The Power of Story in Sunday School

Two things happened just yesterday that reminded me of the powerful nature of stories in a classroom. The first one happened around 5 PM when I led a teacher training class at my church. I took a moment to share a personal story of a young man I encountered in Austin, Texas. His name was Tyler, and he was a waiter at a Bennigan’s restaurant. As I told the story of how God orchestrated our meeting, and the incredible events that surrounded that encounger, I saw tears on the faces of several of the class members. I pressed on, telling how God moved me to give this young waiter a $100 bill to replace the money he’d lost after a previous customer paid him in cash (he dropped it on the floor and assumed that someone else picked it up…they never turned it in). Little did I know that this one simple act would lead Tyler back into a relationship with God. He told me later that his faith in God and church had been shattered when a preacher encouraged one of his parents to leave the other; he blamed God and preachers for the breakup of his home. But the act of giving Tyler a $100 bill, no strings attached, to help him out of a tight spot, would be used by God to, in Tyler’s words, “restore my faith in God and preachers.” I shared with the class how Tyler would later drive from Austin, TX., to my church in the Dallas area to worship with us one Sunday morning…he and his family. As I told my class on Sunday night, “it was the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me in ministry.” The story of Tyler drew the class members into a real situation I’d encountered, and for a moment they all lived vicariously through me.

The second reminder of the power of stories came when I returned home from church that night. My wife and I watched a documentary on the 911 tragedy that took place ten years ago in New York. The particular program we watched chronicled the lives of a group of firefighters, in particular a rookie firefighter, in the days that led up to the attack on the World Trade Center. We were captivated by the telling of his story, and that of his firefighting friends. Two hours quickly passed, and didn’t feel like two hours. I wondered why this was the case, and then I realized I’d become caught up in the story, almost feeling like I knew this rookie firefighter and the men of the station at which he served.

In Transformational Class, David Francis reminded us there is power in story. “I believe there are three components present in a group where people can experience a sense of community: 1) Scripture…(2) Stories are the vehicle for effective learning and for building community. 3) Shepherding

David further reminded his readers that “Everybody has a story…no one’s story is complete…until it has intersected with God’s story…which happens best in a community being enriched by the stories of others.” (Transformational Class, chapter 6)

As you prepare to teach the Bible, perhaps even next Sunday, incorporate a story or two into your lesson. Recruit someone in the class to share their story about a particular topic that ties to the lesson. Allow the Lord to use stories to help people connect both with Him and His Word.

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