4 Levels of Story
During my time in the San Francisco Bay area for our latest Code for the Kingdom hackathon, our CEO, Dave Travis spoke as part of a Church Innovation Briefing we provided for local church leaders. Dave gave a few of his “bits”, as he calls them—short talks he delivers with some frequency to church leaders from around the country. Dave (literally) carries around a bag of bits for just such an occasion.
One of the topics was on the 4 Levels of Story in a church. The key point Dave made was that, when one of these stories fall out of alignment with the others, the effectiveness of the church suffers. The four levels of story are:
The Story of What God Has Done in Jesus Christ. This is the overarching ‘meta story’ that informs the remaining three. God has reconciled the world to himself through Jesus Christ. And we, therefore, are Christ’s ambassadors, as if God were making his appeal through us.
The Story of the Senior Leader. The visionary leader of the church has a personal story that greatly shapes the next level. Often when the leader’s story changes, it is reflected over time in the story of the congregation. Side note: In my tribe (churches of Christ), our polity is a bit different. While the preaching minister is the primary voice of the congregation, traditional, elder-led authority structures in our churches change the dynamic quite a bit. We probably require a 5th level of story to complete the narrative: the Story of the Eldership.
The Story of the Congregation. This is the collective narrative of the community of believers God has drawn together. This narrative is composed of the individual stories that come together, combined with the corporate stories that are shared throughout the congregation’s history.
The Story of the Community. The ‘stage’ on which the church has been called to live out God’s story has its own unique back story that must be considered as the congregation and the senior leader tell theirs. The story of the community should not direct the content of story of the senior leader or that of the congregation, but should provide context.
I find this framework very helpful for thinking about church impact. Often we look at a collection of disparate data points when trying to measure the health and vitality of a church:
- Attendance, buildings, and cash
- Per capita giving
- Socio-economic strata
- Age group ratios
- Number of parking spaces
- Conversion growth
While these things are important to monitor, I believe that truly understanding and properly aligning the stories at play can provide church leaders with a greater opportunity to understand their church and the community they are called to serve. Deeper understanding leads to better decisions and actions, which leads to greater impact.
Do these ideas resonate with you? How have you seen this principle at work in your church?
Image Credit: seeseven.com