You can't overestimate the importance of story in preaching. I believe story is one of the key differences between preaching and teaching. Story is what takes the mystery of Scripture and brings it down onto the human plane. Preachers, whether we like it or not, it's the stories people remember. You may lay out the text more clearly and masterfully than anyone since Jesus, but people need a hook to help them remember it.
Jesus knew this. Jesus must have been one of the greatest story-tellers of all time. The majority of his teaching was done through story. And I love the fact that Jesus trusted his stories so much that most of the time he didn't feel the need to explain them. There's something powerful about telling a story and allowing the listeners to discover the meaning by themselves.
Story takes on many forms. My personal favorite is telling stories from my own life that lend themselves to the truth I'm trying to convey. One of my favorite aspects of this is that it forces me to bring to remembrance things in my life that I've forgotten. It keeps me connected to my past. It also makes you approachable and sometimes vulnerable to your congregation - something I think is important.
Stories can also be object lessons, news items, humorous anecdotes, songs, video clips, etc...
The story is the most difficult part of sermon prep for me. Many weeks I'll have my sermon outline completed and I'm looking back over it asking myself, "Where's the story?" or "What can I do to make this truth stick in the minds of my congregation?" The creative process can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes the creative juices just aren't flowing. It's so helpful though if you have a few people to bounce ideas off of and get them brainstorming with you.
I've heard a lot of jokes about pastors who have their wives write their sermons for them. While Jamie doesn't write my sermons, I've found that she's one of the best tools in my sermon-writing toolbox. There have been several times when I've had a difficult time coming up with a good illustration, I present the message to her, and she comes up with a great idea to help convey the message. I'm sometimes jealous of the "big church" pastors that have a team of people they brainstorm with weekly and help them craft really creative sermons, but I'm thankful for Team Myers (the kids also supply me with an endless source of stories.)