Sharing Your Story
During the BLESS sermon series, we talked about ways to BLESS our neighbors with love instead of trying to fix them. We learned to begin with prayer to seek God's direction first, and then take time to listen to those we're getting know, perhaps while eating together, because sharing a meal is a great way to connect. Next we learned to serve with love, because serving others sacrificially communicates that we care, and we will connect best with those who know we already love them. Often, this level of connection with God's people makes people curious about what leads us to care for them, which means we will find ourselves sharing the story of how God has shown love for us.
One of the greatest difficulties in sharing your story may be in knowing your own story! Some people feel that they have little to share, while others struggle to discern the key moments within a sea of details. The exercises that follow are tools to help you discover your own story, or rather, the story of God in your life. There may be moments of drama, some of comedy, perhaps even of tragedy. In the end, it is a love story – God’s love for you!
The exercises are organized around three key chapters of your life: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. For each of those chapters, there are three suggested exercises. You could do these exercises on your own, but you’d be missing out on something valuable. These exercises are designed to draw you back to re-experience some of your story. However, we seldom truly know our own stories until we share them with someone else. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that when you do these exercises you include the opportunity to share what you’ve done with someone else. After sharing the results of an exercise from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, people often discover that they have created a spiritual life story in three chapters.
Practicing With a Small Group
For a small group exercise, it is probably best to do one chapter (childhood, adolescence, or adulthood) per meeting. Another option might be to have a half-day or 1-day small group retreat. Sometimes, it can be difficult to open up to this kind of experience, especially after a hectic day. A mini-retreat can create a better atmosphere for creativity and connection.
Sample Session (60-90 minutes)
Be sure to have the materials needed. Different exercises might require pens, crayons, markers, paper, writing paper, large sheets of paper, magazines, scissors, etc.. Having many options, even silly ones (like gel pens or construction paper) can give participants the freedom to be more expressive and open.
Have each person choose one of the exercises. Each person can do a different exercise. Spend approximately 20 minutes doing the exercise.
After everyone has a chance to complete the exercise, go around the group and give each person 5-10 minutes to share what they did and how it represents something important to them. After each person shares, give people a few minutes to ask questions or affirm what they see and hear.
Session Closing & Follow-Up
It is always wise to end a session with prayer, whether the exercise is done individually or in groups. Entering into a person’s spiritual story is a holy thing – remember, it is really God’s story; a story of God’s love for you.
Additionally, for some people, opening up the past can also open up past wounds and memories long suppressed. Be prepared for a range of emotional responses.
Finally, it is important to give people a chance to tie all the chapters and scenes into a coherent and compelling story. A great way to follow-up on a retreat or a series of gatherings is to create an opportunity share their lifestories with one another. Here are some ideas:
- In later small group gatherings, one person could share his or her lifestory each week.
- Groups of 2 or 3 could gather on their own time to meet and share.
- Encourage people to share their story with one person outside the group, perhaps with a close friend or family member who is not a believer.