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Softening the Rigid Borders logo

Softening the Rigid Borders

A Pair of Two-Day Workshops for Pastors

Led by Doug Lipman

Attend one or both, plus the optional days:

Workshop #1: Telling Stories (That Soften Borders)

July 5–6, 2012
Thursday and Friday, 9–5
tuition $525 Early Bird $397

Optional day of coaching

July 7, 2012
Saturday, 9–5
tuition $297 Early Bird $197

Optional day of field trips

July 8, 2012
Sunday, 9–5
tuition: free (to those attending any other of these events)

Workshop #2: Helping Others Tell Stories (That Soften Borders)

July 9–10, 2012
Monday and Tuesday, 9–5
tuition $525 Early Bird $397

Combo discount! Attend both workshops plus the coaching day (and the field trip day) for just $1197 Early Bird $847

Held at my home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, USA (30 miles south of Boston, 15 minutes north of Plymouth, MA)

Why Softening Borders?

God's world is complex and often confusing. Paradox is often the rule.

As imperfect humans, we struggle to make sense of it all. And we often feel uncomfortable facing what we can't understand, or whatever is contradictory to our previous understandings. As a result, we are tempted to shut ourselves off from ideas and even people who make us feel that discomfort.

This is understandable, but the cost is great: we can't stay in relationship to those we shut ourselves off from.

In fact, shutting ourselves off from anything reduces our ability to relate to God. Any rigid border cuts us off from some part of creation.

Pastors face this both for themselves and for others. In fact, it's common for ministers to find themselves on "the other side of the border" from those they serve. Do any of these situations apply to you?

  • My congregation is theologically more conservative than I am. I just wish I could make them understand!
  • My congregation tolerates me and even loves me. But they never let me forget that I'm "not from around here." As a result, they see me as "other"—and I see them as "clannish."
  • I have outspoken liberals in my congregation who seem more intent on baiting the conservatives than on creating a community in Christ.
  • I realize that the views of some of my congregants seem so extreme to me that I struggle to respect their good intentions.
The rigid boundaries put up by others are easy to see. The ones we put up ourselves, though, can be less visible to us. What are the issues that divide you from your congregants? What are their positions or behaviors that seem incomprehensible—"over the line"—to you?

A Safe Place?

Once rigid boundaries are drawn, approaching them from either side is to risk angry disconnection, even scorn. After all, imagine trying to conduct a reasoned discussion on both sides of the abortion debate with either a "pro-life" or a "pro-choice" advocate. As a rule, do you expect relaxed, compassionate openness?

Obviously, we defend our dug-in positions as though our lives depend on holding them. We are so invested in them that we tend to "shoot first and ask questions later."

But what if there were a demilitarized zone, where we could approach each other in peace and love?

Story As Safe Ground

Over a decade ago, a disability rights advocate named Marsha Saxton became interested in the ethics of prenatal genetic testing. This testing was just becoming widespread as a way to determine if a fetus had a genetic anomaly. Marsha noticed that each group of stakeholders was upset, confused and panicked about the kinds of decisions that needed to be made. And each was angry with all the others:

  • Family physicians were upset that they were expected to administer and interpret yet another test, without being able to give clear advice regarding a possible diagnosis, say, of Down Syndrome.
  • Parents were equally upset that they were given confusing information without the support they needed to make a good decision.
  • Genetics counsellors were upset that they didn't get the funding and counselling time they needed to be able to help families with these difficult decisions.
  • Adults with disabilities saw the tests as part of a society that devalued them as human beings. To them, genetics testing furthered the discrimination against them and diverted attention from helping people with disabilities live better lives.
How could progress happen in the presence of such hostility? Would these people ever be able to work together?

In response, Marsha organized a conference of about 100 people from all over the U.S. Each group of stakeholders was equally represented. To break the hostile impasse among the participants, Marsha made one simple rule for the conference:

“You may not state an opinion or a position you have taken. You may only tell your own story.

What happened?

Of course, Marsha needed to remind people of the rule frequently, especially on the first day.

But by the third day, when Marsha instructed the participants to create a farewell circle, they spontaneously held hands. As each spoke of what the conference had meant to them, many—including physicians and other embattled professionals—cried.

In other words, story helps us create a safe place in which we can see each other as humans, not as faceless creatures from "across the line." Story can soften rigid borders.

A Few Days in July...

photo of Doug LipmanIn a series of two, two-day workshops at my home this July, I will give pastors the tools you need to apply the softening, enlivening power of storytelling in your congregations. I am dividing the tools into two groups:

1. How to tell stories that soften borders.

On these two days (July 5 and 6), you'll focus on the power of the stories you tell, including biblical stories. You'll learn how stories work their magic and how to maximize their effectiveness, whether in preaching, pastoral counselling, or in the day-to-day business of your church.

2. How to elicit perspective-widening stories from others.

On these two days (July 9 and 10), you'll learn to help your congregants find their own shades of meaning by retelling biblical stories, as well as how to help them tell stories of their personal experiences. You'll learn how to coach your churchgoers to make their stories lively, authentic, and reflective of their true experiences. You'll also learn how to break through any tendency they may have to speak in formulas ("and then I took Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, and that's why I'm here fighting the good fight now.")

Optional Coaching: the First Day Between

The first optional day between the two workshops, Saturday, July 7, is available for a day of group coaching. You will benefit from watching others being coached at least as much as you will from your own coaching session in front of the group. (Guaranteed minimum: 45-60 minutes of begin coached.)

