The Power of Storytelling

Greg Burgess

March 24, 2022
5 min read

As church builders the story we're telling matters. It's not just what we say, it's how we say it. Discover the fundamentals of storytelling for your audience and community.

Greg Burgess

It goes without saying that everyone has a story. We are walking, talking, breathing testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Psalm 139:16 says, “...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” and any story that God writes is one worthy of being told. 

At VOUS, we’re a Jesus church. Jesus is our message and people are our heart. More than anything, we want to connect people to Jesus because wherever He is, testimony is bound to happen. Our stories are not meant to be kept as secrets. Revelation 12:11 is proof of the power that comes from telling our stories - we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimonies. Sharing stories is how we let faith rise in our church. The beauty of storytelling through film is that it gives visual evidence that people can relate to. We hope it sparks faith in someone watching to say “if Jesus did it for them, He can do it for me, too.”

Stories are most impactful when they’re real, relatable, and relevant. When these three elements are at the core of the story being told, you’re creating space for the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of your audience, doing what only He can do. The audience might not know the person in the video, but because we connect through authenticity, a personal relationship isn’t required for the story to be powerful. We connect through shared experiences, and while the specific details of a person’s story are unique to them, there is relatability in the overarching theme of their story, whether it be one of salvation, healing, freedom, or any other life change they’re sharing. Throughout the entire storytelling process, from pre-interview to the final deliverable, focus on keeping the content real, relatable, and relevant.

We choose stories that will build faith, reinforce our values, and align with the season of our church. For example, Easter is a great opportunity to share and celebrate a story of redemption. If someone’s life was changed when they started serving on a team, we’ll share their story on the same weekend as Step 4 of Growth Track (you can read more about Growth Track here). The transformation moment should be connected to a call to action at the end of the video. If we’re entering a new Crew season, a story about someone finding community through VOUS ties beautifully with, “This can happen for you, too! Join a Crew today to find community.” 

When it comes time to film a story, there are a few steps I like to follow: 

1. STORY FORM

If we hear of a story that would be great to share with our church, we ask the person to fill out a form with a few simple questions. In addition to their basic information, we ask them to briefly elaborate on their story. (We’ve shared this form with you to view as a resource! You can check it out here).

2. PHONE CALL

After reviewing the submitted form, I’ll reach out to schedule a quick conversation over the phone so they can verbally share their story with me. This is a great opportunity to analyze how much prompting or assistance they’ll need when we film. I’ll start to gather a timeline and look for the story’s arc, make notes to ask for clarity or to fill in missing pieces, and listen for sticky statements to include when we film. 

While this is good preparation, the heart behind this step is really to help the person feel comfortable and familiarize them with the filming process so they feel as equipped as possible. From here, we’ll schedule a time to film their story.

3. STORY CAPTURE

When it’s time to film, I’m intentional about meeting the person on set before we start so I can answer questions and ease any pressure or anxiety they may be feeling. I want them to feel like I’m sitting across the table from them drinking coffee and listening to their story. The more comfortable they feel, the more freedom there is to speak vulnerably and authentically, ensuring their story stays real, relatable, and relevant.

After filming, our team begins the editing process. We film interviews anywhere from 10 mins to 30 mins long sometimes, and even though every single detail they shared is a valuable part of their story, we’ll chop things out if they are not relevant for the audience to know. This often makes the story even stronger; condensing 30 minutes of footage down and arranging the most integral parts of their story into a 2 and a half minute presentation, all the while maintaining the integrity of their story.

The beauty of film is creating a cinematic experience, orchestrating visual and audio elements together to share a story as powerfully (and authentically) as possible. Think of an impactful movie scene: the lighting, camera angles, footage, and musical score work together to convey the emotionality of the story. One of the best ways to do this is to use B-roll. In video production, A-roll is the primary story that’s happening and B-roll encompasses the alternate scenes that are shown while the person narrates. As someone shares their testimony, B-roll helps provide visual support to reinforce what they’re saying. It can include footage of their small groups, serving with their team, or with their family, whatever is most relevant to their story. B-roll should be used intentionally and strategically to add value, never distracting from what’s being shared. Including intentional B-roll takes extra time and work, but it’s worth it to draw the audience in and ensure a full picture is painted.

You don’t need the fanciest equipment or industry experts to tell a story in a moving way. Use the equipment you have to bring the story to light. You can have the highest industry standard equipment at your fingertips and still miss the mark. Every video we make should reflect the vision and mission of our church which is, “We exist to bring people far from God close to God”, and without fail, Jesus is the most powerful part of any story. Your church is not the hero. Not your pastor, not your music, not the lights and sounds. Jesus is and always will be the hero of every story. Community, serving, Growth Track, the things your church offers are only a catalyst for change. Jesus and His love for His people is the real hero of every story. Everything else, the lights, sound, added B-roll, it’s all to help convey the message of hope and love which only Jesus can bring. The ministries of your church are the “calls to action” to give people next steps and hopefully, escort them to life change; but they’re simply the vessels that God uses to reach His people. The hero of every story is Jesus.

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