Theatre prof publishes book on storytelling in worship

Jeff Barker, professor of theatre and speech at Northwestern College, is the author of “The Storytelling Church: Adventures in Reclaiming the Role of Story in Worship,” which is the inaugural publication of Webber Institute Books, in association with Parson’s Porch Books.

An experienced worship leader, Barker says among the challenges the church faces are these three: first, effective telling of God’s story, revealed in the Bible; second, reclaiming the story of Christianity today, manifest through God’s work in our lives and communities; and third, giving a story structure to individual worship services.

“In worship, we mostly just read Scripture,” says Barker, who believes the story of salvation is enriched through biblical storytelling as well as embodying the music and movement often referred to in Scripture.

In addition, Barker believes worship should include the stories of congregants. “How can we really know each other—grieve together and rejoice together—if we don’t know each other’s stories?”

“Every worship service should be a story within itself,” says Barker, who notes that worship today tends to segment the service into discrete parts: music, sermon, prayer.

As Barker worked to meet the challenges of today’s worship while serving as a worship leader at Orange City’s Trinity Reformed Church, he recorded stories about what did or did not lead to meaningful, authentic, story-formed worship. “The Storytelling Church” is a collection of what Barker has experienced, learned and witnessed as he’s studied and promoted the worship potential of storytelling.

Dr. Tim Brown, president of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich., calls “The Storytelling Church” a book that will “help us better tell the story when we gather so we can better live the story.”

Barker’s book makes a “unique contribution” to the field of books about worship, says John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He says “The Storytelling Church” offers “true stories that inspire, provoke, encourage and lead [readers] to ask new questions—stories well-suited to deepen [one’s] capacity to serve God faithfully in ministry.”

Kindle and paperback versions of “The Storytelling Church” are available at; the paperback is also available through the publisher’s website: