Stories are a compelling component of effective communication. Consider the following.

For the first time, while sitting together on that bench in the park, forgiveness flowed as restoration became a reality.

Charles and his son, Alan, have always struggled in their relationship. From the day Alan was born, Charles felt this tremendous increase in responsibility. He wanted to provide his wife, Charlette, and their precious newborn baby boy at a level where comfort would saturate their home. So, Charles worked long and hard hours at his office downtown. By the time he got home, little Alan was usually starting to wind down for the evening, or else he was already asleep. As Charles gazed upon his sleepy little boy, a sense of regret overcame him as he contemplated the great void of connection that was occurring. Sure, he was providing at a high level, but at what cost?

Nevertheless, Charles was rarely present over the formidable years of Alan’s life. He missed baseball games, play performances, and even an occasional birthday celebration, as the more success he had at the office, the more hours his work required. Eventually, as Alan was now an older teen and nearing his college years, with their relationship being tied loosely only by the blood that flowed through their veins, the inevitable eruption occurred. Alan felt unloved and unimportant to his father, and Charles was exhausted, having poured all his energy into providing for Charlette and Alan. With emotions laid bare, they both said very hurtful things to one another, further severing their relationship. Alan left with a slam of the door, vowing never to return. As uncontrollable tears streamed down her cheeks, Charlette ran after Alan, and Charles crumbled into a chair, the comfortable one he had spent so much time working to provide.

Now, as they sit together on that bench in the park, with the one person who had continued to tie them together through the years deceased, they were total strangers cast together to walk a journey of grief. The years had taken so much from both; however, there was still something lingering that each wanted to relieve and mend in the depths of their souls. Charles spoke up and tenderly asked Alan to hear him out. He began to tell the story of a miner who became trapped in a mine. With the single entrance of the mine being closed off, the darkness simply surrounded and consumed him. Even though he heard other voices of the workers who had suffered along with him, not being able to see was terrifying. He struggled through the dark because he desperately wanted to survive and return to his family. He tried to help those around him; however, the darkness made it almost impossible. Then it occurred. He stumbled upon a lamp, and the way to recovery and survival became visible with its light.

As Alan listened to his father, with confusion in his eyes, he asked about the significance of this tale. With tears in his eyes, Charles tenderly and sincerely replied, “I was that miner.” He explained how he had allowed himself to be consumed with providing for his family and that he became consumed by the darkness. He didn’t know it, but he was terrified as he wandered aimlessly, lost in the cave. He then explained how, after Alan left that day, he and Charlette sought help. They turned to a minister who showed them from the Bible that confusion and destruction were assured unless Jesus was their central pursuit. The more they studied the Bible, the more they began to see where they had been aimless in their raising of Alan and their marriage. Finally, after one of the studies, just as the miner was rescued only after finding the light, they obeyed the gospel, repented, and were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

As Alan listened, he began to see something in his aged father that he had never seen before. He saw care and concern. He sensed a change had occurred, and the brokenness of his father rose to the top of the bank as he asked Alan to forgive him for making him feel as if he were unimportant and unloved. In a way they had never experienced before, a connection was made, and for the first time in years, father and son embraced one another as the healing and mending began.

For the first time, while sitting together on that bench in the park, forgiveness flowed as restoration became a reality.

As you craft your lessons, most of your time will and should be spent studying God’s Word. However, as you consider relaying the message you’ve spent hours crafting to an audience, I want to encourage you not to be stingy on your application preparation, for it’s in this portion of the lesson that you will have the opportunity to help the message that sticks in the hearts and minds of the listeners. Storytelling can serve you well in this.

Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, a member of the American Psychological Warfare Division during World War II, revealed that what we relay in the form of facts and memorable information is 22 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story. The reason is that stories allow for a connection between the person and the facts that simply telling the facts often fails to accomplish. In an article from Insight Strategic Communications entitled “The Power of Storytelling in Internal Communications,” the author points out the importance of storytelling in communications:

“Neuroscientists have discovered that chemical changes occur in the human brain when we experience a good story. Oxytocin, that feel-good chemical that subtly and powerfully influences people to not only pay attention but to WANT to cooperate, is released when we are emotionally engaged by the power of stories.”

In other words, just as the story of the miner that Charles told to Alan helped effectively communicate the great challenge and change that had occurred in the life of Charles, the story you may tell in the Application portion of your lesson will allow the listener to have a chemical release of Oxytocin that will potentially influence them to not simply hear the message you’ve delivered from God’s Word but will persuade them to do something with the message as they are drawn to a deeper level of connectedness with the message.

Joe Wells
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Joe Wells holds an earned B.S. degree in Science along with a completion certificate from the Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies and a Masters of Ministry degree from Freed Hardeman University. Joe travels the country as a frequent speaker for youth and family events, men’s days, as well as gospel meetings. He is the co-founder of Kaio Publications, publishers of the Family Devotional series as well as the Finer Grounds Bible Study series for women. Joe is also the author of the book Complete: Becoming the Man God Purposes You to Be and Game Plan: Developing a Spiritually Winning Strategy for Adults and Teens in Today’s Culture. Along with this, he and Erin are the co-host of The Hey Joe Show, a podcast designed to challenge and strengthen families and teens across America. Joe has served God in a public way since 2000 in the capacity of youth minister and gospel preacher, helping people make the connection with the Word of God and encouraging them to be transformed for Christ. He is blessed to the husband to the former Erin O’Hara, and they are the proud parents of four beautiful children: Colton, Michala, Camden, and Bennett.