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:
- Exposition – the narrative – how things are
- Rising action – events that lead to the crisis
- Crisis – the crux – the turning point
- Falling action – the result of the crisis
- 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.