The Power of Story

by Kristen Krueger, PhD – LEAD Consultant

When you support LEAD on Giving Tuesday and in your end-of-year giving, you help create and sustain the work of intentionally growing young leaders who are the very best of what our church has to offer.

I am a historian who specializes in the history of girlhood. I’ve studied young women and activism across the 20th century and am now raising two little girls of my own. Perhaps because of those things, people often ask me “how do we get young people to care about faith communities?” or “how do we teach young people to lead?” I believe the answer lies in the power of intentional storytelling.

Intentional storytelling is bigger than just sharing a personal experience. While that is a valuable tool, intentional storytelling has three key elements that shape young leaders.

  • First, the story must be shared authentically, including why this issue or cause matters personally and globally.
  • Second, the story should include an invitation to join in the work of the cause, alongside those who are already doing the work.
  • Third, the story must be passed on and made their own, giving leadership to young people.

By telling stories that matter, inviting young leaders into partnership, and finally moving from a leading role to a mentoring role, we can see a clear path to growing young leaders. History shows us that when we do these things well, young people emerge as leaders and world-changers.

If we can harness the power of intentional storytelling to shape the lives of young leaders, we will see the power of young people to change the world for good.  Join LEAD in growing young leaders!

ELCA Youth Gathering – intentional storytelling in practice

This summer 32,000 young people came to the city of Houston for the ELCA Youth Gathering. The students were invited to collect books to donate to local literacy campaigns. They arrived with piles of books ready to share with Houston’s children and engaged in an intentional storytelling project shaped by LEAD staff, using proven models from 25 years of experience with Camp Hope.

  • First, they heard the authentic story about why literacy matters. They heard from the partners who would receive the books, including LEAD partner Pastor Deb Grant whose church’s community library was destroyed in Hurricane Harvey.
  • Next, they took action, packing the books into boxes, sending the books into the city, and hosting free book fairs. In total over 40,000 books made their way into the homes of Houston’s children in the span of three days.
  • The last step was for the students to learn about advocacy and how they can support literacy campaigns in their own cities. Through the power of intentional story telling we watched the student leaders who served in Houston adopt justice issues as their own.

Perhaps the hardest part of intentional storytelling is the idea that we need to step back and let young leaders make the movement their own. I want to be very clear that I do not mean that experience and wisdom should step out of the movement. That would be a significant loss.

Instead, I believe in striking a delicate balance of supporting young leaders without taking over their work. This work means walking alongside them, sharing, mentoring, supporting, and continuing to invite new people in to the story we are writing together. This is where the work of LEAD is so important.

In creating resources, coaching congregational leaders, and building programs like Camp Hope Ministries, LEAD helps churches accompany young leaders as they practice intentional storytelling together.

Historians aren’t supposed to comment on the present or the future—it’s not our area of expertise after all. But I believe we are living in a moment of great change.


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