This Sunday we took the opportunity to introduce our storytelling ministry and explain the process of deciding to hire Jennifer Gerhardt as our part time storytelling minister. We're so excited about this work and can't wait to see more and more people involved in proclaiming the goodness of God!
Here's a transcript of what we said:
KEN KOHL: This morning we want to take a few minutes to talk to you about our storytelling ministry and our recent decision to bring Jennifer Gerhardt on staff as our part time storytelling minister. This is Jennifer.
JENNIFER GERHARDT: Hi! :)
KEN: Jennifer, why don’t we begin by explaining to everybody what our storytelling ministry is.
JENNIFER: The storytelling ministry is a congregational effort to identify, capture and share the stories God’s writing in our church. The point is to glorify God and invite more people to join Him in His work. We want to say, “God is here. He’s doing awesome stuff. You can be a part of it.”
Practically speaking, we create videos, facilitate on stage testimonies, maintain a blog of members’ stories, update pictures on the website, and manage our social media accounts. The current story telling team is made up of photographers, videographers, writers and designers.
If you've never heard of our storytelling ministry before that’s likely because we work behind the scenes. We don’t sign our names to pictures we take or videos we make or posts we write on Facebook.
We started building this team a couple years ago at the prompting of the elders.
KEN: Yeah. About three years ago, while looking at our vision for and the needs of our congregation, we felt like three areas of ministry were emerging as places we wanted to invest more of our energy: connections, worship, and storytelling. We hired Dan Burgess as a way to increase our commitment to connections and worship. And we knew we still needed to find ways to pursue storytelling. We needed to help the congregation keep up with the things God was doing in and through this church. We kept hearing about great things happening and we wanted everyone, both inside and outside of our church, to know.
Over the years as we’ve watched this ministry bloom we’ve come to believe that storytelling is an essential practice of a healthy church. Jennifer, why don’t you explain why...
JENNIFER: First, God loves stories, and so much of what He means when He calls us to tell other people about Him is simply Him asking us to tell other people a story. The Apostles say when they’re in trouble for preaching the gospel, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When the apostles shared the gospel, they were telling a story.
What’s wonderful about this being God's plan is that people love stories, and more and more our culture is built on them. Tell them facts about salvation and redemption and they might be interested. But tell them a story about God saving and redeeming you (and tell it well) and they’ll hang on your every word.
Second stories help connect us to one another. You feel closer to Stormy and Wyatt Raley, or example, after hearing their story. Every one of us who saw Angie Nett get that van this year feel closer to Angie and her son Josiah than we did before. And You should feel close to these people. If you’re a part of this church, they’re your family. Sharing stories enables the kind of intimacy that makes sense in a family.
Finally, stories remind us that God is here and at work. We can be tempted to forget that or to think our church isn’t doing anything to partner with God. These stories remind us that’s not true. God’s all up in this place.
KEN: That’s why we’re such big proponents of this ministry. Storytelling is powerful and a natural extension of who we are as a gospel-sharing people.
Last year Jennifer came to us, knowing we were interested in telling more stories, and mentioned that she’d be up for exploring what a storytelling ministry would look like in our context. She asked if she could volunteer her time to create more videos, take a more intentional look at how we were using our social media platforms, and start a church blog dedicated to our members’ testimonies. We told her to go for it. Her being willing to do this as a volunteer allowed us to test drive the ministry. The work Jennifer produced was amazing--beyond our expectations--and over the course of a year we saw how effective and important this work was for our church, particularly in glorifying God, uniting us around our shared mission and in connecting us to one another. That’s why, a few weeks ago, we asked Jennifer if she would consider doing this work as a part time employee. That wasn’t what Jennifer was expecting when she offered to try this out, but we were able to convince her to sign on.
Jennifer, the elders are obviously excited about the ways you’re qualified for this role, but for the church’s sake, so they can see what we’ve seen, share some of how God’s equipped you for this.
JENNIFER: It really does seem like God's been at work, preparing me for this. I didn't grow up wanting to be a storytelling minister, but somehow that's what God's enabled. Educationally, I have a Master’s degree in literature (so, basically, stories). Experience-wise, I’ve written stories (as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer and book author) and taught people how to read and write stories (as a college lecturer). I've also led workshops around the country. That’s my background and training.
As far as practical skills: I’ve helped build multiple websites. I've built an online community. I’ve managed multiple social media platforms. I’m a photography geek. And I make videos. I’d made several before I started helping Round Rock and I’ve made more than 20 for our church in the last year.
Also, I’m really connected to the people in this church, after worshipping here for seven years. And we’ve found that to be an essential element in making the ministry what it could and should be--I suspect that’s one reason our elders decided to hire from within.
KEN: It definitely is.
When we asked you to take this position, you already had a job as a writer. Will you need to quit that in order to work for us?
JENNIFER: I’ll have to scale back my other work significantly. This year I’ve had to cut back on the number of projects I take on and turn down some opportunities in order to devote time to Round Rock. I suspect that will continue, but I accepted this position because I love telling stories about God and helping other people do the same. Too, I’m happy and eager to do whatever’s good for our church. I do intend to keep writing though, as much as I can.
KEN: The role of “Storytelling Minister” sounds like you’ll be up front telling stories. Is that what this role is? Will we be seeing a lot of your face on stage?
JENNIFER: I sure hope not. When we say "storytelling" we don’t mean me on stage using a dramatic voice. My job is to help you tell the story God’s writing in your life. I intend to be a kind of midwife, empowering you to deliver your own story--not delivering it for you. We want to see all your faces up here declaring the goodness of God. This past year alone we’ve heard stories from our youngest members, from a couple of our oldest members, from our teens, from new members, from men and women. This ministry is an effort to give everyone a microphone for glorifying God.
If you're interested in joining the storytelling team or have a story you might want to tell, contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.