Tell a Story

Friendly Reminder: Tell a Story

By Andy Stanton-Henry

We recently gathered for our second annual QLC Quaker Leadership Conference. In case you missed out, our theme this year was “Stories for the Future.” Together, we explored how we tell the story of the Quaker movement that evokes possibility for the future.

Storytelling is an ancient and sacred practice. Long before Quakers gathered in a circle to listen for the holy whisper, human beings gathered around a fire and told stories. Storytelling was a way for earlier human communities to share knowledge, gather wisdom, and strengthen community. It still is.

I’ve noticed that some Friends get nervous when we talk about storytelling. With our commitment to integrity, some folks feel that “telling a story” comes a little too close to “telling a fib.” And, for some Friends, the act of telling a story that you either experienced or created sounds a little too “fleshly” or manipulative. Some Friends, particularly in the past, have gone to great lengths to make sure their spoken ministry reflects only the Divine Voice and not their own (i.e. singsong).

With these concerns noted, I submit that we should still tell stories.

We should tell more of them.

And we should practice storytelling as a communal spiritual practice.


1. Because stories are powerful. They reach into that deep and ancient part of our soul that knows stories contain the wisdom we need to find Ways Forward. Some of the most meaningful and formative ministry I’ve heard has come through a personal story.

2.Because stories are invitational. The best stories aren’t about glorifying an individual but inviting others into relationship, reflection, and journey. And they often accomplish this invitation by sneaking straight into our heart, bypassing many of our mental barriers.

3.Because stories are spiritual. If we are concerned with channeling the Divine Voice we should remember that storytelling is one of the Divine’s favorite strategies. So much scripture is theological history, spiritual narrative, and parable. We are hard pressed to name a prophet or spiritual teacher who didn’t use story as a primary mode of instruction.

Over the next two weeks, consider how you can incorporate story into your life and leadership. Here are three suggestions:

  • Preaching & Vocal Ministry: When preparing to give spoken ministry, consider if this idea or imperative flows from a personal experience you’ve had. Could this message be told better using a story?
  • Outreach & Evangelism: When a visitor comes to worship or a new acquaintance asks about Quakerism, consider a story that might help demonstrate Quaker values and convictions. Is there a story, whether from Quaker history or your meeting or your organization, that could narrate the Quaker message before jumping to abstract principles and testimonies.
  • Pastoral Care: When meeting with a Friend to offer care and companionship, consider how you can invite and honor their story. Before jumping to guidance or prayer, how can you make room for them to tell a story that rises from (and reveals) their condition.