June 13, 2014

Making Space to Share Our Stories

What’s holding us back from sharing our faith stories?

As editor of ECF Vital Practices, I think about this a lot. I have the privilege of hearing – and sharing - amazing stories of how faith communities are responding to God’s call through ECFVP and Vestry Papers, yet, often, when I visit the congregation’s web site, I find no mention of these amazing ministries. Why is that? We know that people connect to stories. So what’s holding us back?

And, more important, what can I – and others – do to change this?

Here’s my short list of things that hold us back:

  • It hasn’t occurred to us. We consider our newsletters, websites, and other communications tools only as means for sharing information.
  • It’s one more thing to do.
  • Scarcity of time, money, staff, or expertise.

Last week, I led the workshop “Communicating Year Round Stewardship” at the 2014 TENS conference. Central to this workshop was identifying opportunities to share our stories of generosity and gratitude, within the bounds of the resources already in place in a congregation. Over the summer, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas in a series of Vital Posts.

Altar flowers: The rest of the story

Each week, in many of our churches, the flowers at the altar have been donated, often in someone’s memory. This is noted in the bulletin, usually in the form of: Today’s flowers have been donated by (name) in loving memory of (name and perhaps relationship). What if, in addition to this basic information, we provided the rest of the story? Who was this person being honored and what is their connection to the church? Were they a founding member or perhaps the initiator of one of the congregation’s programs or traditions? Did they serve on the vestry or teach Sunday school? How might we build connection and relationship by sharing a bit of these people’s story?

Being mindful of the ‘it’s one more thing to do’ obstacle, why not modify the form used to donate the altar flowers by asking the question: Would you like to share a few words about the person you are honoring and their relationship to you and our church or community? This information could be included in the Sunday bulletin, and perhaps also used in the parish newsletter or social media, maybe with an image of the flowers.

Why does this matter?

Sharing the story of who is being honored with the altar flowers is a way to connect the congregation present with the congregation past. It’s also a way to build relationship among members – as people who knew the honoree remember and perhaps share stories with those who may have know these people and those who did not. It reminds people of the role those before them have played in the life of the congregation and may suggest new opportunities for generosity, gratitude, or service.

And, it is a first step towards finding ways to incorporate stories in an intentional way to the fabric of our congregational life.

How are you making space to share stories in your congregation?