Steve's Yarns-- All those years growing up and living
in Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Texas, and Africa.....
Ain't done growing up 'til I get over on the other side :-)

Steve Van Nattan




By Steve Van Nattan

Learn how to use stories to teach and preach and to simply become more interesting to your friends.


Editing this journal has forced me to learn to be a better story teller. Jesus used stories which we call parables. Parable means "to throw along side." A story, used in teaching or preaching, should not be the main message. It should be a yarn of tale which helps the listener see a real life example of a great truth.

The only issue to decide up front is whether or not to tell a true story or a factitious story. If the story is true, make very sure to let the listener know it is true, and then don't fill it with fiction. You will sooner of later get caught, and from then on you will be considered a buffoon.

Doug Stevenson understands story telling. I find I need to adopt some of his ideas. Even if you are just spinning yarns over coffee with the good old boys at the local cafe, you can make yourself a lot more interesting, and you can be a better soul winner if you master story telling.



1. Make it visual- Paint a word picture of the setting and the main characters.

2. Make it emotional- Help the listener feel the story because he sees you feel it.

3. Make one clear concise point with every story- A moral phrase, not an application nag moment. Even a coon hunting story can have a moral, and some of the best teaching moments come from hunting and fishing failures.

4. Beware of the Content Coma of detail overload- Keep the story in the middle of the road, not in the ditch.

5. In story moments- talking to myself, not the reader. Narration. Showing emotion

6. Three dimensional- Describe the setting to suck the reader in.

"I ran the length of the culvert under the railroad tracks, and as I came out the other end, on my left was a sapling eight inches thick, and nearly all the bark had been shredded from it. I could see the deep grooves made by a leopard's claws, and bits of bark were dangling and flipping back and forth in the breeze. The leopard had to have just left, probably because he heard the sound of my boots coming in the culvert. And, that leopard could not be happy about being interrupted. I told myself to keep calm and don't dare panic and run. Also, try not to wet your pants so that you look like a fool when you get back to the dormitory." Can you feel the creepy crawlie sensation? I was there..... that is a true scene from my past in Africa.

7. Dialogue- Conversation, with other characters, or with myself. Like a drama. Don't tell it, DO it.

8. Brand the story- Use a phrase or title that pays or teaches.



1. Start with a point in mind. Let a character make the point or the magic word phrase. What story in your life would Jesus use as a parable?

2. Look for a moment of challenge, obstacle, or crisis. Look for the iceberg.

3. A moment does not have to be profound or dramatic. Theater craft makes it live.

4. Usually start with a point and self-Google your past to fit the point. But, if a story is too good to resist, do it, and find the point afterward.

5. Which is better, personal stories, or stories about other people? Good or bad, embarrassing or noble, personal stories are the best. The point is, you were there, and if they can trust you, they know the story is true, not passed on. IE "I learned this lesson, and so can you."

6. Must it be true, or can I embellish? Start with a true story, but do embellish, especially for humor and to make bridges over empty spots. But, beware of outright fiction or lies.

7. How long should the story be? As long as it takes to be powerful or to believe. 3- 6 minutes

8. So, why are you telling stories? Are you a selfish slob who craves attention, or are you telling stories to lift people's burdens or teach a lesson? Sooner of later egomaniac story tellers get caught for what they are.

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

If God the Son intentionally made sure he had no fame and reputation in Galilee, YOU sure don't need it. And, when, per chance, the world one day gives you flattery and grand introductions, apply this one rule to yourself..... Do not inhale.


1. Crucible story- Test of integrity or some good quality. The story of the Titanic is a story of dishonorable men who cheated on the materials used in that ship. The steel was to brittle and shattered when it hit the iceberg. A fire broke out in the ship before it was launched, and the area burned was not replaced. This made the steel even more brittle. This story shows the deadliness in a lack of honor and ethics.

2. Imbroglio story- Comedy of errors. Classic sample story- THE TULIP MANIA OF HOLLAND

3. Profile story- Hero or worthy character. WHO IS THE REAL HERO IN THIS STORY?

4. Vignette- Short little interesting thing. Not very powerful.

5. Credibility story- Defending the Bible or the Gospel. Christian, beware of pride here. You can easily slip over into exalting your own credibility. Donald Trump is an example of what not to do. He is full of himself and exalts himself nonstop. If you claim to serve Jesus Christ, talking about YOU all the time is deadly. People will finally realize it, and you will be tuned out.

