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Becoming a Storytelling Church

In what ways is your church a storytelling community? Are there places and times for people of all ages and life stages to share the stories of God’s work in their daily experience?

Becoming a storytelling church doesn’t take a lot of strategic planning or extra committee meetings. What it does take is a commitment to making space for faith stories in your congregation’s life together, and then taking steps to share stories together.

Here are three great ways to get started.

Identify a pilot project

Storytelling is contagious. Successfully incorporating storytelling into one aspect of your church’s ministry will cause a ripple effect in other areas. You’ll find many ideas for getting started in the Shaping Our Stories section of this toolkit. 

Consider choosing one of the following areas for an intentional focus on faith stories.

  • Children’s ministry: Set aside a brief Faith Sharing time at the beginning of Sunday school classes. Invite kids and parents to gather to tell stories of how they saw God at work in the previous week.
  • Youth group: 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.
  • Pre-profession of faith classes: Incorporate a session or several sessions designed to help participants share their faith story in a way that is natural to them.
  • Adult education: 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.
  • Worship: Set aside time for one three-minute testimony each week or each month.

Plan a church-wide faith stories initiative

Imagine an entire church year focused on faith stories.

  • Create a church-wide Question of the Month initiative.
  • Implement several or all of the pilot project ideas listed above.
  • Consider a sermon series on the faith stories of people in the Bible. Here’s one example from Reformed Worship June 2012.
  • Form a Storytelling Team that’s tasked with creating space for faith storytelling in your congregation’s life together. Include writers, videographers, artists, and other “creatives.”
  • One congregation identified several different kinds of faith stories and shared one every week on a rotating basis. They included faith stories from Scripture, from history, from the denomination, from their congregation’s history and their congregation’s present. Then they gathered all those stories and published them in a booklet.

Collaborate between ministries

Gather a brainstorming group from various ministries. Include people who are involved in

  • Worship planning
  • Children and youth ministry
  • Fellowship opportunities
  • Outreach
  • Family ministry

Ask each person to propose up to three easy-to-implement ideas for including faith storytelling in their ministry area. See the Sharing Our Stories section of this site for ideas about how to incorporate storytelling in the areas listed above. Then decide together which of the contributed ideas you can implement in the coming church year.

Additional Resources

  • Hear Christina Edmonson, dean of intercultural student development at Calvin University, share how oral cultures and storytelling can help us embrace the stories that have shaped our identities and to relate to people from oral cultures in a more humanizing way in “The Beauty and Value of the Oral Tradition.”
  • Faith Formation Ministries has been working with the concept of "The Building Blocks of Faith" (developed by Bob and Laura Keeley) to help congregations assess and strengthen their faith formation practices. We have learned from our experiences that an additional benefit of working with these concept is that it provides simple but powerful opportunities for sharing faith stories. We invite you to explore this further in our Building Blocks of Faith toolkit.
  • “Cultivating a Storytelling Culture”—this PowerPoint presentation created by Shannon Jammal-Hollemans is a great introduction to the importance of storytelling.
  • The book Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony by Lillian Daniel is the story of how one church became a storytelling congregation.
  • Brief quotes on stories and storytelling