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4 Ways to Use Your Stories

We have talked a lot recently about the importance of our stories as the church and as individual followers of Jesus. We’ve explored how to discover your story and start to build it. But once we have our story, how are we supposed to use it. Whether it’s from the church’s perspective or an individual in the church, I think there are 4 key opportunities for us to use our stories to make an impact with another person. I think it’s important to understand that scene situations are not contrived or manipulative; they occur naturally as we interact with our friends and family. So it is important that we are prepared to share our authentic narrative that is helpful to the other person. Pro Tip: these are 4 unique opportunities and require you to have your story prepared for that situation.
One of the most common opportunities for our stories to make an impact is when we are confronted with someone needing encouragement. There are countless different issues a person maybe facing and we can’t possibly be prepared for all of them. A great way to get started is to think about times when you needed encouragement and someone shared something that helped you. Then consider those times when you didn’t get the words/advice that was helpful. Remember the narrative or phrases the other person shared that helped or didn’t help. It might even be appropriate to share someone else’s story if it addresses the other person’s need better than your story. For example, you might share with a friend that when you were between jobs, your small group was a great source of support through not only prayers but an occasional meal when there was more month left at the end of your income. And the church family was supporting by not being judgemental and a great source of networking and referrals.
The goal is to authentically empathize with the other person’s need to hear a word of encouragement. One of the best ways is by sharing how you handled or were helped in a similar situation. If the other person is in an extreme or unusual state of despair or depression, please be prepared to suggest they seek professional guidance from a pastor or counselor.
The situation I think where we struggle to share the right words is when the opportunity arises to help someone take the next step in their faith journey. The problem that we develop in our minds is “I don’t want to pressure them if they aren’t ready.” Many times, the other person is ready to take the next step but they have self-doubt about taking action now. How then do we inspire them to have a sense of urgency without being pushy and aggressive? In my opinion, we can inspire them by sharing a time in our faith when we delayed taking action because of our own doubts and how we regretted it. Maybe there were opportunities missed because you waited,  but whatever the situation, our story should help mitigate the mental risk they are facing. A great example is that once you finally made the decision to volunteer for a job on the tech team, you immediately felt a renewed sense of purpose and strength knowing that you were following God’s lead in your life.
Again, the next step for some of our friends might involve a significant change or even risk to their personal safety. Unless you have been faced with a similar, significant situation, then please offer prayer and emotional support in their discernment process.
For many of us, it will be important to share our stories as part of our roles as leaders. There are many ways that stories can be used to motivate, teach, and even correct our teammates. If you want to make an important point with a volunteer, you can explain the finer technical points of the process or you can share a story about how what they do has made an impact on people. And conversely, instead of being the jerk leader reprimanding me for being late by citing the policy, you can more effectively create a change in behavior by telling the story of how their tardiness affects their teammates or the first-time visitor that needs to meet Jesus.
I would highly recommend that you add to your job description as a leader, the role of Story Collector. Keep a notebook (or an Evernote notebook for the highly evolved) where you collect stories about your team and teammates, stories around the church where Jesus has changed lives, and even stories around the world where God is on the move! These stories will be the teaching points that your teams will rally around and go the extra mile to serve faithfully and joyfully.
Last but definitely not least, it’s important that we tell stories to connect with people. This is the every-day work of evangelism; living in community with other people, loving our neighbors and following the direction of the Holy Spirit. Sharing our life through stories is how we build relationships with future spouses, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I am not suggesting that when you introduce yourself to someone new in your life that it goes like this: “Hi, I’m Mark, I am a follower of Jesus Christ, my Savior that was crucified by his enemies and on the third day rose from the grave for the salvation of any that profess his name. Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” Now that will quickly weed out any “undesirable” friends, but I think Jesus meant for us to connect with everybody and demonstrate what a life with Jesus looks like, not scare away people that don’t understand him.
If you think about it, we rally around stories every day. We share the stories of great athletes overcoming injuries to make a comeback, we go to the movies or the theater to see stories about things we are interested (like Star Wars obviously), and we listen to songwriters that tell the great stories through their music. Why then shouldn’t we tell the greatest story ever told about the greatest person that ever lived? I am absolutely confident if we live our stories like Jesus taught us, then we will have that opportunity. Will you be ready?

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