Storytelling is so much more than just a marketing buzzword—although it is buzzed about quite often these days. Stories are our uniquely human way of communicating across cultures and generations. So it’s only natural that we should seek to use storytelling within the church.
The importance and use of stories have not changed in a millennium, but how we share and receive stories has, and drastically. There are more voices than ever competing for our attention, but there are also more mediums than ever to share great stories. And it’s storytelling that gives your church the chance to stand out in a sea of content overload and reach people with God’s message.
So how can the church adapt to better use modern technology to practice the ancient art of storytelling? What are some practical things that your ministry can be doing now? Here are a few tips to get you started using technology for better storytelling.
1. Share your stories online
The simplest place to start is by leveraging digital tools to share the stories you’re already telling in your church. That means taking the content from your sermon, bulletin, and print newsletter (among others) and translating them to your website, blog, email, and social media.
Before you get too far ahead of yourself, this isn’t as simple as copy and paste. The benefit and challenge of these online platforms are that they’re unique from print and in-person ones. The core of the stories work no matter where you tell them, but the how still matters.
For example, you may have to trim the stories down to more bite-sized pieces when sharing them on your website or email. If you’re planning on pushing these stories out through social media, you’ll need relevant images or videos to go along with them.
The internet gives you more places to share your church’s stories, but you still need to take the time to share the right stories in the right ways.
2. Leveraging your church’s screens
It’s likely that your church is already sharing stories in person—whether that’s in a sermon, Sunday school class, or in kids and student ministries. These forms of storytelling can also be enhanced using technology, especially if your church has screens and monitors.
Think about punctuating a sermon story with a visual illustration or infographic. Consider how much more powerful a Sunday morning announcement would be if it was accompanied by a highlight clip. And kids are more likely to remember a biblical message if it’s shared through a fun, age-appropriate video.
These are each opportunities for storytelling, but they take just a little added effort. If you have trouble connecting with these screens, be sure to check out Playlister as a solution.
3. Create short videos
As we’ve already alluded to, video content is increasingly popular online and a useful tool for storytelling—especially in a short format. Effective videos can be used in a variety of places, both on and offline.
Find moments in your ministries and church calendar to record video stories. These could be Sunday mornings, baptisms, volunteer signups, mission trips, or Bible studies. Plan ahead to have someone there with a camera (even if it’s just a tricked-out iPhone) to capture the moment.
Don’t just hit record and expect the story to happen. Have conversations with people about what the experience means to them. Discover what this might mean to the audience who will view the video later. Then edit the pieces together to create a cohesive narrative. Telling great stories through video takes time and practice, but it’s worth investing in at your church.
4. Social media stories
It’s a recent trend for social media platforms to add vanishing content features and call them Stories. This started with Instagram back in 2016, then Facebook jumped on the bandwagon a year later. Even Pinterest and YouTube have joined in. LinkedIn added the feature for only a year before shutting it down, and Twitter’s Fleets were also short-lived.
Keep in mind that just because the feature is called Stories doesn’t mean that all content shared on them actually are stories. Posting a 30-second video of your dog sleeping is cute, but isn’t necessarily a complete narrative.
However, these temporary social content platforms are potentially worth your time because of how popular they’ve become. Think about breaking down a story you’ve shared elsewhere into a bite-sized chunk to share on Instagram or Facebook Stories. Record a quick testimonial video from a church member about an upcoming event or mission trip.
Using real narratives and storytelling practices helps you stand out from all of the other content being posted on these social story platforms.
5. Mix storytelling mediums
Stories are more than just the format that you’re using—they’re narratives that connect with people. And these narratives can be shared on any number of digital platforms at your church. This means you have the chance to combine these virtual mediums to tell more engaging stories. Use a mix of words, audio, still images, and videos to connect with more people. Everyone prefers to experience stories differently. Using a mix of formats opens the potential for a wider reach.
Here’s an example of how this could be done with a baptism testimonial story.
- Conduct an interview with the person being baptized.
- Record this conversation on video. Share the video on social media and during worship.
- Pull the audio from the video and publish it as a podcast episode.
- Summarize the conversation into a blog post. Embed the video into the post.
- Grab meaningful quotes from their testimony. Design graphics of those quotes.
- Take still shots from the video to use in the blog featured image or social posts.
From just one story, you’re able to generate lots of unique pieces of online and in-person content. It’s all about how you slice up the narrative and present it in different forms.
6. Collect stories online
Digital platforms aren’t just great places to share your church’s stories—they’re also a great way to collect those stories. Every church has stories because they have people. But finding the right stories to tell is often a challenge, especially for busy church leaders.
Set up an online form on your church’s website asking people for their stories. Don’t expect these to generate a ton of ideas, but it never hurts to ask. This is also a great place to send people who have a story to share and just need a way of sending it to you. Here are some great examples of this from The Creek Church, NewSpring, and Revolution Church.
You can also ask for stories from your community on social media or through emails. This is especially compelling when you’ve already shared a good example of a story and let people know that you’re looking for more. People are more willing to open up when they’ve seen others do the same.
How does your church use technology to tell stories?