Orality: Storytelling and Millennial Engagement

Mission trip team

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS (ANS – October 4, 2017) — I grew up in the South where sweet tea and gossip on the front porch were anchors. The one thing you can bank on in the south is stories grow with each passing year. Hunting stories, Christmas stories, birthday stories, and the list goes on. Children grow up sitting outside listening to stories from the ‘good ole days’. Think of the song,

Grandpa, tell me about the good ole days. 

Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy

And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday

When the line between right and wrong

Didn’t seem so hazy

Can you relate? Are you with me on the front porch?

Last week I spent three days in Colorado Springs, CO, at the Focus on the Family headquarters for the North America Regional International Orality Network (NARION) Conference. I was the youngest speaker by at least ten years. What an honor. The man who invited me believes in training up young leaders and allowing them to have a voice, pretty incredible. It is also a humbling experience for the leader and the follower.

While attending the NARION Conference we discussed the art of telling great stories from the Bible, and that was fantastic, but here’s what I took away:

Items for travel.

First, this movement speaks to millennials (Sorry! I hate to even use the word!). The method is highly relational and highly effective. Stories are powerful. They allow us to engage a part of our brains that is only engaged with story. By doing so we connect with the person we are speaking with in a new way. The experts using this method all over the world are incredible. It is amazing to hear of stories from around the world where this method is successful. My favorite was the young man I sat with who said their ministry had been using this method for over 10 years and he didn’t even know what to call it.

Second, there were two hundred people at the conference. Each has a different religious philosophy and a different philosophy on how to use orality. Despite all of the differences we were united knowing that Biblical Orality is effective. It is a great tool for your toolbox and crosses all divisive lines. In fact, it crosses so many lines that there isn’t a place where I have not seen it work.

Third, complex networks are complex. If you had asked me to describe a network ten or even five years ago I probably wouldn’t have had a good answer. Google Dictionary says Network is “a group or system of interconnected people or things”. The next word is complex. After some engagement in a city church network and a view of the ION Network, I know this: networks are complex. They take time and energy, but they are well worth it. I met people at the ION Conference who I would have never met otherwise. They are strong leaders who want to be connected to the upcoming generation's leaders. We were also connected because of our interest in the same topic: using this tool to its maximum capacity and training others to use it as well.

I get back from this conference and my mind is spinning. We want more millennial connection, we have to process complex networks, and we spent three days united under One God, One Church, One Body, and One Grand Story. Amazing! First day back at my real job I walked into a small meeting of community-minded young professional leaders. These leaders sit on a board to help bridge young adults to community needs in the city. The leader of the non-profit who envisioned our young adult team spoke of his desire to allow millennials of the city to have a voice. Let’s stop there. This leader is in his sixties and he desires to listen to the younger generation.


Twice in one week I heard senior leaders asking for millennial engagement. I hesitate to even use the millennial term, because it is over-used and quite frankly blown out of proportion. I know this, millennials you are not lacking in care, understanding, or justice. You have amazing talents to offer. And there are non-profits looking for your talent. I am humbled writing this. This is major. We have to glean and take advantage of this opportunity.

Front porch for storytelling.

Now, I have said a lot. Let’s boil this down more simply. If you are 30 or under, we need you to take advantage of this opportunity. Come learn about how to share the Biblical Narrative Orally. Come glean from others' wisdom. Take this opportunity to connect with others outside your regular sphere. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

If you are reading this and are over 35 years old then you need to consider bringing one millennial with you to next year’s ION Conference. Better yet, you need to focus on inviting millennials into your circle. Instead of saying, “Why don’t millennials want to lead?” ask the question, “Why am I not inviting millennials to be a part?” If 100 people from the ION Conference this year did that, we would double our registration for next year’s ION Conference. And, we would gain 100 young leaders in our world.

About the Author

Lauren Linz has a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management and a Master’s of Science in Leadership and Ethics from John Brown University. She is currently joining the Nehemiah Network, a local church network, team overseeing leadership development endeavors. She and her husband Adam have been married for a year and a half.


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