By Len Wilson

Source: LenWilson.us

According to several people, Peachtree’s Easter prayer vigil was a pretty amazing experience, so I decided to produce a video to tell the story about what happened. (Part of my job as the church’s Creative Director is to find great stories to tell.)

I like telling stories that match worship themes and sermons, to create a consistent message experience, so I targeted a week during our summer series dedicated to Hezekiah, which had a prayer theme.

All of my filmmakers are contractors (more on that for another day). I met with one of them and described my vision for the prayer story. On shoot day I went to the set for a while and felt good about the direction of the production.

Everything was fine until I saw the first draft. It was full of clips of people talking about how great the prayer vigil was.

Aargh!

Maybe you’re confused by this reaction. You might think that’s exactly what I should want. But this is where most storytelling – marketing, testimonies, nonfiction in general – misses the mark.

I DIDN’T WANT A PROMOTIONAL VIDEO.

This distinction is subtle but crucial. What I got was a video that marketed an event, and while well done it was just kinda boring. It didn’t move me.

Compelling stories focus on a character’s transformation, not an event, program or service.

We’ll probably run the clip we received in the spring before next year’s vigil, but we didn’t run it with the Hezekiah theme, because it didn’t contribute to a singular focus on the power of prayer to change lives.

So what could have happened differently? Instead of letting the event drive it, find a personal angle, like so:

  • We meet a character.
  • The character has a problem or conflict that they can’t resolve.
  • He or she looks for help – in a video for the church, of course, the help comes from the Lord.
  • God provides them a future and a direction to take – a plan.
  • They implement the plan, and their life is changed.

EVERY GOOD STORY IS A STORY ABOUT SOMEONE’S CHANGED LIFE, NOT ABOUT AN EVENT, PROGRAM OR SERVICE.

Don’t make the program or event the focus of the video. Make a person, or if one person doesn’t offer a sufficiently powerful story, several people the focus of the video. They are the protagonist(s), not the service you provide, and in a story for the church, God is the guide that provides the crucial wisdom that leads to character transformation.

The power of prayer to change a life is the story of the vigil.

And of course when you do it right, the event gets promotion as the plan or vehicle for the life change.

For more information about the bones of how this works, check out Don Miller’s storytelling structure.

HERE’S YOUR TAKEAWAY:

As you think about telling the story of your program, event or service, look for someone whose life has been changed, and focus on the person, not on the vehicle through which it happened.

 

Author: Len Wilson

I'm a storyteller and a strategist, which means I love to both tell stories and create an environment for telling stories. My day job is Creative | Communication Director at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. I also write, speak, and teach.