3 Ways to Guide Your Storytelling

3 Ways to Guide Your Storytelling

Pssssst. Can I tell you a story? (Nathanial Tetteh, upspalsh.com)

Many of you are in the throes of (or are gearing up for) your “Stewardship Month.” Hopefully, you aren’t having a panic attack. But if you are, just keep repeating the affirmation of SNL’s Stuart Smalley, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” Cause it’s true!
While storytelling is something you should be doing all-year round, Stewardship Month especially lends itself as a time to have people in your church, get ready for the word…testify. Testifying, or storytelling, can come in many forms:
1.  Interviewing someone during a worship service.
In an excellent article, “A Better Way to Do Stewardship Testimonies,” Nate Berking suggests having a pastor guide a conversation to help get the person’s story out in an effective way.
To help guide this kind of storytelling, some of the interview questions he suggests (in order):

“Why don’t you share a little about your family and how long you’ve been coming to the church?” 
“One ministry in particular has made you very passionate. Could you share a little of that?”
“You’ve not only been giving your time to that ministry, but you’ve been giving generously to the church as a whole. Could you say why you do that?
“How do you think your giving is supporting God’s work?” Or “What is your greatest hope for what God might do with the gifts you give?” Or “How do you feel your life is better because of your generosity?
2.  Speaking – sans interview – about the impact of the church during worship.
To help guide this kind of storytelling:
-  Provide written guidelines of how the story might be structured.
-  Include some of the questions from above.
-  Provide a three-five minute window to speak.
-  Ask the person to write out the “one main point” he or she would like to get across and let you know what that point is. 
-  Explain to your storyteller that it takes a very talented person to “wing it” without notes. Suggest the person write down what they want to say and practice it a few times.
3.  Writing down the story.
To help guide this kind of storytelling:
-  Provide some of the same questions as above.
-  Suggest that the letter be as long as it needs to be.
-  Let the person know that you will “massage”/edit the letter for clarity and that you will send it back to them to be sure their voice is still coming through.
-  Here are two examples, one from a long-time giver and one from a boy who loves Sunday School.
In addition to mailing the letter, you can use parts of it in your newsletter, on your website, or on your Facebook page. Likewise, videotape the interview or the individual speaker and put it on your Facebook page or website. Capturing and using these stories in a variety of ways expands their impact.
Bonus idea: Have an artist visually tell a story of the church’s impact through a drawing, quilt, calligraphy…you name it. Get creative.
Stories continue to be as important today as they were thousands of years ago. They remind us of the ways that God works in the world and in the lives of ordinary women, men, and children. And, with a little guidance from you, these stories will be easier for the storyteller to construct and will have even more impact on those who hear them. Testify!
Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Today she is celebrating the life of Maribeth Collins, the matriarch of the Collins family. Read her obituary here and be inspired. Mystery solved. She was 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. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.