6. Pattern story- learned lesson over period of years. A STORY I TELL ON THIS JOURNAL

7. Technical story- Lots of content to prove a point. Lists which teach. Technical story telling is evolving into a world where fiction can be added to reality to enhance experience.

The day is here when we who teach, preach, and tell stories must defend the message and cleanse it from augmented reality added by Satanic invasions. I used to groan when church members would tell me what happened at the crossing of the Red Sea, and they got their facts from a Hollywood movie. Cleaning up their mental mess can be very tricky.

8. Minerva story- Ancient wisdom, patriarchal. Stories are the way to preserve the history of the ancient past. HERE IS THE RECORD OF EGYPT The Bible is really a massive story book given to us by God. Preacher, do you tell the stories of the Old Testament, or do you, like one idiot Ph.D. in a Baptist college in Michigan, believe that the Old Testament is only there for proof texting while preaching from the New Testament. No wonder your people are so ignorant of the ways of God.

9. Creepy Story- Best told to kids at night around a camp fire. APPALACHIAN STORY

For all of the above, send email to:
Write "Google Hangout" in the subject line.
Ask also for the Nine Steps of Story Structure



I have found that writing a story for publishing on the web gives me much better stories. This is because, as I am typing away, I remember the details and color of the setting and people a lot better. Telling a story verbally is always preferred when you are in gatherings and speaking. You never saw anyone carry printed stories around to tell.

So, if you want your family and friends to have your tales after you go to be with the Lord, post them on a web page online. Go to the trouble, and your family will love you for it.

One caveat: When writing a story out online, change any names of people who were disgusting or who might get into trouble because of your account which included them. You need to protect the guilty, and even sometimes the innocent.

Try to find photos from the time and place the story took place to add as I have done. Make sure they are from Pinterest or other sources which allow you to use them lawfully.



Jerry Clower

Jerry could also preach the Gospel. Please notice how he laces his message with stories.



Paul Rulkens tells a story that starts with his childhood, and in the end he tells people how to reach their goals. This is story telling that teaches. If you are a pastor, and you do not use this technique, you are a failure. This was the way Jesus taught his disciples and the crowds. "A sower went forth to sow.....", "A woman lost a coin.....", "There was a man who fared sumptuously....." This is not just for Sunday School teachers. This is the most powerful way to teach the Word of God from the pulpit.

Also, stories are mainly for men.

Women can learn truth be hearing it explained and backed up with references from the Word of God. Men need stories to get the message. If you are a man, you are now insulted. You think you learn best by hearing logical arguments defending the truth. If that is so, why did Jesus constantly use stories to teach his twelve disciples of his inner circle? Answer: Jesus created the first man, and Jesus made him a creature of stories.

Martin Luther had three steps for homiletics which he taught his ministry students:

1. Read the Bible distinctly.

2. Explain what the Bible means by what it says.

3. Illustrate it from daily life.

Go to the local cafe where the good old boys sit around the round table in the middle of the room. All they do the whole time is spin yarns. And, the man with the best command of yarn spinning rules the round table.

Daddy, are you a story teller in your home? There is nothing more powerful, for you kids to mature, than to hear Daddy's stories. In these stories you can tell your kids your failures and victories back through life, and the kids will learn powerful lessons. In your stories you can tell your kids about relatives and friends and scoundrels who did the right thing, or about those who made bad choices. And, you can make sure your family's heritage is not lost to your kids. The results of life choices of you and your patriarchs then teach in a way that nothing else can. Also, encourage your kids to make stories of their own life. This will add some adventure, and it will add humility as your kids learn to call their failures what they really were.

No one has ever learned story telling by only listening to stories. Story telling is learned by telling YOUR stories. What you will learn at once is that you have to stay humble, laugh at yourself, and invite your friends to laugh at you. Then, next, you will learn that you have mastered story telling when someone says, "Fred, would you tell us the story about how you got lost in the North Woods?" At that point, you know you have become a real story teller and a teacher. The ultimate compliment is when someone tells your story and claims it happened to him. At this point, you have become an icon. Don't get proud.



