A few years back, I started dreaming about building a ministry team at our church that focused on storytelling. I was the Creative Arts Pastor at WoodsEdge, our church near Houston. I oversaw all the programming for our weekend services, and my team created all the media each week.
Our church is a passionate church. And I began to see how much of an impact our stories were having. We made all kinds of videos – announcements, promos, sermon intros and funny stuff. But when we told a story, it connected big time.
I had no idea what a storytelling ministry would (or should) look like for us. But I knew that we needed to let more people in on this. And I knew we wanted to empower and raise up artists for this ministry. This meant inviting volunteers into our storytelling process for the first time, something we had never really done before.
This past year we launched our Story Team. And to be honest, it was a shot in the dark. We had prayed about it a lot but still had questions about how it would all work. We launched it anyway. The dream was to help create a culture of storytelling at our church. Not only would we be a team that produced stories, we would be the ones to champion the value of personal stories – because each one matters.
As we started to meet, we asked each team member to write out their story and share it with the group. We wanted them to experience what it feels like to get vulnerable and open up, so they could walk someone else through that process.
Every month we would gather at the table around some food and listen to 3 or 4 stories. After each person shared, I asked our team to speak back what they had heard, what they loved and what impacted them. The response was absolutely life-giving. Each person’s vulnerability was met with encouragement and acceptance. The room felt deeply connected in a holy sort of way.
This made a huge impact on us as leaders and helped us realize several things.
The first thing is that people crave connection and stories deliver on that. There’s something very human about letting down your guard and sharing something difficult. But when we’re willing to share it, it connects on a deep level with other people.
We also realized that storytelling is a ministry, not just a craft. Not all of our team members needed training to produce stories – filming and writing and taking photos. Some of our team members are just really good listeners. They’re wired for empathy, and that’s a crucial component for walking people through an interview process.
Other team members had a passion for untold stories, for the people you wouldn’t expect, the stories that are less flashy and more everyday. These were people that could help us find new stories because they were already looking for them.
And then we had team members who were more creative – writers, photographers and filmmakers. They were the ones to bring along on photo shoots and film projects so they could begin to grow and be empowered as artists.
Along the way, I’ve seen our team become more intentional and confident in what they’re doing. And we’ve gotten some traction as we’ve done this work together. It hasn’t always been easy. Working with a larger group takes patience. Training people takes time. If you’re used to fast production schedules (like we are), it’s an adjustment. But it’s been absolutely worth it.
We still have moments when we have no idea what to do next. But we’ve gotten to a point where we’re doing this ministry together. Storytelling is a team sport. And we’re willing to push through uncertainty because we believe in each other and in what we’re doing.
P.S. If you’re considering starting a storytelling ministry in your church, we would love to chat with you, to hear what you’re dreaming about and encourage you. Shoot us an email anytime.