Storytelling 101: Why It’s All About Worldview

For those who don’t know much about me, I’m a novelist who makes a living as a university professor during daylight hours. I’ve been doing this (the professor part) for 19 years now, and before that I was an editor. I teach in the communication department of Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas, and consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend my days in the classroom.

I am one of three full-time professors in our department, two of which are highly talented: I will let you decide which ones they are.

Michael Agee is our chair, and is also general manager of the campus radio station, which is one of the fastest-growing Christian radio stations in the country. Before coming here, he ran an award-winning radio station in Idaho. He’s the visionary. He took over as chair three years ago and I think that’s when the department really started to grow.

Prof. #3 is Kyle Portbury, who is the New Kid on the Block. Just 38, he’s been here two years after establishing himself as an internationally known, award-winning film director. He’s always got something going on. The latest is that our department is in the process of starting an Institute of Christian Film that will funnel funding for feature-length films to be done by our faculty, staff and students along with other professionals. It sounds like a long shot, but Kyle is just the person to make it happen. He has connections in Hollywood, New York, Sydney and London, and he is constantly on the phone or in the air traveling somewhere to make a deal. It will happen.

What’s really fun in working in this environment is swapping war stories. Comparing notes. I come from a print media background, Mike’s from radio, and Kyle’s from film. Our department teaches journalism, public relations, advertising and radio-TV-film. But more and more we are all agreeing that it’s not about media anymore. Media is merging. What’s important is that students learn the basics.

And the basic skill they need is simply the ability to tell a good story.

Taking it a step further, I started realizing that regardless of the discipline, telling that story–whether you are advertising a car, doing public relations for a politician, writing a news story about a damaged dam that threatens a community, or doing a morning talk show on radio–is all about Worldview. We each have a worldview, the way we perceive both the way the world is, and the way is should be. And that worldview is important to us. If it isn’t, we’re usually looking for a new one.

That’s where storytelling comes in. Author Steven Lawhead states that regardless of what you write, who you are and what you believe will come out in your writing. We’re talking about worldview here. With Christians, it’s really testimony. We see the universe in need of God. And that colors everything we do and say. For someone else, that worldview will be different.

My job as a professor is to teach students to tell their stories as effectively as possible. As a Christian professor, the first step there is making sure they understand what their worldview is.

It’s not an easy job, but I love it. Almost as much as I love telling a good story myself.