How to Kill a Great Story

I've told all kinds of stories under all kinds of deadlines. That's often how things roll in the church. Our leaders' best ideas seem to pop up a day late and a dollar short, without the resources or the time to execute them properly. But somehow, we just go ahead and do it anyway.

We live in a culture where we pride ourselves on getting stuff done. Busyness is a given. Exhaustion is a badge of honor. Particularly in the production world, a lot of us are adrenaline junkies. We almost-don't-make-it across the finish line more often than we probably should. Don't believe me? Look at what you spent on coffee this past year.

Because here's what happens. Someone steps into your office and says, "Hey, can you help us do a quick video?" Suddenly you're under the gun. This is happening now. You say yes (because no probably isn't an option.)

And you're off to the races. What's the story? How long do we have? Where do we film it? What gear should we use? The pressure's real, and it's on. You have to deliver.

It's taken me a while to realize that this constant state of hurry doesn't just have an effect on my calendar. It's pretty destructive for telling a good story. This is because storytelling is a complex discovery process. All the time. Every time.

When we rush it, here's what happens.

We Swoop In

Most times, when we're filming a story, we're looking to capture a natural conversation from the person we're interviewing. We want it to feel honest and unscripted, vulnerable and poignant. That's a lot to ask, especially if the person we're interviewing doesn't know us.

Imagine for a minute that the shoe is on the other foot. You just got a call from the media guy at church. Now he's in your living room with lights and cameras, asking you to share the hardest thing you've ever walked through. And you've never done this before. And the whole church is gonna watch it. Aaaand we're rolling. Sound like fun?

We shouldn't expect people to be vulnerable unless they know they can trust us. We can't expect there to be a lot of trust without relationship. And it's hard to have any kind of relationship without investing time.

We Don't Listen Well

Another victim of hurry is our ability to listen to what someone's saying within their story. In the church, we have a lot of opportunities to address big personal issues through storytelling. But we are notorious for deciding the theme of someone's story before we actually hear what they have to say.

I've been sent out to film stories several times only to discover that, when I actually listened to them, weren't really about what we thought. We had pre-decided the theme of the story without doing our homework. And now we have to rethink what we're doing. Never a great way to start.

We Get Formulaic

Albert Einstein once famously said that "creativity is the residue of wasted time." And I think the opposite can be true as well, that a lack of imagination can be the result of hurry.

I've found that what suffers the most when I'm in a rush is my creativity. I'm the most likely to copy-paste old ideas when I'm solely focused on getting my project done quickly. But after a while, it's easy to fall out of love with storytelling. My constant hurry can disconnect me from what I'm passionate about, and then it just becomes work.


I know what you're thinking. I know, I know, I know.

Time is the one thing you don't have right now. But even when you're on a deadline, don't blow past the good stuff just to get your project done. We're asking people to share stories that we hope will resonate deeply with our audience. Slow down enough to build relationships, listen intently, and creatively bring each story to life.