Monday, January 11, 2010

Novelist Clyde Edgerton on the importance of Narrative in Ministry and Leadership

A fascinating piece just up from Duke Divinity's Faith and Leadership on the importance of narrative within ministry and its potential import for leaders across the board.

Excerpt Below // Full Article Here

Clyde Edgerton spoke with Faith & Leadership about storytelling and imagination, teaching and preaching, how story-telling assumes uncertainty, as well as about the fascination of relationships that continue to inspire his own writing.

Edgerton, who teaches at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, has been a Guggenheim Fellow and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Three of his novels have been made into movies and five have been listed as New York Times Notable Books. The plot of his first novel, “Raney,” revolves around the marriage of a Free Will Baptist and an Episcopalian. His latest book is “The Bible Salesman,” about the adventures of a Bible salesman and a car thief.

Edgerton grew up in a family with 23 aunts and uncles and was inspired to be a writer after hearing Eudora Welty read “Why I Live at the P.O.” What he heard in that story was the beauty and simplicity of the particular details that create relationships between people. His nine novels are filled with this kind of Southern storytelling.

Q: How should Christian leaders approach storytelling?

I think they should look at the parables of Jesus.

Q: Why?

Because the parables of Jesus are fascinating in that they often talk around a subject. They can be interpreted in different ways sometimes. And they usually are not telling you what to do or not to do.

Leaders tend to think that that’s their job to tell people what to do and what not to do. And you would think, if we look to someone like Jesus as a leader, there clearly are places where he tells you what to do and what not to do, but there clearly are places where he illustrates with a story. So I think illustrating with a story can engage.

Storytelling assumes uncertainty. Storytelling assumes that the other person is involved. When you tell a story you’re using your experience -- when you’re telling a story that you made up -- your experience, your observation, what you know about and you’re using your imagination. And when you tell that story, it lands on another human being who has his or her own experience, his or her own observation and knowledge and his or her own imagination. So it might not be the same story that left your mouth. And if you recognize that, life is much more exciting.

And I think that’s one of the truths about the parables of Jesus. They land on different sets of imaginations. So leading through a story recognizes right away that the way we are designed and made up is variable from one to the other. So, to order proclamations and directions may not set well and may not be as effective as storytelling.

But storytelling assumes story listening. By that I mean when I deliver my story, that might not be the end of it. Why should I not have a story told back to me and in doing so find out that my story did not work the way I had anticipated it? And thus I need to tell another story. Where I’m coming from, two-way communication is helpful in leadership.

No comments:

Post a Comment