Stories Convey Meaning

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information; more powerful and enduring than any other art form.

People love stories because life is full of adventure and we’re hardwired to learn lessons from observing change in others. Life is messy, so we empathize with characters who have real-life challenges similar to the ones we face. When we listen to a story, the chemicals in our body change, and our mind becomes transfixed.

Stories link one person’s heart to another. Values, beliefs, and norms become intertwined. When this happens, your idea can more readily manifest as reality in their minds.

Tell the story.

Adapted from Resonate, by Nancy Duarte


Listen to Their Story

Every community has a story – a unique story. Every community has a character, a “feel”, and an attitude shaped by its own peculiar events and circumstances.



Does your church want to make an impact on your community in a meaningful way?

Listen to their story first.

Don’t rush in with your plans and dreams and schemes for what you want to accomplish. First, you ask what’s the story? What are the real issues, the real problems, the real needs?

  • What are the unique needs where God has placed us?
  • How are these needs reflected socially, economically, ethnically, environmentally, politically, and religiously?
  • What arena of our community is the furthest from the utopia that God wants to restore?
  • What special opportunities are found within our immediate sphere of influence (within a half-mile)?
  • What burning issues are alive in the public’s eyes and brought to attention by the media?
  • What needs and opportunities do the industries specific to our area create?
  • What is the most significant change in our community in the last decade, and what need does this create?
  • What are the largest community events, and what needs or opportunities do they create?
  • Because of our specific location, what solution could we provide that no other church does?
  • How would we describe the “atmosphere of lostness” in our community?
  • What is the creation story of our particular community, and what insight does this afford?
  • Does the history of our community bring to light any spiritual strongholds?
  • What one positive change in our community would have the most dramatic effect in people’s lives?

He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13

The Story Loop

Once upon a time, I suppose, people sat around and told stories to each other around a cooking fire. The older ones told the younger ones, who told their younger ones. Eventually, one family group passed along their stories to another family group.

Thus, the oral tradition of storytelling was born.

At some point in time, people figured out letters and the materials to write them on. They took the stories that had been told and passed down from generation to generation orally and wrote them as text.

The written story was born.

Much later, people invented devices that could capture the sound of the human voice, store it, and repeat it for others to hear – across the street or around the world. These devices changed shape and form, but they all worked in an analog fashion – capturing sounds for reproduction.

The audio-recorded story was born.

In the last couple of decades, a new way of recording the story emerged: digital. The sound source was recorded by breaking it down and storing it digitally. Not only could the sounds be reproduced, they could be reproduced over and over, without any degradation of quality.

The digital story was born.

Now here we are, in the digital age, texting, tweeting, Skyping, voice calls, emails, etc., all using a digital form of communication.

Sometimes, even when we’re in the same room or under the same roof.

Kinda like sitting around a cooking fire, telling stories…

Facts Are Facts…

…stories are how we learn.

Facts are facts, but stories are who we are, how we learn, and what it all means.

-Alan Webber

Why are stories so much more powerful than plain old facts or boring PowerPoint presentations?

  • Stories are about people
  • Stories are about people doing things
  • Stories create meaning
  • Stories are how we learn
  • Stories have always been at the heart of starting and leading organizations
  • Organizations celebrate their great successes and even their heroic failures through stories

The work of leading a great organization is the work of telling stories.

What story will you tell today?


Part of the BookNotes Series – brief excerpts from books I have read, or am currently reading

Rules of Thumb, by Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company magazine. A list of rules for the new game we’re in today – a complex, fast-changing, and confusing world.