02 October 2012
I Love to Tell the Story: Use Podcasts to Improve Your Preaching
If you want to keep your preaching fresh but don't have the time or money to attend a big conference, consider using podcasts to spark your imagination and become a better preacher.
At its heart, preaching is storytelling - whether its retelling the Bible stories, the story of what God is up to now in the world, God's people, places, or encounters.
However, storytelling is becoming a bit of a lost art. We have less time these days to sit and weave together tall tails and stories. We are not as steeped in story as we used to be and, I fear, if only for myself, losing something in our proclamation.
Podcasts are a rich resources for modern day storytelling. They are schools for storytelling, if we listen not only what they say but how they say it - the pace, timing, wordsmithing. Best of all, it's free and you can listen from home, on a run, or in the car.
In the last year, I've made it a point to listen to storytelling podcasts, and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my story telling and preaching.
Here are three of my favorite storytelling podcasts:
The Vinyl Cafe
The Vinyl Cafe (podcast, website) is a Canadian radio program broadcast on CBC Radio. Hosted by Stuart McLean, American listeners may find some similarities to Prairie Home Companion, but this is distinctly Canadian. Stuart and the program travel all over Canada, recording live shows, which are a combination of storytelling and music that is downright liturgical.
Over the course of the hour, McLean engages in different types of story telling. He tells the story of the place they are visiting, from the Cabot trail in Nova Scotia to the cuisine on Vancouver Island, capturing the geography and the heart of a people that inhabit it. There is a "story exchange" when he reads listener short stories. Finally, he spins fictional stories of Dave and Sam, a father and son, living in small town Canada.
I appreciate the way McLean captures a culture in both true and fictional stories - just as we aspire to do for communities and congregations.
The Moth podcast (podcast, website) is based in New York, non-profit dedicated to the art of storytelling. As their website says, "It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it" from stories from a NYC police officer on 9/11, Molly Ringwald talking about parenting, to someone shipwrecked. It's one person on a stage in front of an audience recounting real life events.
The Moth captures the nakedness of preaching. For, despite all our robes and surroundings. The preacher is still one person telling a story, hoping to make connections to the stories of others. It reminds me that the way we tell any story - from the dramatic to the mundane - matter - the words we choose, humor, honesty. In the process we discover our selves and what we hold in common. And sometimes it is the mundane that can be the most exceptional.
This American Life
This American Life (podcast, website) is the gold standard of podcasts, ranked #1 on iTunes. It's so popular, listening is just like reading the Sunday paper just to keep up with what everyone else is reading. So influential, This American Life is helping to shape the way we tell stories today - for, indeed, the way we tell or stories change over time, given culture, technology, and media. This American Life has captured and shapes the current form. Hosted by Ira Glass, episodes are often built on a unifying theme, sometimes played out in multiple "acts." Sometimes it is one story for the full hour. They often combine interviews, narrative, or academic studies. Think about it - an entire hour for a story, when we are so used to sound bites, tweets, and texts. It almost feels like a luxury, giving time and space to go deeper, exploring multiple dimensions. What if we took more time to construct and tell our stories?
Here's some great advice on story telling from Ira Glass:
What podcasts do you listen to? How do they influence or improve your work or ministry?