Years ago, I stumbled upon the key ingredient to influencing others. Amazingly, this key easily translated from my job of speaking and writing to relating advice to those I love.
It’s even more valuable to me as I’ve grown older and want to influence my grown kids and grandchildren in God’s ways.
Early in our ministry, I started teaching spiritual truths in group settings such as church or retreats. Truths that could easily be applied to everyday life.
The driving force behind my work was a passion for helping others apply God’s Word.
Unfortunately, merely presenting information didn’t grab a hold of people like I had hoped.
“You need to include more illustrations,” my pastor-husband said.
So I used visuals. (You remember the good old overhead projector. It became my favorite tool. So did handouts.)
The material still felt flat.
I began to doubt my calling as a Christian teacher, counselor, and coach.
If I’m called to teach, counsel, and coach, why was it so hard to do? Shouldn’t it just be second nature?
Insecurity hung over me when faced with a new message to prepare. Depression followed me after I presented it. Failure whispered at my calling.
Trying to encourage me, my pastor-husband-best-friend grew more pointed, “Powerpoint illustrations are helpful when you teach, but mainly use story illustrations.”
He had a point. Who doesn’t love a good story? Stories connect us with others.
So when the husband-who-preached-amazing-sermons-every-week said to use stories, I sorta-kinda had a clue of what he meant.
“Tell stories that illustrate the point of your message.”
So I began to weave stories into my teachings as examples.
Things got a little bit better. People began to be interested in what I had to say.
But I didn’t want just people’s interest!
I wanted to see my words, used by the Holy Spirit, transform people into the image of Jesus.
There had to be something more than just communicating spiritual facts, data and an interesting story; I longed to see people challenged and changed because of what I said.
BUT … OK, … wait a minute … an aha moment was happening…
…THAT’S what I was missing! Words don’t transform people, stories do.
But not just any stories…
…stories that show TRANSFORMATION!
Stories that reveal the emotional journey the hero of the story goes through to find positive change.
Kinda like a before and after photo with the in-between struggle from “here to there” filled in.
Not all stories do that. For example, gossip is telling a story. But it’s not a story that shows a positive transformation.
So the best story is one that people can relate to BECAUSE they hope for the same positive change in themselves.
It is the kind of story where the hero is secretly working out her salvation with fear and trembling as she lives through a struggle in her life—often yourself if it is your story (see Philippians 2:12.)
Why is this important for YOU?
Because if you leave stories out of the way you communicate, you end up sounding preachy and focused on data instead of the other person.
Transformation stories are the kinds of stories you share with those you love because you want them to listen, remember, and learn something important.
Tell your stories of struggle and how God used a negative situation to transform you.
What happened to you in the before–after dash (-)?
That “-” holds a lot of struggle, pain, baby steps, failure, leaps forward, laughter, and victory.
It might be a story of your struggle through rejection, loss, cancer, financial crisis, loneliness, or any experience that produced Holy Spirit guided growth in you.
It could be a story drawn from your childhood or as an adult. Your full salvation testimony is only one of MANY stories you have to share.
…many of my transformation stories happened when I was growing up, and others took place during my years of raising my kids. One of my most told stories dates from my early days of ministry when I encountered rejection and offense.
- Where was God in the midst of that story?
- What did He teach you that brought transformation to your life?
- How did each stage of this story make you feel—from beginning pain to end transformation?
Since Jesus guided you through that struggle, how might this story apply to someone else who wants hope for the same kind of transformation?
Start small — a simple story. One you could tell a grandchild as you ride along in the car or as you tuck her into bed.
This is how you leave a spiritual legacy. Your stories will linger in the memories of those you love. These stories will jump to the forefront of their minds when needed.
Trust the Holy Spirit on this. He’ll take your stories and work wonders in those who listen.
You’ve got this. You do! Tell your stories.
P.S. Need more help with storytelling? Get my best storytelling secrets at Canning a Lifetime of Story.