4 guidelines for sharing your faith story well

When you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to explain your own God story to someone, chances are you’ve already done the hard work of building trust and have earned the right to share the gospel message. And remember, your relational investment in the person you are about to share with makes it much more likely that they’ll be willing to listen to you and will warmly receive what you have to say.

We don’t get many chances for this type of high-trust interaction–it’s a privilege when we’ve got them–so you’ll want to share your story well.

The following four simple guidelines are adapted from Willow Creek Church pastor Bill Hybels‘ sermons and his book Just Walk Across the Room:

Be brief
Try to tell your story in less than two to three minutes. This may seem short to you, but it will feel like a long time to your listener. With regard to almost any kind of communication, it’s almost always best to leave the audience wanting more rather than wishing you had never begun to talk in the first place. If they want to know more, they’ll ask their own questions. And if they do, indeed, ask some, keep that exchange much more like a dialogue than a monologue, too. Let them feel like they have some control in determining the length of the conversation.

Be clear
People usually don’t have the tolerance or interest to make sense of things that might have great meaning to you but are hard for them to understand. You can’t download your entire faith experience in a short period of time. Be selective. Hopefully, this is only the first of many spiritual conversations.

Use common language
Practice telling your story in such a way that it can be understood both by Christians and by people who believe differently. Be careful of terms not typically heard outside of a church context. If you feel there’s no way around using such words, then casually define them within the conversation. (For example: “Then I realized that my problem was sin–I did wrong and selfish things all the time in a way I couldn’t change on my own.”)

Be humble
All too often Christians can sound superior when they share their stories. Avoid criticizing the church, organizations, or other people. It’s also probably best not to even mention church denominations in your story–these divisions are even complicated for mature believers to wrap their minds around! Bottom line? Christians have been given the grace to understand that they are sinners in need of someone to save them, which means they humbly recognize a continuous need for God. This understanding should produce a healthy humility in us as we interact with anyone.

If you are willing to share what God has done in your life, you can trust that He will orchestrate a time and place for a conversation. Learn to listen for a prompting of the Holy Spirit–and you’ll be able to discern when it’s appropriate to share your faith story.