I know I’m not the only one who hears about “the call to evangelize the world” with something akin to dread, horror, and fear.
Because you know what? I have my hands full already.
Yeah, I have a passion for this. Yeah, I care. I care A LOT.
…the idea of shoving things down people’s throats, of selling them something as intimate as faith, is downright distasteful to me.
Catholic nerd-to-the-max that I am, full of knowledge and fire about my faith, and I clench up and start to go all fetal position when people in front of a microphone (or with a keyboard) start to intimate that I should be doing more than living my life the way I know I should.
Ah, but wait: maybe evangelization isn’t used car sales with a thin veneer of God. Could it be that what I’m doing is what I should be doing (however imperfectly)?
Nancy Ward has some thoughts about this. Ward has put together a new DVD project, “Sharing YOUR Faith Story,” in which she covers the process of, well, sharing your faith story.
Not only will you learn how, but you’ll learn why.
As a convert who’s asked on a sometimes daily basis for the details of my conversion (I’ve gotten good at the one-sentence version over the last 15ish years!), I’ve learned that:
(1) EVERYONE has a conversion story, and
(2) It’s good to have thought about it before you’re asked to give the details of it.
Nancy’s put together a great tool, especially if you find this an uncomfortable topic or aren’t sure how you might come off to other people.
I asked Nancy a few questions about the “Sharing YOUR Faith Story” project.
1. Nancy, you have a great new project here, and one with a huge goal. How did you come to start in on it and what inspired you to actually bring it to completion?
After years of journaling and featuring conversion stories on JOYAlive.net, I was finally ready to share my story. I wanted to encourage others to share their stories and feel the freedom and joy of honoring God for his blessings. I took the opportunity to create the seminar and video for the first online CatholicConference4Moms last March.
2. What is a “faith story” and how is it different from, say, some other kind of story?
“Faith story” is shorthand for any holy experience or encounter with God that changed you. These are conversion moments when you knew God loved you. Or a renewal of your faith during Mass, a retreat, or an inspiring homily – those “aha” moments of epiphany that enlighten you. Miracles, healings, answered prayers, or any moments of grace, when you felt God’s love and presence are all part of your faith story that only you can tell.
3. As a convert myself, I have to admit, I’m not such a fan of conversion stories. I’m also pretty sold on the fact that EVERYONE, even “cradle” Catholics, has a conversion (or a series of them). What’s been your experience with this, and how does this DVD series support (or not) that?
Part 1 of the video lays the foundation for why we need to be ready to share our story. I tell my personal conversion story as an example. Then Part 2 shows how we experience a gradual, step-by-step continuous conversion during our lifetime, as St. John Paul II taught. This conversion definitely relates to a cradle Catholic’s adult commitment to the Lord. It’s the build-up of all those sacred moments that transform us into who God created us to be. The DVD raises our awareness of these moments and helps us shape what we say about them – and when.
4. When you’re sharing a faith story, what are three things that are most important to keep in mind?
When you get down to basics, you can divide your story into three simple questions.
First, who were you before this change occurred?
Second, what happened to change you? Be specific. Was it a thunderbolt of love or a gradual awareness of God’s love?
Third, who are you now?
You can answer these questions succinctly in an “elevator speech” or in detail in a full-length biography — or anything in between. You can use these three questions for each incident of grace.
5. Are there any things we should be cautious about with sharing our faith stories?
I started out with dozens of cautions to help my viewers always be ready to share their story. Catholics like lists of ten. Mine has ten practical tips including: be specific, not vague; tame emotional outbursts to allow the truth to emerge; stick to your story and let others tell their stories; speak in the listener’s language; respect confidentiality. The study guide includes the full list.
6. How does your DVD series help with all of this?
You can view each of the three parts and then ponder the discussion questions. This works well as a workshop with small groups practicing telling their stories to one another. After I gave the seminar at a Women’s Forum, several of the women were emboldened to give testimonies in their parishes. Two women used the ideas in the DVD, especially the ten tips, to teach their ACTS ministry team to give their witnesses during the ACTS retreats. One Faith Formation Director uses the video to encourage RCIA “graduates” to share their conversion experience.
7. What’s next?
Only God knows. Perhaps a collection of faith stories. Making the video and developing the seminar brought surprises only he could arrange. I know that whenever we share our story we can expect God’s grace to make our story a little step or giant step in the spiritual life of someone else – and bring us great joy! That’s true whenever we are available and let God use us. It adds another holy moment to our story.
Nancy is hosting a contest to win a $25 Amazon gift card and a “Sharing YOUR Faith Story” DVD. Details here.