What is a Story, and Why Does It Matter?

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Part 2: Stories Speak

A picture is worth 1000 words, right? Well, a story is worth 1000 lectures.

There are other forms of communication, but stories have unique power and versatility.

Stories are one of our best sources for script material. They're interesting, easy to remember. And listeners can often relate to the lessons that stories teach without our having to explain them in detail.

There are stories everywhere. They can come from many sources:

Bible stories. Adam and Eve in the garden, Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel, the Flood, Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and so many more, make up the true story of God's interactions with man, and man's dealings with each other from the beginning of time. These stories answer many of the questions people ask about where we came from and how we got to where we are today. Note that there are many Bible stories besides the ones we find in Good News, Look, Listen & Live and The Living Christ.

These other stories can provide fresh and relevant materials to use after we have researched the needs, hopes, fears, and beliefs of the people group we are seeking to minister to through recordings. Also, remember that a story has parts, and those parts are important. If we simply summarize a story, parts are usually cut out, and it doesn't have the same power as the story itself.

Testimonies. The most exciting testimonies are stories, not lectures. When people share the details of how God rescued them, answered their prayers, helped them to come to the end of themselves, listeners are drawn in and touched. Sometimes the speaker slips into preaching a sermon instead, which often doesn't have the same impact.

Traditional stories from the culture. The legends, myths, tales of a people group can point to truths about God and man in ways that the people relate to strongly. Drawing on the people's own well- known stories can add a very personal touch to messages for that language.

Stories in Song. Many groups have traditions of sharing stories through song. If they already have that form, it may be possible to fill the form with stories from the Bible and other messages from God's heart.

Your stories, Their stories. "You won't believe what happened to me today..." "...I can relate to what you experienced. When I was 16..." When a significant thing happens to us, or someone shares about an experience like one we've had, we often respond by telling our own story. We explain what led up to it, how we felt during the experience, what challenges we faced along the way, how the situation was resolved, how the resolution made us feel. People like to share their stories with each other.

Because of this, one form of script that can be particularly effective is a conversation between people who are in a situation, trying to solve a problem or deal with a challenge. Listeners are drawn into such a conversation. You might think, "She means a dialog. Lots of our scripts are dialogs." True, many Words of Life scripts are dialogs, in that they feature more than one person talking. But not many are dialogs that tell a story. A dialog that tells a story has many of the characteristics found in any story. The people speaking are distinct characters. The situation happens in a specific setting.

There's a real need or conflict that gets the conversation going. The characters face challenges and solve them, then struggle to deal with new challenges. The dialog reaches a climax, and eventually moves to a conclusion. All along the way, the characters speak to one another in natural ways that sound like real people talking. The 'story dialog' is very useful for holding together a variety of other forms of communication within one script. In Parts 3 and 4, we will look at details on how this is done, including some ideas on making Introductions that grab the listeners and creating Effective Dialogs.

See Part 3: Introductions that Grab Listeners and Dialog that Holds Them.

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What is a Story, and Why Does It Matter? - A series of articles by Clair Rulison on the role of stories in GRN scripts