Back in the cowboy days when real Texas cowboys were flat broke men who signed on to a cattle drive which meant terrible working conditions and bad food for four months, most cowboys had a bed roll that was just a blanket and sometimes a ground sheet. Any new cowboy in a cattle drive could be expected to forget to buy a bed roll and end up having to sleep on the ground. Some older cowboy would see this and invite the new fellow to sleep with him and "stretch the blanket." This was in the day when men were men and not queers, and sleeping with another man was common.

"Stretching the blanket" is part of story telling. It gives color to a rather dry story. There are three ways to stretch the blanket.

1. Add details to the story that could have historically been part of the story but really were not. If these details did not actually take place, they sure missed a great opportunity. If you are asked to verify such details, simply tell the listener that they COULD happen if they really didn't, and they will understand that you padded the story a bit. Then, assure them of the pure true details to get credibility. People who love hearing yarns that are enhanced will never complain. The people who pick a story apart and demand that you verify every detail are the sort of people who eat figs and try to spit out the seeds.

2. Combine true details from several stories to fire up the excitement. Every detail actually happened, but not all in the same story. But, be careful about adding people to the story who were not really there at the time. That one will come back and bite you.

3. You can lie and add "facts" that never happened. This is uncalled for. If you cannot tell a story without lying outright, don't tell it. You will become famous as a self-serving creep. This is like an artist who adds a forest in the background that was not there. People will forgive him for that. But if he adds a big farm house in the foreground that was never there, people will be offended and laugh at the artist. I saw a painting one time that was of a well done desert scene. To give it some added life the artist added a full moon over the rising sun, both in the east. The problem was, it was a sunrise, and there is no such thing as a full moon in the east at sunrise. Though the painting was well done, everyone laughed at the man.

A missionary I knew was on Lake Victoria in an African sailing boat. He got into a bad storm, and the boat capsized. The missionary, in telling the story, told that he had to swim ashore in the storm. The story was a good one until he told how long it took him to swim ashore and how many miles it was. One of the leaders of the mission organization in that country read the story when it was published in the media, and the leader wrote the missionary and congratulated him in breaking the world Olympic swimming record. Ouch. The missionary came out looking like a brazen liar instead of a hero.



1. Take advantage of the lack of a physical audience. Make sure you have lots of eye contact.

2. Use the pronoun "you" a lot. This helps the viewer know you like them and know they are there.

3. Bring up scenes from other web sites that illustrate what you are talking about.

4. If you have gongs or trinkets or paintings that go with the story, show them.

5. If other people are present who were in the story, ask them to describe their impressions.

6. If you quote someone or the Bible, put the quote up for the viewer to read.

7. Do not drag on and on. You have the viewer for a maximum of 20 minutes. But, do not destroy the suspense of a good story by making it too short. Suspense is the magic touch of story tellers.

8. Show emotion as you describe the emotion in the story, especially in kids' stories.
Look at the video again, and write the three hormones on a stick up, and stick it to the frame of your monitor. You MUST make this happen in every story you tell. Decide which hormonal response you want from your reader, and select one of your stories that will get that effect.
Even Solomon understood this: Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

9. Do not drone on and on with no enthusiasm or humor. Laugh at yourself first. Avoid, at all costs, stories with a punch line that needs sadism or cynicism to be funny.

10. End with a poem. Poetry is gone from story telling today. A short couplet will give you one last grab at the viewer's imagination. Learn the magic of the limerick.

You may talk 'o gin and beer,
When you're quartered safe out here;
And you're sent to penny fights
and Aldershotit.
But, when it comes to slaughter,
You'll do your work on water;
And, you'll lick the bloomin' boots
'O 'im that's got it.

Gunga Din- Kipling

The folks in Liverpool,
Their heart is in their boots;
They go to Hell like lambs,
Because the Hooter hoots.

There was a young man from Killarny,
Who was famous for spewing the Blarney.
So, to pay for his sins,
He had three sets of twins,
One smart, and one dumb, and one carny.

Make sure your poems sound familiar to the listener because they are really seen in literature. This gives the poem a literary introduction, and thus power. Nobody cares about whether or not you can produce rhymes. Make dead sure the poem really restates the moral of the story.



