I was an 11-year-old kid in a sea of senior citizens. Bored to tears, I stared at the back of the old wooden pew. The pastor was preaching, but I was clueless as to his topic. Suddenly, he paused, took a deep breath, and said, “I’m sorry, everyone. I keep thinking about something that happened to me this past week. I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for my hamburger to arrive when a lady across the room passed out from exhaustion.”
Suddenly, he had my full attention. I listened intently as he shared with the congregation about how he helped the lady even though he was tempted to ignore her plight.
Before that day, I thought my pastor was an old dude who never left his study. Suddenly transformed, he was a man who ate hamburgers in restaurants and helped people in need, even though he secretly didn’t want to.
Because of his story, my pastor became much more interesting to me and I cared a lot more about what he had to say.
As I reflect on his words some 30 plus years later, I see a lesson for pastors and speakers: We should tell personal stories.
Here’s why. People don’t want to trust pastors and speakers. Think about it. If they trust us, it seriously complicates their lives. They know we might tempt them to question their own belief systems. We might share something with them that will change the direction of their lives. We might persuade them to risk love, offer forgiveness, admit failure, abandon success, or give money.
To combat this, pastors and speakers should share inspiring true stories filled with good intentions, right actions, and positive outcomes. True stories build faith in our people, which builds faith in our leadership, which builds faith in our future together. Faith helps people believe their best and give their all.
In the end, people don’t want more information. They’re already drowning in a sea of information forgetfulness. They can get free information online without having to get out of bed, drive to a church building, serve in the nursery, or give money. What they really want is us. They want our faith, our words, our hope, our love, our encouragement, our enthusiasm, and our guidance.
People hunger for personal experiences that build up their faith. If these personal experiences are not possible, they want true stories that feel like personal experiences. In a manner of speaking, a good story allows us to be their emotional avatar, causing them to see, feel, taste, hear, and smell our experiences as if they lived it themselves.
Telling personal stories breaks through the invented stories of people so they can see who we really are beneath the surface. So, let’s be transparent. Let’s be real. Let’s share great stories. Let’s show people who we really are and in turn, they’ll care more about what we really have to say.