As we continue our summer series, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith (drawing from my new book of the same name), we move on to strategy #3.
Strategy #3: Proclaim Jesus’ mighty deeds.
Many ads and TV commercials include a claim about the product or resource being sold, followed by testimonials from satisfied customers, and finally an invitation to potential customers to “find out what _____ can do for you!” This strategy is known as the “advertising claim”—the part of the ad that seeks to create a perception of superiority. It is the job of the advertiser to then convince consumers by providing evidence of this superiority. And so, products offer evidence that they are stronger, faster-acting, easier, more effective, longer-lasting, and better-tasting, just to name a few.
Proclaiming the Good News of Jesus necessitates making claims about Jesus. When we proclaim the Good News of Jesus, we must remember that those to whom we proclaim are wondering, “Who is this Jesus? What has he done?” and “What can he do for me?”
In order for us to till the soil of people’s hearts and minds, it is incumbent on us to tell the stories of Jesus’ amazing deeds, beginning with the stories we have in Scripture in which he opens the eyes of the blind, heals the sick, changes water into wine, calms the storm, and raises people from the dead.
Storytelling creates what Christian author Nate Wilson refers to as “the aroma of the Gospel.” An aroma, of course, is something that surrounds us, penetrates us, and lingers. In order to effectively create the “aroma of the Gospel” through storytelling, we need to pay attention to several key elements.
- Prepare. In order to be a good storyteller, you need to do your homework. By all means, read the story (several times, in fact) ahead of time and enter into it yourself, allowing it to speak to you and for you to get to know the story. Then focus on the main point of the story that you wish to draw attention to. You may even consider recording yourself telling the story so that you can review it and make adjustments. Finally, the most powerful way to tell a story is to memorize it and recall it from memory instead of just reading it.
- Create a world. Like a video game that creates a world for players to enter, an effective storyteller creates a world for listeners to enter with their imaginations. Consider using props, sound effects, art, and music. Use your voice, facial expression, and body language to indicate different speakers in the story. Maximize your storytelling space, move around, and include audience participation when possible.
- Use non–verbal communication. Some of the most effective storytelling is done through non-verbal expressions. Don’t just use your voice to tell a story; use your whole body! Think about your posture, how you use your eyes (making expressions and making eye contact with various participants), and how you move about the space.
- Use your voice as a tool. Storytelling is not just a matter of reading a story; you need to tell a story with your voice. That means paying attention to volume (rising and falling to create drama), as well as to pace, silence, pauses, and tone.
But we must not stop there; if we truly want to loosen the soil of people’s hearts and minds, we must tell the stories of the amazing things that Jesus has done and is doing for us personally! In order to do this, we need to pause and ask ourselves, “What great things has Jesus done for me?” and then we need to tell those stories. This means that we need to tell stories of what Jesus has done for us when we have experienced powerlessness, pain, emptiness, anxiety, despair, and so on, as well as how we have encountered him in moments of great joy—any experience that led to a significant transition in our lives.
Spend some time in prayer, asking Jesus to help you see the ways he has touched your life, transformed you, and healed you. And then, ask him to help you tell your story and to invite others to get in touch with their own stories so that hearts and minds may be transformed.
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Be sure to check out my new book, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith.