Storytelling in a distracted world
February 15, 2022 / By Jee Hae Song
I will tell you a story. A few months ago, I was contacted by an independent reporter in Syracuse, NY, who wished to write an article about me. He was doing profiling of Asian Americans, as he was Asian American himself, and believed that telling stories was transformational. I said yes, and after several interviews of myself and people around me, he came up with a beautiful story about me. It was published in the Post Standard newspaper.
Stories are transformational. When we hear other people’s stories, we do not only learn new things, but are enlightened, confirmed, and/or challenged.
Storytelling has benefit for the teller as well. Storytelling enables the teller to translate abstraction into everyday language that is grounded in experience.
I was very surprised to see the impact of my story. I found people reposted the story on their social media because it was enlightening. It was both a proud and humbling moment for me. It was also beneficial to me as a storyteller because it helped me to verbalize my beliefs, my life, and my passion in an approachable way.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us many challenges. Among them all, the biggest challenge for Christian communities was isolation. For months, we were locked in our own homes, unable to have in-person events, unable to have any real human interactions.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I tried to mend this situation by replacing traditional ways of communicating with new digital methods which resulted in livestreamed Sunday service, Zoom Bible studies and prayer meetings, and weekly emails to congregants.
We first attempted these things so that we could continue what we’d been doing. But the lesson we learned is the importance of communication. These new methods should not be just a replacement for the old but should give birth to new ways to tell and listen to stories.
The Church has a mission—making disciples for the transformation of the world. That’s the basic that doesn’t change. On the flip side, the world changes and so our mission should take on new flesh by finding new ways to apply those basics to an ever-changing world. So, church must be able to discern what is constant and what is changing.
To accommodate both, we need a strategy that binds and transforms. That’s where storytelling comes in. Storytelling is something that is constant. Storytelling has been done since the time of the patriarchs to Jesus to Paul, from the early church to post-modern church. We’ve been talking about God’s salvation story and stories of our changed lives. Under that story, we are a church.
At the same time, storytelling is transformational. Storytelling can be easily adapted to new modes of communication. Especially in such a disconnected world, stories can help us to connect.
Stories have power. Stories are transformational and binding. In such a time as this, full of uncertainty, anxiety, and conflict, I believe storytelling is very meaningful way of doing the mission.