The Power of Stories

Last week, our Vibrant Faith team hosted “project teams” from 20 churches at a downtown Denver hotel—all gathered for a kickoff training event tied to our 4th-Soil Parenting Project (a partnership with the Lilly Endowment). These teams will help lead a wide menu of “ministry experiments” for next three years—as we work together to discover new ways to encourage and equip parents to deepen their faith influence in the lives of their kids.

The event was focused on training our teams—representing a diverse set of churches from across the U.S.—to invite parents into simple, everyday forming experiences that are designed to boost their faith impact in the home.

One of the speakers we brought in for the event is Adam Young—a pastor, theologian, therapist, teacher, and podcaster who focuses his work around attachment theory. His particular emphasis is on exploring our ability to attach to God. You can learn more about his work by checking out his website, and his very-popular podcast called “The Place We Find Ourselves.”

We at Vibrant Faith have long been interested in the power of relationship for the formation of faith. We have also long been proponents of recognizing that we are “storied” creatures, created to live in the midst of a story—God’s story. What we haven’t often acknowledged, or been willing to help the church engage, is that OUR stories—your story and my story of growing up in a broken world—play a powerful role in who we become and how we follow Jesus. Our stories help us or keep us from attaching to God and to other people. 

Learning biblical stories is so important—but not enough to assure that we can attach to Jesus more deeply. The same is true for a great prayer life. Our relationship with Jesus is worked out through our relationships with others, and our “story of origin” has a huge impact on those relationships. 

Even more important, the space, place, and willingness to tell my story and hear your story is central to what it means to be a community of faith. Think about how Jesus entered into people’s stories, from the Woman at the Well, to the callings of the disciples, to the people he healed. In this story-sharing process, God moves more deeply into our soul. This means that churches will need to plant new ways to help parents learn to tell their stories of origin in natural, affirming, and safe ways.

Last week, Adam Young helped our 20 4th-Soil Parenting Project leaders to see the power they have to REALLY connect with the faith lives of their parents by engaging their stories of growing up. This can happen in simple ways, not over months of theraputic-like intervention. Instead, we help parents share one small story at a time.  When leaders vulnerably share their own origin stories about the pain and joy of growing up, we communicate a culture that values authenticity. And we help people learn how to be “story bearers” for others by learning to invite—”tell me more.”

When we do this, we also communicate that Jesus is big enough to bear our pain.

Dr. Nancy Going serves as the Director of Research & Resource Development for Vibrant Faith. Nancy lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Art, an Anglican priest, and they have launched two new families from their children.


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