Optional Field Trips/Coaching: the Second Day Between

The second optional day between the two workshops, Sunday, July 8, is available for "field trips," including an option for additional coaching in the afternoon.

In the morning, I'll bring you to North Community Church in my town of Marshfield, where Rev. Pam McGrath (my wife as well as a minister and former professional storyteller) has promised us a sermon that will exemplify the use of story to help soften rigid borders.

In the afternoon, you'll have the option of additional coaching—or of a field trip to nearby Plimoth Plantation, in which historical interpreters portray life in North America's first theocracy.

Support After the Workshops, Too

We'll follow up each workshop with two conference calls in the following weeks. These calls will give you a chance to report on your results after the workshops—and to get further support in applying what you will have learned.

Who is Doug Lipman?

Fred Craddock (left) being interviewed by Doug Lipman, Tulsa, OK, October 2010

Fred Craddock being interviewed during a minister's conference by Doug

Who am I? I am a professional storyteller who has performed on 3 continents and at venues like the Smithsonian, the National Storytelling Festival, and National Public Radio.

I have taught storytelling skills at Disney University, NASA, the World Bank, and the Center for Creative Leadership, among many others.

Since 1979, I have taught thousands to tell stories and personally coached hundreds, from rank beginners to internationally acclaimed professionals. I am the author of four books, including Improving Your Storytelling and The Storytelling Coach: How to Listen, Praise, and Bring Out People's Best.

I have created innovative storytelling learning aids such as the Beginning Storytelling Toolkit and the Storytelling Workshop in a Box™ (among others).

For the past 10 years, I have written and published the free email newsletter, "eTips from the Storytelling Coach."

What Does This Cost?

I charge $195 for one hour of individual coaching, and $1800 for a one-day intensive. So two days in a small group like this is a bargain at $525. And the combo price of $1197 gives you even more value.

I accept Mastercard, Visa, and American Express. Visa card logoMastercard logoAmerican Express logo

I also accept checks and money orders. Image of a check or money order

You can register here by choosing "Add to Cart," below, and following the on-screen prompts.

Where Will This Happen?

Our house from the backThe workshop will be held at my house in Marshfield, Massachusetts, just 30 miles south of Boston, MA, 30 miles north of Cape Cod, and 12 miles from Plymouth, MA (home of the Mayflower, Plymouth Rock, and the historical interpretation site Plimouth Plantation, with its English Village, Wampanoag Homesite, and much more).


Green Harbor Beach, which is just We live on a road that dead-ends at the marsh, within a five minute drive of several stunning beaches, including Green Harbor Beach (shown to the right).

Historical society sign on Doug's house: built c. 1695Our house was built in 1695! We'll meet in the living room, which features the low ceilings, exposed gunstock beams and broad hardwood floors typical of the era.

The house is nestled in the woods, with a small (it looks big through bincolars!) view through the trees of the marsh and adjacent ocean.

You'll have several options for lodging, ranging from local inns and motels (in July, $120 per night and up) to home hospitality with members of my wife's church.

If you're here without a car (and there are varied choices for transportation from Boston's Logan Airport, including auto, commuter rail, and ferry!) I'll make sure you are taken to and from your lodging for each day of the workshop.

Food Choices

We'll have light breakfasts available here at the workshop site, and those who so desire will eat lunch and dinner out as a group in the some of the local restaurants. Pam and I are non-strict vegetarians, so we know where to get the complete spectrum of food—from fresh seafood to home-style Italian or healthy sandwiches. We even have decent bagels, Japanese, and Mexican restaurants within striking distance.

Did I mention seafood? This is an oceanside community, and fresh-caught seafood is availlble in every form and price-range.

Ironically, given that Pam is from Atlanta and she and I lived in Oklahoma, a neighboring town here has Pam's and my favorite Texas barbeque in the world, Frankie D's (see the Phantom Gourmet video review). (Did I mention "non-strict" vegetarians?)

100% Guaranteed

Guarantee shieldBecause of my decades of successful teaching and coaching, I am confident that you will learn to tell stories easily and well.

In fact, I guarantee it!

If you don't feel this workshop gives you the essential tools and a major boost in your storytelling abilities, I'll refund every penny of your tuition!

thumbnail images of flier for the "Softening the Rigid Borders" workshops, July 2012

Do you want a downloadable/printable flyer about this workshop to share with others? Please download it here.

If the pdf flier opens in your browser window instead, you can either: a) save it or b) right-click on the link (control-click on a Mac) and choose "Download linked file as..." from the contextual menu.

Apply Now to Hold One of the Six Places

Since each of these workshops is limited to six people and is fully guaranteed, I will screen admissions. If either workshop or the coaching day interests you, click to request a no-obligation application:

I will send you back a simple, four-question application to fill out. (Note: You make no commitment until the point when your application is accepted and you decide whether to register.)

Once you are accepted, you will have 5 days in which to complete your registration, in order to continue to hold your place.

Yours in storytelling

Doug's signature






Doug Lipman

152 Wenonah Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106 U.S.A.
Phone: (781) 837-1940
Alternate Phone (rings the same line): (413) 754-6728
Fax (toll-free): (888) 300-6665

This page was last updated on June 13, 2012
Copyright©2012 Doug Lipman