An overhead shot of a vintage typewriter, with a piece of paper inserted
Florian Klauer / Unsplash

People love stories. The music and entertainment industries exist to give us narratives that inspire and inform. Researchers have even discovered that, when listening to a story, the listener’s brainwaves synchronize with the speaker’s.

The stories we tell create meaning and leave a lasting impression on how we see the world and ourselves. Good stories go beyond information-sharing to influence the listener on a deeply personal level. If a child has ever begged you to read the same story night after night, you already know that no matter how many times we hear a great story, we usually want to hear it again.

A big part of leadership is to listen to the stories in the organization and then help people tell new ones. As congregational leaders, we listen to learn the collective story. What are the historical highs and lows that have shaped the congregation as it is today? Who played a role in moving the church forward?

Over the next several weeks, many congregations will recognize the graduating class of 2024. Although we are beyond the daily restrictions of COVID-19, the pandemic is an undeniable part of this class’s story. Most of them experienced a virtual high school graduation in 2020 and then spent the first year of college in a socially distant, hybrid learning environment. For the rest of their lives, these experiences will remain a part of their story.

To strengthen your leadership, think about the stories you would like your church to tell five or 10 years from now. What will it be doing? Whom will it serve? How will the church make people feel? What will people in the neighborhood say about the church? As you reflect on these questions, consider what needs to happen today for these stories to become reality in the future.

Resources

Book detail from ''Native'' by Kaitlin Curtice

Churches need to do the work of welcoming others and their stories

Stories are sacred — especially the stories that are undertold and suppressed, says the author in an excerpt from a book that tells her own story of rediscovering God as a Potawatomi woman.

By Kaitlin Curtice

An illustration of a typewriter with various colored stripes running across it, containing word clouds, typed lines, typewriter key illustrations

Sharing good news about our ministries makes a difference

Ministries of kindness and positive actions are uplifting — and so are the stories we tell about them.

By Emily Lund

book cover of ''Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us''

‘Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us’

In this excerpt, a writer and spiritual director describes the transformative power of sacred stories and why they are important to our individual and shared lives.

By Mark Yaconelli


Before you go…

I think one of the reasons I enjoy listening to sermons is that I love good stories. As a kid, I often wrote fictional tales for my own amusement. Today, when I watch a movie, I try to understand how the director tells the story. As a leader, I try never to forget that when an organization or team is struggling, I must challenge them to believe that the obstacles they face are not the end of the story. We are part of a redemptive narrative that God is leading. As Christians, we live and we lead by following the narrative of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We tell the story of hope conquering despair, life coming after death and mercy that endures forever. So, whatever you do as a leader, be sure you tell a good story.

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity


Reflective Leadership Grant logo, with the words ''Step back to find the best step forward.''

Christian leaders from a variety of roles are welcome to apply. The grants provide “balcony time” to reflect on accomplishments, broaden perspectives and discern next steps. The application deadline is May 28, 2024. Learn more.

More on this topic

Leaders need wisdom 

How can we cultivate gospel-center...

The Sunday after Tuesday

While Americans have been cau...

Is your ministry prophetic?

What does prophetic ministr...