I remember being a little kid, hiking with my grandfather, who I have always affectionately called Papaw. When I would visit him in East Tennessee, we would walk off his back porch and into the woods, then onto makeshift trails, up a small hill and into a clearing.
There we would sit, and then he would tell me one of his stories.
My favorites were the Adventures of Brier Rabbit and his friends, and the trouble they would get into.
If we aren’t careful, someone could walk into one of our church services and feel very disconnected.
It was during those hikes with my Papaw, that I fell in love with stories.
I had no idea then, but two decades later, that love of stories, born during those hikes, would shape the trajectory of my life.
It’s crazy to think about how powerful sharing a story can be. Then realize how we could talk for hours about the achievements of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, J.R.R. Tolkien, Wes Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Martin Scorsese, Stephen King, and the list could go on and on and on. Each of these people are household names, because of their incredible ability to transport us to faraway places, times, and experiences. They also have the innate ability to captivate us and teach us, and pull on our heartstrings.
Each of them is a great storyteller.
Yet, one day we will forget each of their names.
But we will remember their stories.
The stories we share have great potential to far outlive us.
When I think about all the responsibilities I have been given as Creative Producer at Hope Church in Las Vegas, my favorite by far is being able to tell stories. I love it, because I have been changed by stories. I love it for also having seen stories change the lives of others. Stories transport us, because stories give us new perspective.
I love it, because stories make points we otherwise never could.
As I think about the all the parts of a weekend service, for the most part, to the average person, it can seem like the people on stage have it all together: The pastor has a well prepared message, the musicians and vocalist are rehearsed and ready, the announcements host (most of the time) isn’t just winging it.
If we aren’t careful, someone could walk into one of our church services and feel very disconnected. They can feel like they don’t belong, like they can’t measure up to the pro-Christians they see on stage.
But when we share the stories of people sitting in the audience, we not only show the power and grace of Jesus, but we also take Christianity off the stage, if you will, while also elevating “normal” people who are sitting beside them in the seats.
Don’t get me wrong, sharing stories is not easy. People are messy and while God’s salvation is a done deal, the working out of that salvation is a continual process.
People aren’t perfect, and our job isn’t to make them look like it. Our job is to show off the life-changing power of the gospel.
If by now, you still are not into this storytelling idea, feel free to move on to the next article. I promise not to be offended. However, if you value sharing stories, here are a few things to think through as you look to capture and share stories at your church.
First and most important: You need a story to share. You need to always have your antennae up, listening for people sharing about what God is doing in your church. Maybe it's a family that connected in a small group, or a student who was invited by a friend. Maybe it is a global partner who is seeing God do amazing things.
If we aren't tuned into what God is doing at your church and in your community, you will run right past awesome stories that could be impactful at your church. Look for opportunities to talk with ministry leaders about what God is doing, and find the stories of his activity.
Next do your research: Nothing is worse than showing up to an interview for a testimony video, for example, with someone you've never met, and sitting down for two hours to try and find a decent story to share.
In those situations, you first often will find yourself with a ton of bad footage. Then you waste hours editing in circles as you work to make people sound polished, only to make a video that doesn't line up with your pastor's or ministry leaders' vision for the project.
In the end, you are in a lose-lose situation. Instead, first get a clear idea of the vision for the project.
Who is your audience? (What group of people are you talking to, and how will they best receive your content?)
What are you trying to communicate? (Is it an event, a story of life change, or a global trip?)
What is it you ask of people? (Join a group, let go of your baggage, serve with students.)
Set up a meeting or a phone call with your subject. Give them questions to answer before you begin your video shoot. When we work on life change stories, those of us at Hope Church always ask three questions:
Who were you before Jesus?
How did you meet Jesus?
How are you different now?
The point isn't the questions, the point is the preparation. You want to do everything you can to help the people share their story in the clearest, most impactful way possible.
Finally, make a big deal out of Jesus.
We all know that the goal isn't to show off how cool it is to throw your life away, or go to prison, or cheat on your spouse; but sometimes the stories we tell tend to show how bad we are - not how good Jesus is. Make sure you are being true to the story, but try to spend more time talking about Jesus, and the grace he had reaching into that individual's darkness, rather than all the crap it took for them to finally get to the end of the rope. As I said before, this isn't easy, but it’s totally worth it.
Remember, it’s not your video that changes people's life, it's Jesus.
So your goal should be making Him the star of the story.
Every week in our services we are telling stories, and it is our job to make sure we are telling the right ones in the right way. Your pastor is going to talk about life change, and it could be so much more impactful if we let people share their own story, instead of having someone else retell it for them.
People in your church are sharing the gospel, and we could really gain momentum if we gave people a glimpse into how God uses ordinary people to accomplish His mission.
As we share stories at our churches, we have the ability to say things our pastors never could.
We have the chance to transport people around the world or down the street to the mission field. We get to give people a new perspective on how God is working. We are the curators of the incredible stories that highlight God’s activity in each of our communities.
Sharing those stories is certainly tough, but it has the great potential to elicit change that can outlast us.