Caring for Your Story Leads
Last week I worked on a story for our church: Brenda’s Story. (If you’d like to watch it, head over to Church on the Move’s Vimeo. It played in their weekend worship experience.) Brenda’s childhood and young adult life was tumultuous, to say the least. It was riddled with neglect and abuse and left her broken and with a feeling of worthlessness. Her progressive complication was one for the books, but the climax came when she joined a small group and her newfound community introduced her to a Jesus who said, “You’re worth everything to me.” It’s a beautiful story.
It can be easy as a storyteller to hear a story like this and jump right in. The story has everything you want: a great DESIRE FROM OUR HERO (a desire to be loved), an inciting incident that jabs at your soul (abuse and abandonment), a series of tense complications that keep you interested, and that awesome, “I met Jesus,” moment. This story is a home run from the outset, but with everything I just mentioned, it can be so easy to forget an incredibly important detail: This isn’t just a story, it was Brenda’s life. We must never forget the stories we’re telling happened to SOMEONE. They lived these moments. They’re tender and raw and require a level of vulnerability so many of us have never experienced.
So, what do we do, as storytellers, with this information? Easy. We care.
You might say, “Oh dude, I already care about these people. Done and done.” I used to say the same thing, but when I looked my actions, they told a different story. I had to ask myself, “If I really care about this person, what am I doing for them AFTER we’re done?” Maybe I’d send a text saying, “Great job,” or if I’d see them in the hall I’d give ‘em a little hug, but that was about it. That’s not caring, people! That’s USING a person for their story. Look, if you’re thinking, “Whoa – that’s me,” join the club. We’ve all done it. So, what needs to change? Easy. Asking two questions.
1. How will I walk through the story process with them?
For me, the pre-production part of the storytelling is crucial. I don’t just gather their story and go. I sat with Brenda and her small group leader over coffee. I asked questions and let HER talk. That wasn’t the only time we talked, either. I called several times and asked her additional questions. I developed a relationship that turned into a friendship, and I was NEVER afraid of her saying, “I can’t do this,” because she’s my friend, not my story.
This relationship really became obvious when we sat down for the interview. She was comfortable with me. Why? We were just two friends chatting.
2. Who will care for them after we’re done?
I talked about this in The Story Guide. One of my non-negotiables for sharing someone’s story: They have to be in a community. Community is where life change happens and people can come alongside you when you’re struggling. Inevitably after a person shares their story, they will have moments of doubt or internal conflict. It’s paramount they don’t go through that alone. Now, I’d love to be there for every person I help share their story, but I’m just one guy. That’s where a small group leader or a pastor comes in. For Brenda, her small group leader was right there through the entire storytelling process. When Brenda needs an ear or a friend, I know she’s covered.
You don’t have to do it all, but you are responsible for making sure your storytellers are cared for. If you haven’t been great at it (like me), it’s time to change. Take a step. One step. Move forward this week in making sure you’re not just using people for their stories, but coming alongside them to celebrate what God has done in their lives.