Storytelling: Are You Curious?

Storytelling: Are You Curious?


Storytelling: Are You Curious?

It’s almost here! The live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” comes out next weekend to a theater near you. If you watch TV (and admit it NPR person, you do) there has been a non-stop commercial-fest about this movie. And, I can hardly wait to see it. The first reviews sound pretty good. What a story it is! There’s a literal beast that’s locked up in a dark castle – where teapots and candelabras talk – and everyone (except for a few miscreants) root for the fair maiden to fall for him. OK, it’s weird when you write it down like that but, who cares? Love conquers all, and the guy’s actually not so bad looking once he shaves.
Beastly love aside, a couple of weeks ago I had the chance to attend Seattle University’s “Search for Meaning Festival.” This was a one-day “I love books” conference. Keynote speakers and over 50 workshops by published authors filled the day. Two people I had the chance to hear were Margot Lee Shetterly (Hidden Figures fame) and Anthony Doerr (Pulitzer Prize winner for All the Light We Cannot See).
Shetterly and Doerr are obviously great storytellers. That’s why their books get read. But why do their stories work? If nothing else...

They are intellectually curious.
Here's the thing: In the church you don't have to choose between intellectual integrity and storytelling. Can I get an "Amen"?
The non-fiction, Hidden Figures and the fiction, All the Light We Cannot See required tremendous research. From oral histories to searching ancient file cabinets, to understanding why history unfolded the way it did to old-fashioned gumshoe sleuthing, these authors scratched way beyond the surface. As a result, they opened our eyes to female African American mathematicians who moved NASA into space (as in Hidden Figures) and to understanding the world of blindness and what it must have been like to be a Hitler Youth (All the Light We Cannot See).
Not everyone will have the time, energy, or resources to do the kind of research that Shetterly and Doerr have done. But, my clergy friends, you have the most incredible opportunity to share stories with a wide audience, not just once in a blue moon (like us mere mortals) but every week…and people will listen.
How does “intellectual curiosity” translate to storytelling in sermons or speeches?
-  First things first: You embrace storytelling. You know that being in front of a group of people is not just an intellectual exercise – you are connecting people to something much deeper and bigger than themselves. Storytelling does that. Fully welcome the opportunity.
-  It’s all in the details. That’s why the books by Shetterly and Doerr have captivated our imaginations (and come to think of it, the Bible’s done a pretty good job of that too). You don’t check your intellect at the door. You want to get the details right – which might take a little time. Add specifics that will help paint a picture and will make it easier for people to relate to the story.
-  It surprises. There’s an “aha” or “I didn't know that” moment when, through your story, you provide an unexpected insight. It can delight or it can challenge. It can make someone cry or produce a hearty laugh. That’s what makes it memorable.
See friends, there’s no need to be afraid of the “beast” of storytelling (sorry, B&theB fans). Be curious. Channel your inner Shetterly or Doerr. Your listeners will be happy you did.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. If you’re looking for a great example of storytelling, she recommends the podcast, “Missing Richard Simmons.” Wow. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at or on Facebook at
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.

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