Passion Tour

The Art of Storytelling in Church Services

This quote from Saving Mr. Banks has hit me to the core.  It’s the perfect expression of why I’m in the business I’m in.  To bring hope to those who have none.  Except for I don’t do it with Imagination, I do it with real life stories:

“George Banks and all he stands for will be saved.  Maybe not in life, but in imagination.  Because that’s what we storytellers do.  We restore order with imagination.  We instill hope again and again and again.”Saving Mr. Banks

In the church, we are in the business of telling stories.  After all, the Bible is a compilation of God-inspired stories.  Jesus taught in stories.  

The problem is that some churches are good at telling stories, and some are bad at telling stories

Let me start with a bit of scripture.  The verse in Revelation 12:11 hits it perfectly.  “They have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony”.  Other versions say “defeated him” and “triumphed over him”, but they all say by their testimony…. by their story!  This chapter in Revelation says that we overcome, we defeat, we conquer the accuser (the devil), by the blood of the lamb and by our story!  Our stories have power.  I don’t mean this in a weird mystical way, but in a way that should encourage us to become better story tellers.

Whether you are involved with preaching, music, production, art, graphic design, video, we have to become better story tellers.  Here’s the hard part.  You have to get past the idea that telling stories is the preacher’s job, and you have to get past the idea that it’s the video guy’s job.  It’s everyone’s job to tell a story.  Stories are in every worship set.  Stories are in how your people come on to your campus and how they leave changed.  Your piece that you contribute to the service may not be a story in of itself, but part of the larger story of the service.

What blows me away about churches that do services well is that they take people on a journey.  You might not realize you have just been taken through a journey, but good church services take people on a journey.  And here’s a hint, it is not a two party story of worship and speaking.  Good services take people through the basic five parts of a story:

  1. Exposition – the narrative – how things are
  2. Rising action – events that lead to the crisis
  3. Crisis – the crux – the turning point
  4. Falling action – the result of the crisis
  5. Resolution – the answers – the release of tensions or anxiety

And here’s the main problem with most Church services.  We camp out so long in the Resolution that we forget to take people on a journey of our story.  We expect non-believers to come and enjoy the resolution when you haven’t shown them the rest of the story.  Think about it.  How would you enjoy going to the latest Blockbuster hit movie and only watching the ending.  That’s virtually unheard of. Warner Brothers would be out of business if they tried to pull that off.  Yet we replicate that in our church services like it’s the golden standard.

God’s grace and salvation in my life is an end result of a life lived as a sinner (exposition), coming into contact with the good news of Jesus through hard life circumstances (Rising Action), coming to the end of myself (Crisis), Receiving Salvation (Falling Action), and then living out the life He has set for me (Resolution).  We all have stories like this, and I promise, it always fits in the basic 5 parts of story.

It’s also important to point out that the Resolution is often the shortest part of every good story.  Think of it, we spend an hour and a half talking about Cinderella and how she’s being mistreated, yet resolve with a quick happily ever after.  We sit through 9+ hours of Lord of the Rings to watch this conflict of what to do with the ring, yet when the ring is destroyed, we spend only about 10 minutes in resolution.

So next time, when you are planning a service, think through how you are taking your people on a journey.  Let’s spend more time on getting people through the journey to the Crisis and Falling Action, and less time camping out in Resolution.

The Difference Is In The Details

The difference is in the details.  Repeat after me: The difference is in the details.  This applies to pretty much every aspect of life, but it obviously applies to my work as a technical director, video guy, and graphic designer.  I’m going to camp out on the graphic designer side of me for a second.  I found this video “Font  Men”. Fonts/Typefaces are something that beginners in design always overlook.  A correctly chosen font will make all the difference in your design work. Sure you can grab quick and free fonts at dafont.com or other sites of the like. However, if you want to take your design skills from good to great, then the difference is in the details.  I’m amazed by these two guys who have dedicated their lives to a little thing we designers take for granted.  Enjoy the mastery of these font designers.

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Seeds Conference 2014 – Willie George on the Next Generation

Photo Credit: Someone on Twitter.  I can’t remember the name!!  If this is your photo, let me know!

