The Art of Story Telling

This afternoon was peaceful and sunny and I got to spend thirty minutes of it driving down the 101 to Santa Maria to attend a seminar for my job.  About twenty of us gathered in the Radisson Hotel’s small conference room to attend a seminar called StorySelling for Non Profits. 

I was instantly jealous of the man who lead the seminar.  His job is to help businesses and people learn how to tell a story in a way that can produce a desired outcome.  He talked about what kind of stories to use and then broke it down even further describing what kinds of things are important when telling a story.  So his job title literally is “Master Storyteller.”  Again, I’m very jealous.  So as you can imagine, the seminar was highly entertaining as he, of course, constantly used stories to help teach us and relay his message.   

It made me think a lot about what I love to do.  I love to write.  To communicate things.  I’d like to be better at standing up in front of an audience and speaking, but I’ll admit that I’m much more comfortable communicating from behind a computer screen.  I have a lot in my head and sometimes it doesn’t all come out right when I don’t have the grace to type a sentence over three times before it sounds right. 

But today also made me think a lot about the Gospel Story.  Sometimes I’ve heard it referred to as the gospel, and other times it’s called the gospel story.  But after experiencing this seminar today, I think that “gospel story” makes more sense because when we as Christians simply state facts about what happened: 

  • Jesus came to the earth for us, he died for our sins, he rose again and now we can believe in Him and live our lives for him…

I think a lot of times we lose our audience just after we say “Jesus.”  Not that anything I stated above is false.  It’s just that no matter what the topic is, listing off facts or information about something isn’t very interesting.  Facts allow your mind wander and by the time you’re done telling someone about how the Son of God died for them they are already thinking about what flavor of smoothie they are going to order on their lunch break.

But on the other hand stories captivate an audience.  They pull you in.  They tug on your heart strings and leave you bubbling with emotion by creating a metaphor in which the listener can see himself within the story. 

So what does this mean in terms of how I present the gospel?  I don’t really know yet.  I need a lot more time to think about it than the thirty minutes I had driving home from Santa Maria.  But I do know that I don’t ever want to talk about my Lord and Savior in a way that’s boring.  Because the gospel story is riveting!  It’s dramatic and like we as Christians know, it illicits an immediate response.  However I think sometimes we tell it, I tell it, in the same fashion that we would use to talk about what we ate for lunch yesterday; it’s not very exciting. 

So maybe in the coming days I will craft a story that tells the gospel in a way that when I am talking with someone and the Lord gives me an opportunity, instead of saying “Have you heard about how Jesus did this for you…?”  I will pause and say, “If you have a moment, I would love to tell you the most amazing story you have every heard.” 

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a section of my notes from the seminar today.

5 Secrets To Becoming A Master Story Teller

1.      Listen Before You Speak

  •         Know who you’re talking to and what they care about

2.      Tell What’s True In You

  • people see through smoke screens.  Tell a true story.  People can feel when they’re being lied to.

3.      A Hero With A Problem

  • Make sure you have a problem or conflict point in the story.  There must be an “overcoming point” or conflict resolution in each good story

4.      Get Hooked On A Feeling

  • People are more motivated by how they feel about something than the logic behind it
  • So use details
  • Pause and see it (aka: act it out in your facial expressions and body language)
  • Feel it (you must “feel your story” as you tell it.  Otherwise people will see that you don’t really believe it yourself)

5.      And Your Point Is…?

  • Know your point in advance.  What do you want your listeners to do after hearing your story?
  • Throw out what doesn’t contribute to your overall point
  • Keep it short and sweet

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