I was first introduced to the concept of a Life Map during the LEAD workshop at Dallas Theological Seminary. The team of Andy Seidel, Bill Lawrence, and others were instrumental in helping me understand the benefits of using this tool. (The material has since been published in a book, Charting a Bold Course: Training Leaders for the 21st Century). This past week I introduced the concept to my Sunday School class. I explained how to develop the map and then walked them through mine. Below are the explanatory notes as well as a copy of my personal Life Map.
Drawing/Writing your Life Story/Timeline
Portions are adapted from Charting a Bold Course: Training Leaders for the 21st Century, by Andrew B. Seidel
In the past, I have used the creation of a life map/timeline as one element in the process of discovering and developing your purpose in life.
- God’s purpose in history
- God’s purpose for the church
- Understanding your life purpose
- Spiritual gifts
- Understanding how you got to where you are today
- Identifying the heart-shaping events; the themes & major lessons God has taught you; emotional freeze points
- Snapshot – measure your current level of biblical knowledge, character, ministry skills
- Where do you need to grow?
- How will you get from where you are to where you want to go?
- Develop a strategy for lifelong learning and growth
Four-step process helpful in putting together your Life Story/Timeline
Observation is the most time consuming of the four steps. It is important to give yourself plenty of time to pray and reflect.
Using the Life Story Chart, divide your life into logical time sequences from birth to present. Think of these as “chapters” in your life story. Record those divisions along the horizontal line extending to the right. The vertical line represents the range of positive (+) and negative (-) experiences.
Start the observation process by writing brief notes about positive and negative relationships, places, successes, and failures that come to mind under the different life divisions.
Here are several questions you can use to prompt your thinking:
- Who are the most memorable people from your past?
- What have been the greatest influences in your life?
- What dreams have you had over your lifetime?
- When you think of your parents (or primary caregivers) what memories come to mind?
- What do you remember about where you grew up?
- What did you think about God during various chapters of your life?
- What portions of the Bible have been most meaningful to you? Why?
- What lessons has God taught you over the years?
Transfer the same life divisions from the Life Story Chart to the Life Story Worksheet.
Clarify your story by going back and highlighting those relationships and experiences on your chart that are the MOST FORMATIVE. To do this, identify those relationships and experiences that have had lasting impact; these are the most formative. Record your formative events on the Life Story Worksheet in the appropriate life division columns.
Consider how God has authored your story. As you pray and reflect on each formative event, ask two questions:
- “What has God revealed about himself? (attributes, character, works)
- “What has God revealed about me? (gifts, flaws, strengths, weaknesses)
Record your thoughts under the “God’s Authorship” section of the Life Story Worksheet found at the bottom of each division.
Reflect on the formative experiences and identify any recurring themes in your life that seem to stand out.
Based on what you have identified, go back and create titles for each of your divisions. Record the title on the Life Story Worksheet.
Communicate your story creatively—drawings, photographs, graphics, magazine cut‑outs, video clips, music, poetry, etc.
Share your life story/timeline with others
While it may sound scary to reveal your past, here are a few good reasons:
- The grace of God is revealed
- Others can relate
- Relationships are deepened
- Accountability is established
- Greater self-understanding is achieved
Listening to a Life Story
Respond to another’s story with attention and affirmation