I was introduced to Donald Miller’s book, Building Your Story Brand, at the Synod’s “Come to the Table” event this past September. It is a fairly, quick read, and though it was written for businesses, the book has profound implications for how congregations present themselves to their community.

Miller examines what makes for a good story and applies that to how we are to understand both our purpose and the how we are to communicate to those we seek to reach.

Most all stories begin with:

1.)  A hero, who has
2.)  a problem that they struggle to overcome.

So they usually find:

3.)  a guide who helps them
4.)  develop a plan and urges them
5.)  to take action.

The hero will either:

6.)  survive and thrive or
7.)  meet disaster.

In the book, Miller walks us through each of these seven components of the story and offers a process to help us apply them to our context.  One of the most important lessons for both churches and businesses is not think of ourselves as the story’s hero, but rather as the guide. To speak theologically, God has called every person on a transformational journey. Everyone is the hero of his or her own story. Depending on the person, their transformational journey involve healing, forgiveness, spiritual awakening, a new awareness, etc. These are not easily sought nor found on one’s own. Therefore, the person needs a guide.

This is where your church comes into play. We are the gathered community of the people of God. Though we are always on the journey of becoming who God created us to be, we have experience with the journey and know a thing or two about forgiveness, healing, and God’s teaching in the Bible. The church and its members can serve as a great guide for people who are on a spiritual quest.

Miller’s process can help each congregation determine their strengths in regards to what they can offer the “heroes” and how to share those strengths with them.  In fact, every member of your church community can and should embrace the concept of a guide in their own missional living.

There is a lot of great advice in the book about how to present yourself. For instance, Miller suggests examining how you present your church on your website. Does your website basically communicate “join us because we have a great choir, a strong Sunday school, uplifting worship?” His critique would be that such a website is promoting yourself as the hero.  Miller suggests tweaking your presentation so that you communicate how that great choir, Sunday school, and uplifting worship can help the person viewing it fulfill THEIR mission. It’s a subtle, but profound difference, and I would add, a very Christ-like approach.

There’s much more in the book then I can touch on here, but I would love to work through this book with pastors and elders who find it of interest.  It could make the basis of a great officer retreat! Drop me a line and let’s set something up. Donald Miller’s Building Your Story Brand, can be purchased as book or e-reader form for under $20.00.

About Rev. Dr. Tim Coombs

Tim Coombs serves as co-pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Scotia, NY with his wife, Rev. Kathleen Gorman-Coombs and leads a New Worshiping Community, Parallels (https://www.facebook.com/ParallelsNWC). He also worked on staff at Albany Presbytery for over a decade. Besides his work for the church, Tim is a storyteller, biker, guitar player, and intern to his cat, Sharpie. You can reach Tim at: pastortim@scotiatrinity.org

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