Archive for ◊ November, 2014 ◊

• Thursday, November 06th, 2014

Author: Gretchen

I was in a day-long training session at a ministry program titled “Options for Struggling Congregations.” As usual, my presentation included a number of stories about my own experience in churches, as well as the stories you, our readers, and others share with us because of this blog. What I have learned is that people love stories. People love hearing narratives that draw them in on a personal level. They enjoy hearing about people just like them who are struggling with the exact same issues they are.

As my day progressed, I was struck anew by the power of sharing our own stories. Not just me telling them when I was speaking, but during our breaks, we all spent time just telling stories related to something that was being taught.

One woman was the pastor of a church that was having their final service the following Sunday. An interim colleague was frustrated in a congregation who won’ t consider the kind of changes that might keep their church alive. Another fellow told the story of his former church building being bought by MacDonalds. We could give context to our own similar experiences or find a new way to understand what we were going through by telling our stories. Each of us saw ourselves in these accounts. We could hear the pain of the storyteller and offer our support. Stories often speak to our greatest joy or our greatest fears. We like hearing how it ended for other people. We are comforted by hearing that it all worked out okay and we are strengthened by hearing about someone else’s strength when it didn’t.

It is very cool how the blogosphere invites us to share our stories. In our comments section, we often read the accounts of pastors and churches who have encountered the challenges we discuss here. More often, we will get an email from a congregation who is struggling and wishes to share their story and ask for guidance. These stories are often the beginning of building relationships.

Jesus was a storyteller extraordinaire. He taught with parables and drew people closer to him with storytelling. Likewise, you and I share our faith with the stories from our lives, and we grow in confidence by sharing those events with others. When a congregation is facing challenging times, that’s the time to get out the church histories and begin rediscovering the congregation’s stories. That is when people should come together to speak of their own very personal experience of faith and their relationship with their church. That is when we should become storytellers like Jesus, because our story is God’s story, and God’s story is ours.