Why Points Won’t Make Your Point

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As a husband and pastor I’ve read lots of books, articles, and listened to talks on how to be a great husband and dad. Some of them were good. Most were forgettable. But very few have stuck with me over the years. Except one.

I couldn’t tell you where I was and when I heard it but Jim Burns was the speaker. He told the story of when he was speaking at a family conference for a church years before. After one of his sessions he started up a conversation with some of the girls whose parents worked at the church and were responsible for putting the event on.

As he tells it these girls seemed hardened by life. But as the conversation kept moving forward Jim was able to build up trust with these girls. Finally he asked them a powerful question:

“I’m in a very similar job situation as your dads, and I have three daughters. What advice would you give me for being a good dad and helping my daughters live meaningful lives?”

The older of the two girls, took a long drag from her cigarette, then slowly put it on the ground and stamped it out as smoke was coming from her nose.

She looked up at him and replied, “I hope you spend more time with your kids than my dad did with me. You see, he saved lots of kids, but he didn’t save me.”

Jim says his eyes immediately filled up with tears. He went back to his room, got on his knees, and asked God to help him be the kind of father to his girls that wouldn’t put his job ahead of his relationship with them.

Now that I have a daughter of my own that story resonates so much of what I hope I will be for her. It’s also a great lesson on why points won’t make your point:

People remember stories, not steps.

Jim could have shared stats on how well-adjusted pastors kids are by the time they reach adulthood or given 10 warning signs that your marriage is in trouble or used the word “FAMILY” as an acrostic of how to have a healthy family. But he didn’t. He told a story. One that I’ll never forget.

When we’re trying to make a point it’s easy for us to default to listening reasons why some should or shouldn’t do something or share stats on what happens when we do this or that.

But most of the time those stats, and the steps that are gleaned from them, aren’t very meaningful. And it’s not because they’re not accurate or helpful. It’s because they’re not very memorable.

But stories are. Ask most people to list the 10 commandments and they wouldn’t be able to do it. But ask that same person to share the plot of their favorite movie and they can do it without skipping a beat. That’s the power of stories.

The next time you want to make a point, don’t list a bunch of reasons of why someone should do what you want them to do.

Share stories that highlight the benefits of what you want them to do and how you think they should do it. The rest will take care of itself.

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