Top 5 Ways to Engage College Students, part 3 of 5

As I have mentioned in previous posts in this series, there are many more ways to engage college students than just the five I am bringing. However, these five ways of engagement have proved themselves over and over again in my ministry on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus.  Each post will consist of one of the top fives ways to engage, so keep checking back!

(Other posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2.)

3. Story

Storytelling is one of the longest proven ways of communication. Homer did so with the Iliad, Jesus did so with parables, and so we must re-engage this long-used form of communication.  When it comes to the engagement of students, telling a good story goes a long way. Many college students sit under teaching every day that may be on an interesting topic, but mostly is rooted in facts or equations. This they can learn, but they cannot fully engage it until they experience it. Storytelling brings teaching by way of an experience. It’s a fantastic way to display a teaching rather than to explain a teaching.

I have found this works best with everyday stories and not always fantastic tales. We can achieve this by using our everyday lives or common narratives to which people can connect. The stories Jesus used, for example, were narratives his audience most likely had experienced before or possibly heard tell of. The stories Homer developed were, in fact, fantastic and over the top, but the common failures of the heroes were tangible to his audience. In his stories, he was not only seeking to tell a good story but to instill in his listeners a lesson to be learned. Jesus used the very same technique.

This generation loves stories, especially the common stories of everyday life. They voraciously (and sometimes addictively) read social media newsfeeds. This is partially because they get a boost of dopamine when they receive a “like” on a post they’ve created, but also they enjoy liking other people’s posts. This is story engagement. Going out of their way to read the narratives of others and then engaging in the narrative. This hunger for story should be exploited so we can teach the truths of Christ. This takes time and effort, but it is an amazing way to teach the principles and lessons of Christ. 

This is also an incredible tool for evangelism, as Youth For Christ has pinpointed. There are three stories going on in every conversation--My story, God’s story, and Their story. If we can teach our students to articulate well their stories and God’s story, as well as engage meaningfully in the story of others, we have a recipe for evangelistic success. We can leverage the stories of the Bible in this manner as well.  There are several narratives within the over all story of God that we can use, as God did to draw people to Himself.

Our lives are narratives that can preach as well. How good is your story? How well is God’s story driving your own story? As we think about these questions we can bring our students along as we can tell stories that they want to join.