October 20, 2020

Story Steward

I will never forget a sweet widow I interviewed during a feasibility study for a capital campaign in a parish in Pennsylvania. As we discussed the various proposed projects, it seemed she had a story for each one. Her children were baptized in the sanctuary, she taught Sunday School in those classrooms, she donated china tea cups for fellowship in the lounge. There was no hesitation when asked about her support for the campaign. Of course she would give.

Nothing in the conversation surprised her until I asked if she thought the campaign would be successful. “What do you mean?” she wanted to know. When I explained that questions are being asked to determine how much money could be raised, her bright face suddenly faded.

“Do you mean some people won’t want to give to the church?” she asked. She could not fathom it. Her faith, her life, her closest community was in that place. She was saddened that others might not see the congregation that way.

How I wished her fellow parishioners could hear the loving way she talked about her church.

Which lead me to this idea: Every faith community should have a “Story Steward.”

The Story Steward’s role would be to collect and share stories about ministry impact. By “collect” I mean capturing in writing. By “stories” I mean people’s thoughts or memories about ways the church has impacted their life. Such as: The pride someone felt as the church gave away hundreds of back packs to neighborhood children. The joy of an adult son’s baptism. A spiritual awakening during a Good Friday service.

Not-so-rosy stories are important to collect too. For instance, how disappointed a family was when their mother’s friends could not attend the reception after her funeral because the social room was inaccessible.

That kind of story puts voice to what people would like to see happen in the future, inspiring vision for future planning. Happy stories reveal ministry strengths, reminding people why they love their church, inspiring gratitude.

A Story Steward should therefore generously share the story collection, perhaps through serving on a Communications Ministry team, or on the Stewardship Ministry committee. (imagine how all those wonderful stories will enliven your annual giving campaign!). Let all parishioners hear the loving way their brothers and sisters describe their church.