Why Stories?

Early on we realized that the true measure of innovation and transformation could never be captured in data alone. The real measure of the Zoe Project is its stories—stories about young adults asking big questions of their lives, stories of churches and young adults changing, stories about ideas that flopped, stories about lives and ministries that took unexpected turns.

So we invested heavily in stories throughout this project. Alongside learning how to innovate, stories formed the spine of our learning curve:

  • We were bowled over by meeting with Pete Docter of Pixar (Pete is also an active Presbyterian layperson) who taught us about storycraft in Los Angeles.
  • Journalist Jeff Chu connected us with countless young adult changemakers whose stories helped inspire our own.
  • We held a Moth-like story learning event (“StoryLab” – you can hear some of the recordings here), shepherded by master community storyteller Mark Yaconelli. (Go here for Mark’s explanation of “Why Story?”)
  • The visual poetry of cultural anthropologist Marlon Hall and filmmaker Richard Leighton blessed us throughout this project.
  • The podcasting powers of Wes Willison offered the project fascinating reflections on young adult decisions about work and identity and calling.
  • Because Ricky and Wes were also young adults in their own right, they were valued guides as well as gifts for this project. 

Along with several other young adults working “behind the scenes” – Lindsay Clark, Kelsey Holderman, Annalise Hume, Hannah Lehmann, Pearl Quick, and Werner Ramirez, as well as coaches Michael Baughman, Aqueelah Ligonde, Shari Oosting, and Trey Wince—they helped shape this project at pivotal points.

And so, on this website, we offer you their stories: Stories about what The Zoe Project did, and what we learned along the way. Stories about who we were, and who we became. Stories about churches’ hopes, and about their disappointments and surprises. Stories about questions people are still asking, about longings still unsatisfied.

They’re unfinished, of course, these stories. But we think they’ll ring true for you. We think you’ll hear yourself in them. We think you’ll hear hope.

(If you want to read an academic paper by our senior research fellow, Dr. Katherine Douglass of Seattle Pacific University about the findings from this project, email kenda.dean@ptsem.edu. For a snapshot of those findings, try this visual executive summary.)

The Zoe Project was funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc, and is headquartered at Princeton Theological Seminary.