By Patrick Scriven | Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministry

You’ve probably heard the proverb that if you only have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. So it should come as no surprise that to a communicator, the challenges we face as a church today all look like failures to tell our story well.

That said, it is hardly a stretch to see the importance of story in the work we share as the church. Good storytelling has the power to provide meaning, helps people to find their place in a community, and empowers purpose and collective mission. Jesus sent his disciples out with the primary task of telling a bold story of Good News for all nations. That is still our work today.

Of course the opposite is also true, in my humble opinion:

If you don’t have a good story, you don’t have a prayer.

This is why our communications training on November 14th is focused on the importance of storytelling. A church can have all of the most amazing tools, and the best technology around, but its storytelling efforts will inevitably fall short if their message is too timid, unclear, and/or ungrounded in reality.

During plenary sessions at “We Have a Story to Tell” (#Story2TellUMC), we’ll hear from Ray Buckley, a gifted Native American storyteller who has served our denomination in several prominant roles (Read Ray’s Bio). We’ll also learn from Rev. Bill Gibson, our new Director of Strategic Faith Community Development (Read Bill’s Bio). Gibson has a background in communications and, as a successful church planter, strong awareness of how important story is in gathering people together.

This training really is for church leaders of differing skill levels. While we hope that participants will pick up some technical tips and insights during the workshops, we are trying to strike a balance that will allow regular practitioners to encounter new ideas without overburdening others with technical jargon. After all, storytelling isn’t the sole responsibility of the pastor or another staff member, it is the charge of each disciple.

You can read more about this training and the workshops we are offering by clicking here. We are excited to have staff from United Methodist Communications present, joining a number of skilled trainers from our episcopal area.

Taking one last swing with my proverbial hammer, let me finish by suggesting that having a good story, and telling it well, is essential to reaching new people, particularly those who are younger and/or unchurched.

As a recent blog post by Karl Vaters points out, we may assume that people don’t attend church because they are angry or disagree with us. However, that assumption makes it more likely to miss that some people, perhaps many people, simply aren’t moved or compelled by the story we are telling.

Dropping our assumptions should drive us to ask questions.

  • Are we telling our story in a way that people can easier find themselves within it? Do our messages resonate with their lives, the difficulties they encounter, and the problems they see?
  • Is our story clear without being simplistic? Does it leave indifference as a reasonable response?
  • Do we present a countercultural message that isn’t some veiled form of self-righteousness? Have we experienced the truth of what we say and does it truly offer life to our communities?
  • Do people even hear our stories if we tell them primarily  to each other in our sacred spaces on Sunday mornings? What can we do to get out there? How do our stories reflect our own deep listening?

We have a story to tell! In fact, I think we have the best story ever – a belief I find reinforced by how often our story is coopted in the arts and by popular culture. We have a story of a God who loves, and forgives, endlessly, a God who invites us to share in the transformation of the world.

But regardless of how well we know and like our story, we can always benefit from time spent considering how others hear it, and how we can more effectively get it out there. So I hope you’ll considering attending #Story2TellUMC. Check out the event and please consider bringing a group from your church on November 14th to Puyallup First UMC.

Event OverviewKeynote Speakers  |  Workshops  |  Promotional Resources  |  Schedule

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