Combining the Great Commission mandate with 2 Timothy discipleship instructions is discipling disciplers! This is the heart of Simply The Story (STS). We teach believers how to study the Bible and how to easily share accurate stories and lead discussions using questions. But we also teach these believers how to train others.
Much is being written and said about the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of short-term mission (STM) trips:
- Whether or not the in-country hosts of the teams receive lasting value.
- Whether the cost in the host’s lost work-time and energy is offset by the ministering of the team.
- Whether there is measurable spiritual impact on the lives of the team members.
All those value-received questions are a matter of debate.
Our experience is this: When short-term mission-teams trained in Simply the Story train national believers to use the STS style of preparing and sharing story, the effectiveness value received in all three of the above areas is very high.
We have trained people in workshops who were as young as 13-years old and as old as 70, to prepare them to go on a short term mission trip. Sometimes after only one workshop, we either had STS instructors lead these people on an STM trip overseas, or they traveled abroad with some friends or their church to minister. These newly-trained storytellers continue to report higher effectiveness in ministry than they have ever before experienced in their lives!
To a person, those teams our STS staff have grained, who then went on to use their new STS skills in other countries, reported positive, lasting, personal, spiritual impact from having learned STS. Ater returning, the teams also reported that using STS made their trips the successes for which they prayed. Additionally, they saw the results of blessings and long-term good impact on those who they trained.
Results and Testimonies From Short Term Mission Trips
My co-worker and I had planned to use our newly acquired STS skill on our short term trip to Guatemala. A few weeks later we arrived in Guatemala and right away we met a woman who had been trained in the use of story. Excitedly we shared how we planned to use STS storytelling during our week.
She flat out told us it would not work! She said Guatemalans are not encouraged to think for themselves. Those who do go to school are simply told to memorize facts/information and repeat it back to pass the class. She told us Guatemalans would never respond to questions and that we needed to come up with something different for our ministry time. Because she had been in ministry in Guatemala for years, I walked away very discouraged, and to be honest, I didn't know what to do! Storytelling was all I had planned! I did not have a Plan B!
The two of us “storytelling missionaries” met later that night, after all the others had gone to bed, to talk about what to do. I expressed to my co-worker my discouragement and confusion. I also said, “I could not imagine that the STS trainers have not come across this dynamic in other cultures, and if it was true that people would not respond to questions, surely someone would have talked about that downside during our training time in CA.”
I told her I believed we needed to proceed as planned, and that I wanted to find out for myself whether or not people would respond to questions. I simply was not willing to take the word of just that one woman. We moved ahead as planned . . . with amazing results! In every setting, people responded to the questions with enthusiasm.
I returned home Monday night from Guatemala. God was clearly at work during our time there. We used storytelling at the school on the edge of the garbage dump in Guatemala City. We told Jesus & The Little Children at the orphanage near Sumpango (same story as school), and at the new church plant in Sumpango. The church held special services three evenings in a row. Two different people from our team shared their testimonies each night prior to doing the story. We told a different story each night, using Silver & Gold, Prodigal Son, and the Lost Sheep stories.
Over the three nights, 6 people accepted Christ: 4 adults and 2 kids! They all come out of the Mayan religion which is witchcraft, occult, and ancestor worship. Our driver, Jorge, was one who accepted Christ! He had been our driver in August, so we already had a relationship established with him.
What makes his story so special is that 2 months earlier, Pastor Manuel had talked with him about accepting Christ. Jorge had said "no." He simply did not have interest. Tuesday night, after hearing Sam's testimony and the Prodigal Son story, Jorge did not hesitate to accept Christ when Pastor Manuel explained salvation to the group! Jorge is 26 years old and married with 2 little boys, so I am excited for the ripple effects his decision for Christ will have, even on his family!
We made home visits in the afternoons, and in two different homes I had the opportunity to tell a story. In one home, a little 5 year old boy was born without his left arm. I told Silver & Gold--the man who was lame from his mother's womb.
Pastor Manuel told me Thursday night, “In my 40+ years in ministry, I have never seen such a simple, yet effective method of presenting God's Word. I am very impressed.” And the next day in his teaching time, Pastor Manuel started incorporating questions . . . not just preaching!! He also told us, “The storytelling/question method makes my people feel very honored and respected. For the first time in their lives, someone encouraged them to think for themselves and cared about what they thought!”
I am tentatively planning to return to Guatemala again, so I'm very excited to do more storytelling with them! Thanks for investing in my life; I greatly appreciate you!
