Re-Imagine Your Story
I love a good musical. I get teary-eyed when I start singing “Oooooh-klahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains” (and if there’s someone sitting next to me they are teary-eyed for a whole other set of reasons…clearly they have no taste in fine singing).
Recently, I ordered the soundtrack for “Hamilton.” In case you’ve been living in a cave, it’s the smash of all smash hits on Broadway. People are paying exorbitant prices to see it. The New York Times recently quoted a Craigslist ad: “I bought tickets for the wrong night. These are legitimate ‘Hamilton’ tickets for Friday, March 11, 8pm purchased through Ticketmaster. I just want to get back what I paid for them. Great seats! $933.80 per ticket.”
Someone who recently saw the show said, “The woman in the seat next to me cried the entire second act; people were cheering, crying, singing along. The connection between the actors, the songs, the story, and the audience was nothing short of transcendent.”
Let’s just say, the “Hamilton” soundtrack is not merely good, it’s incredible. It lives up to all the hype. It’s a re-telling – a re-imagining – of the adult life of Alexander Hamilton through hip-hop music (yes, really). What has usually felt like ancient history is now freshly alive. I have never taken an interest in the person on the $10 bill until now. See the opening from “Hamilton” here.
How can you make your congregation’s story more interesting?
1. Reflect on your story. It almost seems like heresy to do that in a world and environment that is always on the go. But take a two-minute look at this video “Creativity at Its Best” and you’ll see why taking time just to think is so important.
2. Tell your story. The Biblical story is powerful because it stirs our imagination. It tells us who we are as a people of faith – where we have come from and where we should be going. Storytelling can be powerful but no one can know your congregation’s history unless someone tells it.
3. Tell your story in a fresh way. No one is expecting you to stage a musical like “Hamilton” (though, wouldn’t that be awesome?) but merely a dry reading of your history is boring. Have people take on roles and read from diaries, have your youth do a re-telling of the church’s story from their point of view, video people imagining what they’d do if they had to start a new church back in the day.
4. Celebrate your story. The good, bad, and the ugly have made you who you are. Make sure people know all aspects of its beginnings. Your congregation can (hopefully) take pride in their history, especially knowing how they have progressed and become the people God has called them to be. Pepper these stories throughout the year – your story doesn’t have to feel like or be ancient history. You are standing on the shoulders of saints (and sinners).
If you are so moved, by all means, write a musical. But more importantly, take time to re-imagine how you can capture your congregation’s imagination and history through storytelling. It might not take Broadway, but it just could be a smashing success anyway.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Beware, she is open for auditions for your next church musical. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.