Effective Teaching: Using Stories That Connect with Multiple Emotions

Next to the touch of God and truly Biblical exposition, perhaps the key to effective preaching and teaching is supporting primary points with effective illustration. Often, that is through the use of story or narrative.

Such stories can come in the form of a biblical situation, parable, real life story, song, music video, video clip, etc.

As discussed in the post series concerning the Fine M-E-S-S preaching method, the more you are able to appeal to your hearers’ emotions, the more likely they will remember the message and, more importantly, the Biblical text being taught.

Some stories are primarily funny or largely poignant, for instance. And those can be very effective.

However, a story or illustration that appeals to multiple emotions at the same time can be a very powerful teaching tool. Stories that are both dramatic and funny; both sad and hopeful; both poignant and threatening can be highly effective because of the way they hold the listener and open his/her heart to the teaching and, more importantly, the Holy Spirit.

So, as you build your file of sermon illustrations, pay special attention to those items that create multiple emotional connections.

The story of Savannah Hensley, is an example. The five-year old girl from Hancock County Indiana saved her father’s life on January 9, 2010 when she made sure rescue workers could find their home while her father was having a heart attack. As you watch the story – in this case as told on the Bonnie Hunt show – you’ll find yourself experiencing more than one emotion. It isn’t just touching, it’s funny. It isn’t just cute, it’s inspiring.

Or, also on the topic of 9-1-1 calls, there is the profoundly sad story of girlfriend and boyfriend Janelle Hornickel and Michael Wamsley. It was January 4, 2005 and Janelle and Michael got lost in a snowstorm. The problem was that each was high on crystal meth, so when Michael called 9-1-1 he wasn’t able to communicate effectively enough with the operator to be saved. Beyond that, and quoting the ABC piece on the story, “The couple also left their truck, which still had a half-tank of gas, warm clothes and Wamsley’s cell phone. It was minus 10 degrees with the wind chill.”

Police later found both bodies. They had frozen to death.

As you watch the story, in the case below in the form of a public service announcement that was developed based on their story, you, of course, feel sadness, but you may also feel anger at the waste of life, especially when you consider the metaphor of crystal meth to sin, and its similar effect on lives today.

One more example. As you watch It’s A Wonderful Life this Christmas, pay attention to the scenes that appeal to multiple emotions. There are many of them. That’s one reason the movie is such a powerful Christmas lesson. It isn’t just about one feeling, a monolithic view, but a story of both gut-wrenching tragedy and profound joy – a great example of a powerful story that opens hearts.

Ultimately, expect more from your stories and your audience will get more from you.

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