1) Start in October
It's a good thing this article is coming out in October. That was a close one. Starting in October gives you plenty of time to find, film and edit a story without feeling panicked. Panic can be great for creativity sometimes, but for me it saps my energy too much. Start by collaborating with your teaching pastor.
There are a ton of people that will come check out your church during Christmas.
There's a couple ways to tackle this.
If your pastor has his series or topics done, take a look at that first. It’s reasonable to request an outline with a few bullet points. This helps you ask informed questions and it makes you look smart. Based on the series you can make suggestions. Last year, we were doing a series around fostering, trafficking and local missions, so our conversations revolved around finding a story that fit the theme of the day.
Here's an example. The Jackson Family Foster and Adopt Story
If you don't have a clue what's being preached, ask a question like, "What kind of story would help?" This question is a little different than, "Do you want a story?" Assume the sale. Maybe throw in some options, such as, "salvation story ... growing in Christ story?" One year, we produced this story, Diana’s Christmas Story, as a way to say, "Life is tough, how does this person find joy at Christmas through Christ?"
2) Stories can go almost anywhere in service
Another good collaborator to talk to is, whoever produces the service order, normally your worship pastor. A good story can go after the offering. Offering, Pray, Story, Song. The worship leader knows they can come out of a story and lift into celebration. Or you could couch it between two songs. See if the band can play under the story for a few moments or start padding with 15 to 20 seconds before the end of the story, to help both parts transition seamlessly.
3) First Christmas as a Christian
I love these stories. Such a fresh perspective on the season for the rest of us who have grown to hate Christmas. I never hear more people say they hate Christmas than atheists, my uncle Jimmy, and almost everyone on church staffs. We get overworked, end up overspending, and certainly overeat. Of course you don't like it. But the folks who experience it fresh for the first time, for real ... it's magical. Take a look at Cash's Christmas Story.
4) Find people that started coming around the Christmas season
There are a ton of people that will come check out your church during Christmas. This is a great time to put someone up on screen that says, "I'm just like you, I kicked the tires during Christmas, and I came back." This will help people see themselves and then also recognize any next steps they could take to find some community. It doesn't have to end at Christmas.
Sometimes the person’s name will come up in the collaboration, but other times you have to go find a story that fits a theme. "We need something where a guy gets saved, while attending our church and it’s his first Christmas as a Christian." The field narrows quite a bit with those limitations. Here are a few places you can go to find stories:
Find the list of people who were baptized. I like to look a year or two out to start, but sometimes you have to go further out or more recent.
Walk from office to office and chat up the pastors for people they might know. Same for administrators at your church.
Check out people on your team. Your staff, volunteers or band members. No one cares how easy or hard it was to find a good story. Plus they might suggest someone.
Don’t send an email asking, "Hey, anybody know of any stories?" Sorry, usually no one on staff responds to those. They think, "Huh, isn't that their job?" Do the work, face-to-face or do a phone call with the people you think might have names and numbers.
5) Make the story accessible
Guests aren't just nonbelievers. Guests are sometimes born again believers, and even they don't get our insider language. Keep that in mind as you start the story by having the person you are interviewing talk about life as normal. Were they a gang member, soccer mom, or a loner? Then, what big life event happened to upset their what up to then had been their normal life? What led them to your church and/or to Jesus? It's OK to stop someone who is waxing a little too eloquent and suggest a different word or two. The salvation part of stories seem to get a little too abstract sometimes.
If you fight for clarity anywhere, go for it at that point in the story.
I hope these tips were helpful. If you have a specific question or want to discuss a situation you are in, don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.visionmakerscourse.com for more free tools and check out the four-hour course on filmmaking.