Reflecting on Keith’s service last Sunday about telling our story; I felt it might be helpful to share some of the things I’ve learned over the last decade of sharing parts of my story or testimony.
I have come to believe that a healthy church family is a training ground to learn and place to practice vulnerability. Learning to share your story in a church setting, be it in a home/study group, a short talk on Sunday, or even through writing a short reflection piece for the church email, can help you to get more comfortable with sharing your story outside of church. It can prepare you to talk about your own hardships and failures when you discover those around you struggling.
These tips should help you if you intend to share through a prepared writing or giving a talk:
- Pick a theme, a message that you want to communicate. What I mean by this is work from an event in your life and share how Jesus walked with you and/or God provided for you during that time.
- Keep focused on what your theme or message is and tell a few short, appropriate personal stories to communicate that message. Keith has modeled a good way of sharing personal stories with a message during many of his sermons.
- Back your message up with scripture. I try to find a scripture passage or two that affirms the message that I am sharing. If I am talking about God’s provision, I find a scripture where God is being praised and thanked for providing.
- Have a trusted Christian friend read or listen to you before you share. This serves many purposes, mainly it helps you carry out edits and address issues like accuracy. It also can help you get more comfortable if you are sharing your story through speech.
- Be willing to let God take you in a different direction than you had planned. If you feel the prompting of The Spirit to share a different story or scripture or even a completely different theme/topic, be open to being flexible. Your ability and willingness to change as prompted might speak into someone’s life and bring them peace in a troubled time.
If you are looking for ways to share your story in a more conversational setting, I’ve found the following things helpful:
- Listen first, then respond. If you are looking to encourage someone through a hard time by sharing some of your story, you have to listen to what they are going through first.
- If someone isn’t willing to talk first, be willing to be a bit vulnerable and share something with them first. I like to be gentle with this option, if I know it has something to do with work I might say something like “I don’t know what you are going through exactly but I can empathize on some level. This one time at a job I used to have…”
- Try to stay away from gossiping or complaining. It is difficult to communicate God’s love and hope in such a negative conversation. When you do try to add it into such a conversation, I have found that it comes across as ‘preachy’ or unauthentic.
- Try to stay away from a conversation of ‘one up man-ship’ type of comparison. I’ve actually had a conversation turn into something like a ‘who has been forgiven the bigger sins’ competition. I can tell you that God was not glorified through this conversation.
- Be prepared for nothing to come of your sharing. Not every act of sharing will lead to an amazing revival in or an instant salvation of those you share with. This is okay. You are doing God’s work by sharing how good He has been to you. Like the farmer in Matthew 13 you are sewing seeds, but you don’t control the condition of the soil in the person you are sharing with.
No matter which way you choose to share your story, it is always good to pray that God will bless what you share about your experience of Him. You can pray before, during, or after sharing. You can pray with the person you share with or quietly pray over them later. Think of praying like watering the seeds you have just sewn.
Like sleeping on an old mattress where you are always aware of the springs through the worn-down padding, the vulnerability you experience through regular sharing is not particularly comfortable; to my experience, it never gets comfortable. I have come to believe that that regularly being vulnerable is as essential as breathing. Brené Brown is a ‘researcher-storyteller’/shame & vulnerability researcher who in her TED talks and her books addresses the issue of vulnerability, alongside topics like shame and dehumanization. If you are looking to start learning how to be a bit more vulnerable or to feel more confident in learning to accept yourself, I would recommend looking Brené up, particularly her book “Braving the Wilderness”. I have included links to two of her TED talks below with a warning that they contain a few swear words.
“Vulnerability is not weakness; it is pure courage.” – Brené Brown
TED Talks by Brené Brown
The Power of Vulnerability – https://youtu.be/iCvmsMzlF7o
Listening to Shame – https://youtu.be/psN1DORYYV0