Storytelling is one of my passions. I’ve written plenty of other blog posts on the topic, and even published a storytelling devotional last year called The Original Storyteller. One of the reasons why I’m so interested in storytelling is because that’s how God has designed each of us.
Storytelling may be a recent marketing buzzword, but it’s also a beloved tradition. Stories have existed in all civilizations throughout history. And they’re still relevant today because stories standout in our busy, noisy culture. Stories are like God—they’re both everywhere.
That’s why storytelling is one of the top things your church can use to immediately start improving your communications efforts. Often times, we default to making announcements and blasting information. But that bores people. Instead, why not inspire people to action by telling stories?
You may have heard this song and dance before. Just tell stories! They make it sound so easy. And you understand that stories are important. Now you’re wondering how to tell stories. More specifically, where do you tell stories at your church? The good news is that you can implement storytelling pretty much anywhere.
1. Your Website
Every website on the internet tells a story. Most of them are confusing or boring stories. But they’re stories nevertheless. Your website tells a story about your church. It paints a picture of who you are. This picture isn’t always clear, or flattering, or even accurate. Which is exactly why we need to focus on telling the right story with our church websites.
Pull up your church website right now. Go ahead—open a new browser tab and type in your web address. What’s the first thing you see when the home page loads? Do you get an accurate representation of your church within the first three seconds of looking at it? Does it tell a story that people will want to hear?
That home page is often the first impression a potential visitor will have of your church. If they see a rotating slider with 15 items, then the story they’re experiencing is cluttered and overwhelming. Be intentional about that first impression and tell a clear and compelling story on your website.
2. Social Media
If a potential visitor’s first impression is not on your website, it might be on social media. Churches are slowly flocking to social platforms because it’s finally dawning on church leaders that Facebook isn’t going away any time soon.
But instead of telling stories on social media, we carry over the same information-heavy mentality. Most churches spend all of their energy on social media blasting announcements about events and ministries. That seems easier than putting in any real effort—and the lack of intentionality shows.
Open up one of your church’s social media accounts. Scroll through the last ten or so posts. How many of them told a story? How many of them talked about something other than your church? How many of them were just an announcement about an upcoming event?
Don’t feel bad if all ten were announcements—that only means you’re like most churches. The problem is, most churches get ignored on social media. Don’t be like most churches. Tell stories on social media. Compel people to listen.
Unlike social media, an inordinate amount of churches’ energy goes into creating, developing, editing, tweaking, polishing, and rehearsing the Sunday morning sermon. And rightfully so. Sunday worship is the cornerstone for most churches. And the sermon is the cornerstone of that worship.
Which is why it’s crucial to include storytelling as a part of your message. Jesus told parables when he was teaching his disciples. These stories were so impactful that we still tell them today. How’s that for the power of storytelling?
The stories you tell when you preach can be stories like this from the Bible. They could be modern day parables. They can be personal experiences. Or they could be stories from your congregation and community. Find a story that helps illustrate and illuminate your point.
Thankfully, this is something many pastors are already doing. This is one of the few places that most churches are constantly telling stories. If this is the case, great—keep it up and figure out how you can learn from what your pastor is doing. Publish these stories on your website. Capture them on video and post them to social media. Harness those stories elsewhere for your church.
Your church members are not the only ones who need to hear stories. As you seek to grow your church, you’ll want to rely on stories to help connect with potential visitors and the community. If you want your church’s outreach to actually reach people, use stories. People pay attention to stories. And in our age of big data and information overload, attention is a valuable commodity.
Stories are a common language we all speak. God created us to love stories, but it’s not something that’s exclusive to Christians. Some of our generations greatest storytellers are outside of the church. When we tell stories, we connect with people in a way they understand.
More importantly, when we use storytelling in outreach, we’re standing out from the crushing wave of information overload that we all experience daily. The last thing people need is more information and data to process. Conversely, stories are something people desire to experience.
5. Event Promotion
Most of what churches communicate is promoting special events—men’s ministry breakfasts, Vacation Bible School, and Wednesday Night Supper. These events are a tradition at your church. The members love them. But you likely have trouble getting new people to attend.
That’s because most churches promote their events in ways aimed at an audience who’s already going to attend. These announcements focus on providing event information, instead of telling people why they should bother attending. What if we told a story about the event instead?
Why does your church put on the event? How does it improve people’s lives? Find one person who has a story that answers these questions. Create a video with them explaining how this event changed their life. Post the video online and share during worship.
Sure, that’s easier said than done. This has to be a compelling story that connects with your intended audience. But this has to be our mindset as we invite people to our church events. And if there are no stories of changed lives, then you might want to reconsider hosting that event at all.
6. Small Groups
Sunday morning worship gets most of the attention in the church. But small groups are the place where most life-change happens. You may call these groups Sunday school classes or Bible studies, but the idea is still the same. It’s a place to connect people and build authentic relationships on a personal level.
That’s what makes these groups fertile ground for storytelling. Relationships lead to trust, which opens the door for personal stories. Encourage your small group leaders and volunteers to apply stories of their experience to make Scripture more relevant and relatable.
You should also consider story-driven content for teaching the small group. When selecting studies and resources, prioritize material that shares both stories from the Bible and from the speaker’s personal walk. These stories help group members connect the message with their own life and allows them to share from their own experience.
Small groups are also a great place to collect stories to share on your website and social media. Train small group leaders to listen for life-changing stories. They’re more likely to hear these stories than anyone else. They’re also in a position to ask for permission to share these stories.
7. Volunteer Recruiting
Every church is always looking for more volunteers. More people to help in the nursery. More people to lead small groups. More people to wave flags in the parking lot. You can’t have too many volunteers. (And if you do, perhaps you should consider a volunteer storytelling team.)
Thankfully, storytelling can help your church recruit more volunteers. There is a reason why most of your volunteers give their time every week. I’d wager that most of them have a story behind why they volunteer. Find those stories and tell them.
These could be video testimonials or Humans-of-New-York-style social media posts. People love hearing stories of other people like them. It moves them to take action. When you start telling the stories of why your volunteers volunteer, you’ll encourage more volunteers to volunteer voluntarily. And that’s a volunteer victory.
Storytelling has the power to transform any church. Start telling stories in your church today and witness the difference it can make.
Where does your church use storytelling?