I don't claim to be a great storyteller, but I am the son of one. My 86-year-old father honed his story-telling skills in the finest school in America: the Appalachian Mountains. Below I list the tips I've picked up from him and other great storytellers I've had the privilege of listening to throughout the years. Storytelling is a vital component of good teaching and preaching. I hope these guidelines will improve your teaching as much as they have mine.

1. Never introduce a story by telling your audience how they should feel: "This story is so funny" or "You're going to love this …" It puts artificial pressure on your audience to react a certain way. Besides, if you tell the story well, it should have the desired effect.

2. Never end with the equivalent of "So the moral to the story is …" If the point is not self evident, I've got bad news—it's not a good story.

3. If your story involves some area of expertise, humbly concede your lack of knowledge. If you do your audience will be more forgiving of any unintentional misstatements. Say "I'm certainly no authority on string theory, but as I understand it …" as opposed to "This is the way string works …" Or say "I've never been to Rome, but people who have been there tell me …" as opposed to "Rome's Eiffel Tower is simply stunning …"

4. Embellishments and superlatives become tiresome: "I've never been so scared in my life!"; "It was the most awesome moment!" Remember: if everything has emphasis, nothing has emphasis.

5. Spontaneity is overrated. Practice telling your story, aloud if possible. As you ...

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Gospel  |  Humor  |  Sermon Preparation  |  Teaching
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