stories with Sunday school children.
Consider how your Sunday school curriculum incorporates storytelling. Faith Alive’s Dwell curriculum emphasizes finding our story in God’s story.
Opening question. Begin each session with the question, “Where did you see God this week?”
Lead by example. If you are a catechism teacher, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with teens. They want to hear your faith story. When part of the catechism resonates deeply with you, tell them why.
Invite guests. Ask members of your congregation to join your catechism class to answer specific catechism questions, such as “What is your only comfort?” or “How does the Lord’s supper remind and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross?”
Pre-profession of Faith Classes
Prepare people to tell their story. Include one or more sessions designed to help participants share their faith story with the congregation and/or the council in a way that is natural to them. You’ll find many ideas in the Shaping Our Stories section of this toolkit.
Sunrise Community Church in Austin, Texas, has a three-stage membership class that emphasizes training people to be a part of a diverse community. They attend a class on telling their story, they tell their stories to the church council, and then they tell their stories to the congregation.
Faith stories series. Offer a series focused on the faith stories of members of your congregation. To increase interactivity, consider using an interview format. Be sure to provide participants with the interview questions ahead of time so they can think deeply about their answers.
Story-crafting workshop. Ask a writer or storyteller in your congregation to lead an interactive (and possibly intergenerational) workshop on how to tell a compelling faith story or testimony.
Speed-dating-style storytelling. So there’s no real dating involved, but here’s a great article about how one church had a genius idea for getting teens and older adults to tell each other their stories.
Intergenerational storytelling dinners. From a blog post titled “The Importance of Storytelling” by Mark Oestreicher: “Instead of everyone bringing a dish to share, each person has to bring a story (or a few stories!) to share—real stories, not made-up stories. Give the categories ahead of time, just like you would for a potluck, and have them choose stories in 2 or 3 categories. Make sure you clear the date first with your teenagers, because they’re who you really want there! Shoot for at least one person or couple from every generation. Allow for Q&A after each story.”
Intergenerational learning events. Check out WE: The Epic Story—10 intergenerational events that trace the narrative of God’s story from creation to new creation. (Other WE events are also available from Faith Alive.)
Poster activity. You’ll find this idea inIntergenerational Christian Formation by Holly Catterton Allen and Christian Lawton Ross (IVP Academic, 2012, pp. 221-222). Create three sets of posters:
one set with names of people in the Bible, starting with Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, and going through Jesus, Paul, etc. (one name per poster)
one set with post-biblical names (church “fathers,” some of the saints, Mother Teresa, etc., one name per poster)
one set with names of people in your congregation, including teens and children and the most recently born baby (one name per poster).
People stand in a line or circle holding the posters with the blank side facing the listeners. When each person flips his or her poster over so the name shows, a narrator tells a one-line story about the person on that poster, telling how that person was or is part of God’s story.
Sixty Second Storytelling. This blog post describes a simple outreach model called "story evangelism." 1) Introduce yourself. 2) Ask a question. 3) Swap stories. It's a great way to break the ice with storytelling in your church and in outreach.
Listen to your neighbors’ stories. The men and women labeled as “forgotten” who walk Aurora Avenue in Seattle, Wash., facing homelessness or drug addiction, were given an opportunity to share their stories of both grief and celebration. The event, billed as “Evening of Stories,” was held at Aurora Commons, a neighborhood space for hospitality supported by Awake (Christian Reformed) Church in Seattle. Read more about this event here.
In your church neighborhood. Sherman Street CRC and Step of Faith Church’s "Voices of Our Community" project built connections between the congregation and their neighbors. One part of the project was personal interviews that gave people from all walks of life a space to tell their stories. As another part of the project, over 120 portraits were taken of community members sharing their response to the question: “What is your dream?” The response was a beautiful collection of dreams for individuals, families, communities, and, most of all, the church.
VBS storytelling week. Plan a week-long focus on God’s story and the stories of people of faith. Invite members of your congregation to share brief stories that echo themes in Bible stories of faith.
Campus ministry. A focus on storytelling at Bellevue CRC spilled over into the church’s campus ministry at the University of Washington, as told in this article written by pastor Ashley Van Dragt.
Share stories on your classis or church website. On the website of Classis Grand Rapids South, there’s a section called Faces of Faith, which is a space where people from that classis share brief faith stories. Consider dedicating part of your church’s website to telling the stories of people in your own congregation and neighborhood.
Share faith stories on Facebook. Use your church’s Facebook page to share faith stories with each other. Invite members of the congregation to submit their stories and a photo to an adult moderator who then reviews and posts each story. Because faith stories sometimes involve sensitive situations, the review step is important to ensure that no confidential information is divulged in these posts and that content is appropriate for members of all ages to read.
YouTube or Vimeo videos. Members of Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St. Catherines, Ontario, created story-based videos as part of their Advent celebration. In each, an introduction inviting people to connect with Jesus during Advent was followed by a personal story from a member of the congregation. View one example here or view all the videos here.