Your Field Trip to Fabulous Stories
Oh, to own a Yellowstone school bus!
I’m going on a field trip! I’m going on a field trip!
Next week, I’m heading off to Seattle for the “Non-Profit Storytelling Conference.” Can you tell that I’m excited? Maybe the only thing that would make it seem even more like a field trip would be getting on one of those old yellow school buses.
This school bus, however, wouldn’t have screaming (yet sweet) children. It would have really hip people providing massages, fabulous coffee drinks, a cappella singing, and laughs a minute – all the way to the Space Needle. But (sigh) I shall be trudging along in my little ole’ Prius…and who cares? I’m going on a field trip!
Just in time to whet my appetite, a great article came along: “6 Types of Stories that Spur Giving.” Nancy Schwartz has quickly captured the kind of stories that stir people’s heart into action. I’ve given it the “churchy makeover”:
1. Your Founding Story: Every church has a story to tell of how it came to be. Who were the saints who founded your congregation? Where did they come from? What obstacles did they overcome to establish your church?
2. Your Focus Story: This tells why your congregation exists. What was it that moved people to start your congregation? Why do you exist? That’s an answer that should readily fall from your lips. If it doesn’t, it’s time to do some work on defining your mission.
3. Your Impact Stories: This goes back to that question: “If your church closed its doors, would anyone notice? Would anyone care?” Find stories about how your congregation has made a difference in the lives of people within your church and in the community.
4. Your People Stories: How have your people, staff, and volunteers been impacted by what your church does? Give people the opportunity to present a good old-fashioned testimony about transformation that has only been made possible because of the work that is being done in your church.
5. Your Strength Stories: What stories can you tell that are unique to your congregation “in a way unmatched by other organizations”? This, of course, means that you know your congregation’s strengths. If you don’t – take the time, have some fun, and make up an exhaustive list of all the things you do well. And then talk about them.
6. Your Future Stories: What is your potential to transform lives and communities in the future? Dream big. Be bold. Be brave. Tell the story of how your congregation has a place in God’s kingdom that will make your community a better place within the next year and potentially for decades to come.
So maybe you need to take a field trip too – a mental one if nothing else – where you find the story you or others need to tell about your very special congregation and its impact. Guaranteed, it will be a refreshing and wonder-filled ride.
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. Maybe she’ll buy a yellow school bus and head out on the open road -- who's in? 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.