Most evangelical leaders think pastors should share stories about family members in sermons, with primarily one caveat: receive permission from family members first. In responding to the question, “Should pastors share stores about family members in sermons?”, 85 percent said “It Depends,” 15 percent said “Yes,” and none selected the “No” option, according to the August Evangelical Leaders Survey, conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
“Sharing stories about your family creates connection between you and the people you serve,” said Scott Ridout, president of Converge. “The stories should never make your family look bad, but it is okay to point out the mistakes you make with your family. This helps people to see that you are an ordinary person, a ‘fellow struggler.’ Telling family stories can also be a model of ‘follow me as I follow Christ’ in everyday life.”
Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church, answered, “Yes, but ask their permission first! And if they are your children, give them a $5 illustration fee!”
Asking for permission is one way to identify whether the story is appropriate to share. Doug Fagerstrom, president and CEO of Marketplace Chaplains, listed these criteria questions: “Will the story best explain or help illustrate the text? Does it build up the family member or family unit? Has the family given permission?”
Many evangelical leaders urged caution, especially with stories about the pastor’s children. Leaders noted that pastor’s children should not be used as shining examples nor should they be embarrassed from the stories. One leader also noted, “Some stories are the child’s to tell — not the parent’s stories to tell.”
NAE President Leith Anderson said, “Preaching multiple services throughout most of my life adds up to a lot of sermons. When first a parent I decided never to tell a story about our children without their permission. They never gave permission so they never made it into a sermon. Actually, I really didn’t ask because their best interests superseded my need to tell a story.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.