Tag Archives: storytelling

Communication and those annoying interruptions

I had an “ah ha!” moment in October 2007. And it changed at least two things for me:

      1. the way I view interruptions, and
      2. my approach to church communication.

I had been reading the fifth chapter of Mark’s gospel.

Jesus heals demoniacJesus is on his way from a boat landing into town when a man possessed by a legion of demons interrupts him . Jesus stops and heals him.

Next, Jesus is telling stories to a crowd of people when a man named Jairus interrupts and begs Jesus to come and heal his sick daughter. Jesus stops what he’s doing and heads toward Jairus’ house.

Jesus heals

On his way, a woman who had been ill 12 years comes up behind Jesus and touches his cloak in hopes of being healed. Again, Jesus stops and deals with the interruption. He says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

A light bulb came on in my head. I realized that a lot of good stuff happens on the way to doing something else. And if I’m too busy to stop and deal with the interruptions, I might just miss what God’s trying to do with me and through me.

And then I recognized how much I’d been immersed in these stories from Mark’s gospel. Jesus used storytelling as his primary method of teaching. Perhaps I should do the same.

As a church communication guy, I spent a lot of time and energy  relaying information about programs and ministries, calendars and events. Now I began to see that telling a story is much more effective than reciting facts, dates and bullet-points… especially in spiritual matters.

I began refocusing my work. My new passion was telling stories and helping others tell their stories. On the church website, in the weekly TV program, and in every other channel of communication, we began to feature the stories of how people were living out their faith in their day-to-day lives.

You can see the first 50 or so of them here. And still more here.

sharing the faith

As a congregation, Richmond’s First Baptist Church was on the way to something else. Ten months earlier, Dr. Peter James Flamming retired after serving 23 years as Senior Pastor. The Pastor Search Committee was still interviewing candidates for his successor.

We were dealing with an abnormal level of angst and anxiety in the congregation. I don’t claim that the stories changed all that. But I was an eye-witness to softening hearts as people recounted their experiences with God. And many of those who heard, read and watched the video clips melted into God’s grace as they resonated with those stories… many of which involved dealing with some sort of interruption.

As Mark tells it, the folks who were around when Jesus healed the demon-possessed man were more concerned with the pigs than the miracle (I talked about that in a previous post).

But the healed man went around that part of the country telling the story of what Jesus did for him. And Mark says, “All the people were amazed.”

 

Storytelling – the future of church communication

communicationThe future of communication in the church is all about storytelling, not technology.

That’s what I’m telling the folks who are looking ahead and thinking about the Ministry of Communication at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. They’re laying the groundwork for what kind of person they want to lead the ministry after I retire in September.

When I first joined the FBC staff in 1993, my job title was Media Minister. The focus of my work was using the various media at our disposal: television, printed newsletters & brochures, and public announcements. There was no website, no digital signage, and no online magazine.  If we wanted to get the word out to the community about something, we notified the radio & TV stations and the daily newspaper. There were no online community calendars, no social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.

SurinameI used to jokingly tell people that I was the “Minister of Machines.” That was not far from the truth. Fortunately, I didn’t have to run a full-blown print shop, as I had done in a previous church. We farmed out the printing, and it cost a small fortune. But I did spend a lot of time keeping the television equipment running. There were dedicated boxes all along the signal path, each one performing some specialized function. There were tape machines and big, heavy, energy-hungry, heat-producing video monitors everywhere.

A television engineer friend used to quip, “Television is so complex, with so many interrelated connections and finicky sub-systems, that when every little piece works perfectly, the whole system just barely works.” When I started in television in the late 60’s, it took an army of technicians to keep all those little pieces working and playing well together. I had a full head of hair back then!

powers_editingI still spend a lot of time wrangling technology and scratching my bald head when something doesn’t work. But these days, there are no tape machines. Everything’s recorded in 1’s and 0’s on hard drives. The cathode ray tubes are gone and sleek, thin LED monitors sit in their place.

The lone computer in the FBC TV control room when I arrived 20 years ago has been replaced many times over with ever-more-sophisticated and powerful processors. Most of those specialized black boxes are gone. There are half dozen more computers. They allow us to create visual and audio effects that only high-end Hollywood studios could do just a few years ago.

These days I’m the “Associate Pastor, Communication.” And I focus more on who, what, when, where, why, and how, than on the hardware used to carry the message.

yay-4455770It’s all about telling stories and connecting with people.

One size does not fit all. Truth be told, it never did.

There are so many communication channels, so much “noise” and competition for our attention, the biggest challenge is discovering and tracking how and where people get their information and what factors exert influence as they make decisions.

We deal in spiritual matters. So results are rarely quantifiable using simple math. You can’t count heads in the sanctuary on Sunday morning and get an accurate measure of spiritual maturity.  You can’t gauge the effectiveness of our efforts to communicate the Gospel by adding up what’s dropped in the offering plate. The measure of success, I’ve been learning, is in the stories of life change… of transformation. Telling and listening to those stories is the “stuff” of the church’s communication ministry.

So here’s to the storytellers of the next generation. And don’t count me out of the game quite yet, either. I’ve still got a few yarns to spin.