Harper Horizon, 288 pages | Published October 3, 2023
Carol stood eagerly at the sanctuary door, hoping to exchange a brief word with the pastor. Tears glinting in her eyes, she threw her arms around me: “That story you told about finding meaning in the most mundane tasks? It’s like you saw me doing the dishes and wanted me to know that I matter!”
I preached that sermon over 10 years ago. I don’t recall the Scripture passage for the day, and I doubt Carol does, either. It was the story that spoke to her, and stories often “preach” in a way that theological explanations and readings from lengthy epistles do not. Karen Eber’s The Perfect Story brilliantly demonstrates how to craft memorable stories that change hearts and minds.
Eber, a leadership consultant, suggests we “start with the audience,” and her guiding question, “(w)hat do you want your audience to know, think, feel, or do?” is an ideal starting point for sermon writing. Her writing is accessible – chock full of engaging stories from her varied clients – and practical, as she explains how each story was constructed and how you can do the same.
The Perfect Story is an easy read; the challenge, of course, is in applying Eber’s wisdom. She makes it easy, concluding each chapter with a brief summary and even providing checklists (which I immediately printed and filed under “sermon prep”). Her work is a great resource for pastors eager to enliven Sunday’s sermon, business leaders struggling to make data relevant for their teams or even for those anxious about offering a toast at the next wedding.
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