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888.524.2426 |  mark@churchcmo.com

Are You Telling a GREAT Story?

Let’s face it, our faith is built on the greatest story ever told by the greatest storyteller that ever lived! Throughout the centuries, our faith community has spread  throughout the entire world by the sharing of the Gospel story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – person to person! And as new technology like the printing press emerged, the church was usually the primary beneficiary of the new media to further share its story. 
This is not a bombshell revelation for any of you, right? But beginning in the 20th century the church has been surpassed as the preeminent story tellers in our communities by another breed – the advertiser. You see, agencies realized that the best way to differentiate their products was through a good story. In the last five years or so, storytelling has been the primary buzzword around the marketing, advertising, and content creation water coolers. Advertisers realize that a good story can surprise us; that compelling characters can connect with consumers; and well-crafted stories can not only make us think but even make an emotional connection. 
So, what happened, all churches are still telling the greatest story? But, unlike the advent of the Gutenberg printed Bible that spread the Word of God to new audiences, the dawning of rapidly advancing communication technology has surpassed the grasp of most churches. And it’s not just a technology issue, its creatively leveraging tech and media to grab the hearts and minds of people who need our story now more than ever! 
So, how do we as the church tell Jesus’ story so that it causes new audiences to consider different ideas about hope and to embrace an emotional connection with Jesus? I think there are three important concepts that we need to adopt as we look for ways to break out of old storytelling paradigms. 
1) Teach our people the stories, teach them how to share the stories, teach them how to tell their stories. Pastors preach sermons every week with great stories of redemption, recovery, and resurrection, but we fall short in helping our people translate them into stories they can relate to their friends and family. Sometimes I think it is appropriate to make that a part of your sermon, a quick “how to apply this story moment”.  But you can’t do that every sermon, so a great idea is to host a video on Mondays to translate the content, expound on compelling points, and discuss the stories in your sermon. This can even be a channel for people to share the story by simply connecting their friends to this video chat. Another example: this Easter Sunday, NBC presented a live rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar in prime time; did your church talk about it, encourage watch parties to invite people to experience it and discuss it, or even talk about it afterward? The Church doesn’t own the copyright on Gospel content, God imprinted it all around us, so let’s use it to tell our stories, even if it is a secular television network. Another important tenet of this concept is teaching our people how tell their stories. We will address teaching our people how to write and tell their stories in its own post soon. 
2) We need to find creative ways to make our stories accessible, compelling, and memorable. Accessibility is really the easy part of this formula because we have countless platforms and media to share our stories. Worship and small group experiences, social and digital media, podcasts, and even virtual reality (not to mention reality-reality) are all channels to get our stories told. But the important part of the transaction is for our stories to be heard. That is why compelling and memorable are included in my list, they are critical to engaging with your audience. I think the tool that can help us achieve both and can be distributed both live or via wireless channels is video. Steve Job’s legacy to the church was a High-Definition video camera that we carry around in our pockets all the time. Now, we can easily capture video, but I encourage you to find people who can help you become a video storyteller; to use tools so that the important testimonies that a couple shares about how Jesus saved their marriage and literally saved their lives will connect with hearts and minds. The use of high quality, video can immediately make your stories more compelling and memorable thus impacting and engaging with your audience!
3) We should fearlessly go into the community and share our story without shame. Here is a link to a TED Talk from 2013 from Amanda Palmer, a musician that exhibits this level of engagement. WARNING: her story is raw, I am not asking you to imitate her techniques; but I am asking you to listen closely to how she approached an old paradigm with a courageous, new approach. I truly think the last 3 minutes she is really speaking to us! Can we motivate, encourage, lead our people to trust in God so we can face others and “give and receive fearlessly, but more important to ask without shame.” Amanda used Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform that requires a video story, to try to raise $250,000 to get her band’s next record produced. Asking her audience to donate money to the project in exchange for free access to her music, her crowd raised over one million dollars for the project! A compelling story to a highly engaged audience can create tremendous results when asked honestly; imagine how that would work in your church!
Myself and my friends at ChurchCMO believe that the local church should be telling the most compelling, engaging, and life-transforming stories in their communities. So that is why we are dedicating many resources and adding some new services in the coming months to help churches tell the greatest story ever told about the greatest man who ever lived. Stay tuned, but more importantly let us know how we can help you tell your story! 
Share in the comments how you are creatively telling your stories!

2 Comments

  • Charla Sherbakoff

    Mark – your blog has made me think about if and how I am personally telling a great story and if and how my church is telling a great story. We are called to be witnesses. We called to tell a great story. We tell stories all the time (about how long we had to wait in the line at Walmart, how bad traffic is…) but are we telling the great story? How are we using the resources God has given us to tell the story of Jesus’ presence and healing love? Looking forward to your next blog!

    • Thanks for the comment Charla! I think that all our stories are important, even how we deal with traffic, but how do we use our story to point people to greatest story? I think the point where homiletics meets great storytelling is where our audiences can engage with the Gospel. Stay tuned…

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