Jesus, as we said above, had twelve men with him all he time. And, how did he communicate to those twelve men and make very sure they remembered everything he taught them?

Answer: He always used stories to lay along side the truth he taught, and those stories imprinted the truth on the minds of the disciples and everyone who listened to him. Men learn truth best by hearing stories which illustrate the truth. Preachers who fail to tell stories, or parables, preach dry dull sermons, and the men present learn almost nothing. Women do not need stories as urgently as men because God gave them the ability to emotionally attach to the truth without hearing a parallel parable. Don't get your feelings hurt about that, but you are a fool if you ignore this truth.

Mark 4:34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

And, his enemies did not miss the punch line. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the two men who passed by the wounded man on the road to Jericho and did not help him were a Levite and a priest. The man who asked Jesus the question, which Jesus answered by his story, was a lawyer who was trying to trap Jesus in his answer. The story put the lawyer in a real bind because he had to answer with a moral response, and Pharisees and Levites must have been standing nearby and heard both Jesus AND the lawyer put them in a bad light. For this, they hated Jesus.

The point? If you want to get a verdict as you teach, tell plenty of parables. Because of this, you will have many loyal friends, and the best sort of enemies.

I went to church one Sunday morning at Rineheart Bible Church in the Dallas, Texas suburbs. The preacher preached a long sermon that sounded like a doctoral thesis that he might have given to earn his Masters Degree from Seminary. I was highly provoked. In the pews sat a lot of ordinary people, and I could see that many of them were bored and nodding off. Then, I figured out what the problem was. That church happen to be the one which Dr. John Walvoord, President of Dallas Seminary, attended. The pastor was preaching to Dr. Walvoord, and he wanted nothing more than approval of his sermon by a double dome mighty theologian. There were NO parables or stories to help understand one single thing the preacher taught. And ironically, his sermon was essentially doctrinally very correct teaching. But, it was all a lot of last year's hay from the back loft of the barn. If Peter had been there, I suspect he too would have nodded off.

After the service, I worked my way near the exit door where the pastor was shaking the hands of people leaving. When Dr. Walvoord came to the pastor, Walvoord told the pastor his sermon was a masterpiece of correct doctrine, and other such fictions. The pastor glowed under the flattery and the official imprimatur from the heavenlies. Going to church, and suffering one of those theologically dry cleaners sermons, is like opening your lunch box and finding a turd.

Why did I claim that Jesus was history's most powerful story teller?

Answer: The world movement Jesus started by telling stories on he hills of Galilee, getting himself executed, and coming back to life, would not be part of our world today without, "A sower went forth to sow.....," "A man went from Jerusalem down to Jericho and fell among thieves......," and:

Matthew 6:28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

There is a word picture so simple a child can grab it in his imagination, but a moral so deep that, 2000 years after Christ, those six verses blast into Hell a raging contemporary heresy in which we are invited to name anything we lust for, and God is obligated to give it to us..... Prosperity Gospel. The stories of Jesus just will not go away.

The most rewarding legacy I could hope for, after I am gone, would be that some issue of life is troubling my kids, or someone in a church I pastored, and someone says, "Remember, pastor Steve warned us about this. Do you remember his story about the African lady who burned her witchcraft fetishes?" While I will be resting with my Lord in Heaven, my story that illustrates a Bible truth may still be pointing people to the Word of God.

So, what are you leaving behind that will teach people or help them have a merry heart?




WHAT IS YOUR PUNCH LINE? Do you serve when you tell stories? Do you give people a chance to learn, laugh, or feel something that grows them? Or, do you only lust for laughs to make you feel like you are powerful? If it is all about you, it is not all about Jesus. He will not share the glory.

Kids love this one if you read it in the dark late at night.



FIDO DIED This is the ultimate surprise ending

THE DAY THE DONKEY CAME TO PRAY One of my stories that seems to really tickle people

THE DAY THE FAT LADY SANG No other story I tell is imprinted on my memory more graphically than this one.

THE SEVEN CYLINDER PONTIAC My story of suspense and spiritual warfare

HAM BY MAIL This is my oxytocin story



SEND MAIL for more ideas and explanations.






graphic edit