There are few things more delightful than a really good story. Opinions vary on which motifs make for excellence: tragedy, comedy, romance, or suspense, but it is certain that stories are at the core of what makes us human. Studies in both psychoanalysis and neuroscience have shown that the human brain unconsciously organizes information in the basic form of a story, but narrative is more than just a means for effective communication. Within those “recognizable patterns… we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others.”
To adequately discuss the importance of story in faith formation, it is necessary to define two terms: story and faith. Regularly used to describe written, oral and media presentations, the word story as pointed out by Mary Ann Wilson, is used far more frequently than defined. A thesaurus directs a reader to narrative, account and tale; the same words used in most simple definitions. In her article, “Forming Adults in Faith Through Fiction” Wilson offers the following definition of story: “an imaginatively-formed account that portrays the connection between characters and events and their connection to an overall framework of meaning.” Building on two of theologian Stanley Hauerwas’ definitions of the term, Wilson’s description is valuable for its clarity and the emphasis it places on the connectedness that creates meaning.
Faith is typically defined in one of two ways: complete trust and loyalty; or a strong belief in God or religious doctrines. In both definitions, faith is not based in proof or fact. As the writer of The Letter to the Hebrews says “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Like story the term faith is often used without a clarification.
In theorizing a developmental process for human faith, theologian and psychologist James Fowler defined faith as “the dynamic, patterned process by which we find life meaningful.” For the purposes of this study this is a good start. Fowler describes faith further as a response to the transcendent, which is always relational, and distinct from religion or belief. In his introduction to the book Stages of Faith, he writes, “I believe faith is a human universal. We are endowed at birth with nascent capacities for faith. How these capacities are activated and grow depends to a large extent on how we are welcomed into the world and what kinds of environments we grow in.”
The bulk of my work on this page is excerpted from my essay, "Building Faith Through Really Good Stories" (Essay, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 2016).
 Wilson, Mary Ann. "Forming Adults in Faith Through Fiction." Church Life Journal. September 19, 2016. http://churchlife.nd.edu/2016/09/19/forming-adults-in-faith-through-fiction/#_edn16 (accessed December 15, 2016).
 Hauerwas’ definitions of story include “the connected description of action and of suffering which moves to a point” and “a narrative account that binds events and agents together in an intelligible pattern.”
 Rose, Frank. The Art of Immersion: Why Do We Tell Stories? March 8, 2011. https://www.wired.com/2011/03/why-do-we-tell-stories/ (accessed December 28, 2016).
 Hebrews 11:1, New Revised Standard Version
 Krych, Margaret. "Faith and Cognitive Development." In Christian Perspectives on Human Development, by Leroy, David Benner and J. Harold Ellens, eds. Aden, 274. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992.
 Fowler, James W. Stages of Faith. New York: Harper Collins, 1981