This is Part 3 of a blog series developing the idea of Leading with Story in churches.
I have previously developed the problem of confused roles or identifying metaphors for pastors. I have also expressed the importance and power of stories. Now I want to move into the idea of leading with story.
Every person, family, or organization is in the middle of a story. Actually, they are in the middle of multiple stories. We have different areas of our lives with their own stories. We have different parts of the organization or family that have their own stories. These areas are filled with people with their own mix of personal stories that they are living out. We carry our own perspectives and memories of the stories that often differ from others who were supposedly part of the same story. This intricate web of stories are sometimes in unison, sometimes in contrast, and always in flux.
Great leaders lead by shaping and crafting the story of their organization. They use particular language to make the story compelling and use challenges as conflict that pushes the story forward. They are constantly working to shape the story of the organization to its staff (management) and its customers (marketing). They are crafting a compelling story in which everyone wants to play a part. In fact, there is a growing field of narrative leadership or storytelling in business. Companies now have positions in storytelling.
In Christian leadership there is a larger story. This is the story of God, the Greatest Story ever Told, or “the old, old story.” It can also be understood, as my teacher Len Sweet puts it, as “the greatest story never told.” God’s story tells us a lot of things about who we are and who are churches should be. It stands in contrasts to many of the stories that this world tells.
As my friend Graham Standish points out, many churches are living with writers block. They need new stories. In a lot of cases they need to go back and retell the old stories and “the old, old story” to get the current story back on track. It is as if many churches have forgotten or incorrectly remembered the previous chapters of the story they are in. They also need to start intentionally shaping the next few chapters. They need to find new roles in bigger and better stories that will compel the church forward.
I am talking about much more than narrative preaching here. I am wondering what it looks like to see story has the key paradigm and the dominant building block of ministry. I have begun to think of myself as a Story Pastor. Instead of using the classic description of “Ministry of Word and Sacrament,” I have begun to call myself a “Minister of Story and Sacrament.”
The Story Pastor does his or her work with story as the clay. We begin to shape better stories for our congregations. We counsel people in their stories. We find out the story of our communities. We craft the next chapter of our congregation’s stories. We reenact God’s story every week in worship. We weave multiple stories together and help write better stories. We teach our people to share their stories as testimony for the others.
What do you think about the image of The Story Pastor? How is a Christian leader like a storyteller?