So I’m a Technical Director by trade, but I have been in the Church for a long time.  So I’ve been in Church since the days of children’s ministry, and then grew up through the youth ministry.  At Seeds Conference, when Willie George started talking about Children’s ministry, I was tempted to tune out a bit (It was the morning session and all).  But what he had to say connected with me in a deeper level, because I had been through everything he talked about in the Church.  I was once in the children’s ministry and the youth ministry, and I carried the same burden that he was talking about.  However with all good speakers, he found a good way to phrase it:

  • The missing ministry of Jesus – Children and Youth Ministry
  • Christ modeled every ministry he set in the church
  • Mat 9:18 – Kids have real problems
  • Mat 10:42 – And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
  • Mat 18:1-4 – At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. the way we treat children shows true attitude to Christ
  • The burden of change is always on the older generation
  • …like a child
  • They wanted me when I was 30 not when I was 10.  Have me when your 10 and you’ll get me when I’m 30.
  • Heaven is filled with Children
  • This is the quietest world you will ever live in, Heaven is filled with Children! Ha!
  • How long is your church going to last? Will you burn bright for just one generation?
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Seeds Conference 2014 – Whitney George on Creativity for Services

We had a breakout session at Seeds Conference with Whitney George.  Whit is the lead pastor’s son and is basically in charge of everything that happens in their main auditorium.  So he oversees all the worship, production, creative elements, videos, graphics, etc.  There’s probably a lot of sleepless nights involved – ha!  While the other main speakers were a little bit broader in approach, I appreciated this session a great deal because it was very specific to what I deal with on a day to day basis.  It’s important to always remember context and who your church is, as Whit’s way of doing things won’t always work in our situation.  But it’s important that it raise certain questions so that your team can get better in your own way.  Here are a few notes:

  • If you want to create something creative, your team has to have one vision.  The way they do it at Church on the Move is that the services are basically the overall vision of Whit’s.  He has trusted guys that speak into that around him that he’s worked with for a long time.
  • Play to your strengths – He said the reason why Church on the Move seems really good at everything they do, is because they don’t do everything.  They know what they are good at, they play off those strengths, and try to stay away from their weaknesses.  If you aren’t good at acting, then don’t try to act.
  • Part time vs full time or trying once vs life time of practice.  Don’t fool yourself to thinking that your one time shot is going to be as good as someone who has done it there entire life.
  • Peaks and Valleys – if everything is awesome, nothing is awesome – learn to create timing and flow and moments
  • Tension creates interest- the longer you create tension – the bigger the payoff has to be.  Whether this is in service, videos, music, or other creative elements, the longer you hold tension the more you are going to have to pay for that tension.
  • Do less to do more- spend less time on new things and more on the weekly stuff.  The weekly stuff is what matters.
  • Quality over variety – Spend time on doing a few things well, rather than a lot of things poorly.
  • Work it until you feel it – If you can’t feel the special moment, or if you don’t fully understand why you are doing something.  Don’t do it.  Odds are, your people won’t either.
Chip Heath

Seeds Conference 2014 – Chip Heath on Communication

Photo Credit: Andy Barron

I realize I’ve been talking a lot about the Seeds Conference lately, but I was fortunate to capture a lot of wisdom, so I thought I would pass it along.  Chip Heath, author of Made to Stick, talked about communicating ideas.  I’ve never read the book before, I’m in the process of reading it right now.  Let me just say, if you haven’t read it or heard it yet and you are into communication in anyway – you should definitely read it.  Chip is a professor at Stanford and studies marketing/political/idea campaigns and tries to explain how some work and how some don’t work.  I found his talk fascinating, here are some of the things I learned from his talk:

  • Researchers did a study with a group of people tapping a beat of a song, and they measured if listeners could tell what song they were tapping.  The tappers thought that the listeners would guess the songs 50% of the time.  In reality, they only guessed the song 3% of the time.  This phenomenon is called the “curse of knowledge” – when we know something really well- it’s hard to imagine what people will  think that don’t know.
  • If you want to communicate well you have to imagine what it’s like to not know what you know
  • Sticky means: Understood, Remembered, Changes Something (act, decisions)
  • Principle characteristics of sticky ideas:
  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional
  6. Stories

On Unexpected:

  • To get attention you have to break a schema
  • Example: Surfer-Nobel prize winner
  • Your role is to move beyond common sense – to uncommon sense and you will create a conversation

On Concrete:

  • Brings emotion
  • Makes the story relatable
  • Invokes a “flight simulation” of the idea for the listener, because they have an understanding of what something should be

On Emotional

  • Can you make people care?
  • Consequence based change vs identity based change
  • Your role – find the identity that people care about

On Stories

  • Stories are flight simulators for the brain
  • Springboard stories – if you tell a story- people run the flight simulator
  • Tell a story to inspire action!

Do’s vs Dont’s:

  • Simple vs complex
  • Concrete vs abstraction
  • Emotion vs identity

Don’t let the curse of knowledge get in the way of your message