Millennials and Shared Stories
Today’s post is an excerpt from Chris Folmsbee’s latest book, Gladhearted Disciples. As you read this excerpt think about ways in which you and the other church leaders you serve with can create “Do You Remember When” experiences with millennials in your church and community.
I’d much rather hear the words, “do you remember when” as opposed to the words “let me tell you a story.” Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing a good story but I would much rather reflect on a shared experience with a family member, friend, colleague, or parishioner than concentrate on someone else’s story. The words, “do you remember when” imply something much more significant than the words, “let me tell you a story.” “Let me tell you a story” is certainly an invitation into an experience and at some level also an invitation into meaning.1 However, the words, “do you remember when” imply an invitation to reflect on meaning already established though a mutual occurrence or encounter.
A few weeks ago I was speaking at a conference for pastors and church leaders in Atlanta. Several of the friends I went to college with were in attendance. After one of my workshops we went out for dinner. Before long it was midnight, and we were asked to leave the restaurant since the staff was tired of waiting on us and wanted to go home. The conversation continued when we all got back to the hotel lobby. We stayed up until 2:00 a.m. telling, “do you remember when” stories. In the morning my stomach was sore from laughing so hard. My heart, however, was full and felt great because the stories had taken me back to some of the most formative years of my life. Who I was in that very moment was part of how my experience with those friends, even twenties years earlier, had shaped me. I found meaning in those stories, and so did my friends. In fact the reason we spent the time the night before laughing was because it meant something significant to all of us. Stories, especially the ones we share with others, make meaning and give our lives direction. It is the laughter, pain, tears, triumphs, and doubt that we share with others that connect us to humanity and move us to be generous people who are on our way toward deepening our understanding of life.
In his book Tell Me a Story, Daniel Taylor suggests that stories are the currency of human interchange.2 He goes on to say that, “Stories turn mere chronology, one thing after another, into the purposeful action of plot, and thereby into meaning.” I couldn’t agree more. Story, whether telling one or listing to one or living in one, gives us a connection to God, self, others, and the world that few other things, if any, can provide. Stories put us in touch with others because stories are interwoven and we “cannot live our story alone because we are characters in each other’s story.”3
Gladhearted disciples recognize that story is a currency for connection and community. They recognize that stories bring us together and connect us to one another’s world. Gladhearted disciples live by the reality of story and because of that choose to find ways to create “do you remember when” moments that allow people to experience deep, growing, and lasting com- munity. After all, through story we link past, present, and future. Story tells where we are and where we are going as a people, as a church. Our shared stories tell one another that without a doubt there is a place for me, for you, for us.4
Daniel Taylor, Tell Me a Story (St. Paul, MN: Bog Walk Press, 2001).