I love using stories in my messages. I usually “hook” them (I use the Hook-Book-Look-Took method) with a personal story from my own life…preferably one from when I was a teenager. I prefer my own stories and not stories and illustrations from books or websites because they allow me to do two things.

First, it helps the kids feel like they know me personally. We may never have the opportunity to sit down and talk together but this let’s them into my life. They know my history. They know my joys and struggles. They know my siblings and parents. They know my successes and failures. And, as a youth pastor of a growing youth ministry where I can’t have personal relationships with each student, my story-telling is a great way to foster the sense that they know me.

Second, it allows me to be more creative with the story telling. My favorite method of storytelling is to hook them into the story with the first sentence. I speak it as if I’m currently in the critical moment of the story. If I want to tell about how I got into trouble with my parents for something, I’ll start by shouting, “She caught me! Ughhh! I can’t believe it! I worked so hard to cover it up! But she caught me anyway!” These will be the first words out of my mouth. It catches their attention. It makes them wonder what I’m talking about. It creates questions in their minds like “why?” “what did you do?” “who is she?”. Now they’re hooked and totally quiet (whether it’s 20 or 200). Then I’d go on to explain the story from the beginning. However, I often like to try to leave one peace of the story hanging that leaves a question in their minds like “What happened in the end?” or “What’d they do to you?” This leaves room for the opportunity to come back around to it in my final application. As another example, if I want to tell about the first time I kissed a girl, I might start with “My knees were totally shaking! My cheeks were red hot! I couldn’t believe what was about to happen! [pause for dramatic effect] She closed her eyes. [pause] I closed mine. [pause] Leaned in [spoken slowly] and …..” Haha! They’re definitely hooked now. They might even complete the sentence. Then I go on and continue creatively telling the story highlighting my emotions, my thought process, and all the steps leading up to the moment. But I might leave the actual moment of the kiss and how it ended for the final application of the message.

Sure, it takes some time and work to dig through my memory archives in search of a moment that relates to a topic or teaching point. It sometimes takes a whole week to remember one. But, when I find it, it’s great. They love it. But, of course, it’s not just for the sake of telling a good story or making the kids laugh. There’s a purpose for it. It’s all for the sake of pulling them into the story. Once they’re in the story…I’ve got them…and can bring them to the Word (Book) and my teaching points (Look) with additional stories and illustrations (again all told or shared with creativity). Finally, I get to finish “the rest of the story” and use it in my moment of application (Took).

I think kids like it when I preach to them…especially when it’s creative and filled with stories that help them get to know me better.

So I say keep preaching…but do it with stories.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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