Maybe you have heard the idea “God’s story is our story?” I cannot remember who coined this phrase but it is one that has shaped my work. What it does is give a model of how we can use God’s story and our story to tell others about God’s love for the world.
I had the chance to explore this story-evangelism theory with the women’s retreat at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. The theme was “Celebrating Our Stories” and my role as a storyteller was to facilitate how to connect our story with God’s story. So here is the five-step process I used:
Step 1: (Re)learning story. As an introduction, time was spent in (re)learning the elements of story and storytelling. We learned that stories connect the generations and transcend time and space. Stories impact the way we think, our attitudes and even in what we believe. It’s in this (re)learning process that explains the why of story evangelism and how it works.
Step 2: Pinpointing personal stories. Using the images from The Visual Faith Project by Vibrant Faith, participants were invited to pick three. As people gathered in small groups, participants shared their stories with one another using the images. Stories flowed. People laughed and cried. It was hard to get people to stop telling stories. But no surprise there as people we all love a good story.
Step 3: Unpacking God’s story. It’s easy! We spent time reading the Bible. As the facilitator, I did not tell people what to read but encouraged them to think about what Bible verse or story that has captured their attention. Some people used the images to find that story. Others chose to look through children’s Bibles to help remember the stories. Few people already knew that beloved story or verse. Back in their small groups, participants shared their Bible verse/ story and why it is important to them.
Step 4: Practice connection. Through a round-robin exercise, people experimented with becoming storytellers of the faith. It’s hard to describe what that looks like but basically it is two circles facing each other – an inner circle facing outward and outer circle facing inward. In teams of two, one person would tell their story (using the image), God’s story (the previous Bible work done) and how the two connect. After 60 seconds, the other person would share. But here is the best part, the outer circle would rotate one person to the right, and then the process would start all over. After 10 rotations, participants had memorized how their story and God’s story connected. Here is what one woman told me:
She said, “I have shared this particular personal story with many people. But I have always left out God. I was scared to put God in the middle of my story. Now, when I tell this story, I know where and how to give God the credit. Next time, I won’t forget to do that.”
Step 5: Write it down. We concluded our time together by writing down our mingled story with God’s story on strips of cloth that went into a weaving. It seems fitting to close with a weaving since that is how stories work. We are never really independent from one another. But our stories cross and intersect with others in the wildest places known as God’s story.