Telling Stories


I’m not a rugby fan. I don’t know the difference between rugby union and rugby league or any other kinds of rugby that may exist. I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, so it’s always been about Australian Rules Football (AFL) for me.

The annual NRL Grand Final, the ultimate game for Rugby League teams and fans, has passed by without a glimmer of interest from me year upon year. I don’t really even know how many teams play in the league or where they’re from.

Yesterday’s Grand Final would have passed almost unnoticed yet again if it wasn’t for the fact that the South Sydney Rabbitohs were playing. The team, which my research tells me was established in 1908, has been missing in action from grand finals since last winning in 1971. After being a real power team for many decades they went through tough financial times and were even booted out of the league for a few years.

I didn’t watch the game, mainly because I wouldn’t have known what was going on, but I sure wanted to know the result and was hoping that the Rabbitohs would take the win. Thankfully the story had a fairy tale ending and they broke their 43 year premiership drought.

We love a good story and a sporting team overcoming the obstacles and rising from the ashes is certainly captivating. The story of the Rabbitohs was fascinating enough to have me interested in the result of a Rugby League game. That’s no small effort. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a film about their battle produced in the coming years.

The Power of Story

We can often forget just how important it is to tell great stories. You can argue opinions all day but a good story can cut through and engage us with a topic like nothing else can.

Movie makers around the world put millions of dollars into telling stories and many times their investment is handsomely rewarded. Why? Because it’s all about a great story well told. Whatever the genre, whether they’re using expensive special effects or not, if they get the story telling right they’re half way to creating a hit.

Why don’t we use story more often? Story telling isn’t just for sporting teams, books or movies. Every day we have opportunity to engage others in stories. And storytelling isn’t just about creating works of fiction. Telling true stories is incredibly powerful.

When I represent Compassion at churches or other gatherings I tell stories. True stories. Wonderful stories of lives changed. I have hundreds of facts and figures about poverty at my fingertips, and I do refer to some of them, but it’s the life stories that can engage and inform. When I recount meeting Melissa, Ada, Emmanuel, Erlan, Christine or some of the many others who have been released from poverty, the whole idea of what we do becomes real.

Storytelling isn’t about being manipulative or embellishing the facts. Done well, storytelling is about making a connection and opening the way for a better understanding. Storytelling allows others to step into a different journey, into someone else’s shoes, even if only for a moment. It allows them to wonder how they would feel or act in similar circumstances. It helps other identify with different people and experiences.

I’m wondering where you’ve seen the power of a story. Has someone else’s story changed you? Has a good story, well told, prompted you to action? Where else do you think we should be using stories to inform and engage others?

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Telling Stories? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks.

About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

View all posts


  • I love a good “Transformed” story also Rodney. One of my favorite places to hear those stories are on I am Second. I never tire of hearing God’s work of transformation. I like them even more than Optimus Prime.

  • So right, Bill. The Bible is full of stories that we should keep on telling. God’s work of transformation is throughout the entire book. It saddens me that some have turned the Bible into a very long and dry instructional manual for living. Of course there is instruction throughout but it’s also a gripping, true, transformational story that has the capacity to engage us all and make us part of the ongoing story.

    I haven’t checked out I am Second for a while. I think I should go and enjoy a few more stories there.

Join the conversation