USA Based Christian
"People Stopped Coming"
I have been training and leading short-term mission teams to various places in the world for 22 years. We would plant churches by using music, evangelistic mimes, evangelism techniques, testimonies and Bible teaching.
It would draw a crowd but never did I hear people say that they heard God speak to them through what they heard. Most people stopped coming after the team left because their interest was superficial.
What I've seen happen when our teams used STS Bible storytelling, and followed with inductive questions about the story and God, is that people had their eyes opened to who the God of the Bible is and were drawn to Him Hy his character as revealed in the stories.
Some comment that God speaks to them personally through the stories and changes their lives. Lasting fruit in the form of growing disciples is the result.
India Triple Growth
Eleven attendees on a team, led by one experienced STS instructor, traveled to India on a short-term mission trip. Everyone on the team had only attended one STS workshop. During two-weeks time, they led multiple workshops, back to back. These workshops were translated from English into several Indian languages. Most of the Indian attendees were leaders from a growing church with over 11,000 members that works mostly in the slums.
Within three months the Indian leader of this large church reported to us, "We have changed over completely to using story, STS style. On Sunday we present a story to our leaders in our worship service. Then, during the week, the leaders use the same story in the cell church they each lead in the slums.
"We have tripled our growth rate. And it is not just more people being saved and added to the church. We are seeing more new leaders stepping out and establishing cell churches. So STS has added members and leaders!"
Japan: Starting to Respond
I appreciate so much that you had the first STS seminar ever in Japan at our church. It was very nice that I had joyful conversation with you two, Andrea and Yaeko.
”This week Pastor Ueda of this church used STS way of delivering message at the service. I am always using STS way.
Even though it's still a little hard to do at the services, but every time when I give message from Bible, I don't look at the Bible. I ask some questions also when I do, and the people are starting to respond better. My way of delivering message and preparing for the message has been changing. There usually is a small hesitation about changing at this age, but I don't want to stick to old ways, so I am enjoying this way very much now.
People are hoping that you will have another seminar like this one again in Japan.
Japan: Zaccheaus Story … One Lady Accepted The Lord.
In our church, since July, twice a month, we are continually studying the Bible STS way mainly with the people who attended the STS workshop this past summer. Twelve people have been attending.
I’ve told Martha Mary my STS way in church last weekend during conference, both Saturday and Sunday. At dinner, I told the visiting STS staff and some of our Japanese leaders that four people received Jesus. When I said this, all of the Japanese were so amazed. They exclaimed, “Ohhhhh aahhh.” These are big numbers for Japan!
There’s a lady here who heard me speak a few months ago. She’s been doing stories since then. She did Zaccheaus story and one lady accepted the Lord. I even heard that one lady told the Zaccheaus story to a non-believer who then told that story to another non-believer who accepted Jesus.
Yoshi shared the One Leper story last night to a college aged youth group getting together to play the WII. Yoshi shared this morning that everyone liked it. He was amazed that, even after 40 minutes, people were not bored and didn’t go play the WII. A new believer in the group mentioned how much he enjoyed the story too. Yoshi spent time focusing on the leper’s disobedience. I’m excited and curious to hear what happens after this.”
Malawi: Who Would Have Thought?
A very quiet lady came to our California STS. Her husband is the mission team leader at her church. She came to learn about STS for others. "I am not an up-front kind of person." The she traveled with her church team in Malawi. She wrote ...
"We used the God's Story solar player to fill in when we had a crowd and the translators were late. So many gathered that we started using a second player to make another group, and then another. What a good outreach. So attentive.
"We used the STS stories of Martha and Mary, Good Samaritan, Jars of Oil and Jarius Daughter. We used skits for the Good Samaritan and Jars of Oil. It was easy to adjust to the location-inside a small church or under the trees."
She does not mention in her letter this wonderful information ... that she was the one telling the stories!
Philippines: Open a Training Center Using STS
“Hi bro Tony what a wonderfully that our God bless us and allow us that we can meet. by the way when I go up in the mountain tribes the tribes worker are so glad when I shared the wisdom that I've got from STS method. they were 16-workers from different churches in the Tribes
“I believe that God has me to open a training center using STS method also in my curriculum one year program please pray for me that the Lord bless me more wisdom and knowledge to go on in this calling.
Pastor, E. B."
See more on short-term mission trips on "Mountain Top Mission Trips" on the Home Page Pick Your Spot .