Telling Your Story With Jesus As The Hero

I want every student to have these three competencies so they can live on mission in everyday life:

  1. The ability to articulate the gospel in a compelling way—after all, it’s good news!
  2. The ability to share their own faith story with Christ as the hero.
  3. The ability to listen to their friend’s story with compassion and discernment.

Jeff Vanderstelt and the good people at SOMA created a helpful tool that uses the outline of God’s story to help people tell their story with Jesus as the hero. It also helps people learn to listen to the stories of others in order to make gospel connections.

“Every follower of Jesus has a story to tell, and it’s a story about God and his grace. However, many of us have not been equipped to tell our story in such a way that it points to Jesus as the hero. As those who want to show and share Jesus every day, it’s imperative that we learn to talk about him through the medium of our stories. Often, telling our story will be the most natural way to talk to our not-yet-believing friends about Jesus.

Every great story contains four movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. God’s Story follows the same pattern. God’s Story is the Great Story, the story that helps us make sense of all other stories. God’s Story is the ultimate Good News, the gospel that we find on the pages of the Bible. Understanding the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration pattern in God’s Story will help us make sense of our stories, and of the broken world in which we find ourselves. Below is a quick summary of these four movements along with the themes that emerge in each one.” – DNA Guide, p.28.

The basic premise is that everyone’s story finds its true meaning in God’s story—Creation, Separation, Redemption and Restoration. Each of the major chapters of the Bible have themes we find in our own stories. Below you’ll see the themes, as well as questions to help people craft their story.

Four movements of story

Creation: God’s story starts with identity and origin.

  • Who or what most shaped your understanding of yourself?
  • What have been the sources of your sense of personal value and identity?
  • What were the relationships like with your family members?
  • In the past, how did you view God?

Separation: God’s story focuses on brokenness and blame.

  • How was your relationship with God and others not the way God created it to be?
  • What was a significantly painful experience? How did you respond?
  • How did you try to fix your brokenness? Were those efforts effective?

Redemption: God’s story highlights rescue and deliverance.

  • How has Jesus redeemed and rescued you through this death on the cross?
  • How did you come to put your faith and trust in Jesus to save and restore you?
  • Did the Spirit use people? The Bible? Difficult circumstance? A message/dream?

Restoration: God’s story promises hope and a future.

  • What has changed or is changing in your life now?
  • Who or what is the focus of your life today?
  • What are you hoping will change within the next month, year and 10 years because of your relationship with Jesus?
  • What are some specific ways you’ve seen the Spirit make you more like Jesus?

Tips for training storytellers

When I used this to train our community group, we had everyone write out their story. We believe writing it out is helpful and becomes something they can keep. You can snap a picture of it and keep it with you.

During the course of a few weeks we gave each person the opportunity to share their story in 5-7 minutes. They could read it if that was easier.

We encouraged those who were listening to take notes on what they learned about the person’s origin, what was wrong or broken in their life, who the hero of their story was, and what has changed or what hope did they hear. It’s critical to train students not just to tell their stories, but to listen to other’s stories. Listening not only communicates genuine care, but helps to identify inroads for the gospel.

When someone shares any part of their story with us, it is a gift. They open their heart to us. Therefore, we trained students to thank one another for sharing their story.

Then, before making any statements, we encouraged them to ask the person at least three questions. The questions focus on clarification or identification. Questions of clarification help us understand that people can leave out important details. Questions of identification move from facts to feelings. It is easier for us to name facts—something that happened in life—before we share how it made us feel. We want to identify with people’s pains and joys. Questions of identification help us better identify how certain situations or circumstances shaped or influenced the storyteller.

Be sure the hero of the story is actually Jesus. Sometimes, without even realizing it, we can tell our stories and make ourselves, a mentor, friends or something else the hero. Be sure Jesus stays in the spotlight.

Telling stories often

A friend trained all their believing students to tell their story in three minutes. Whenever a new student comes to one of their small groups, the leader introduces the student to the group. They ask a few “get to know you” questions. Then, they have one of the students share briefly about what they do in the group. The students know talking about the group also allows them to share their story.

This practice does two things:

  1. It helps students articulate their story regularly starting in the safe place of a group setting. If they can do it in a small group surrounded by friends, they are more confident to share their story with peers outside of the program time.
  2. When a student shares their three-minute story with someone stepping into the group for the first time, it communicates we are all broken and Jesus brings us together. It is normal for teenagers, not just adult leaders, to talk about Jesus.

How do you help students tell their story and listen to people?

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