Ministry/NonProfit Leaders: How to tell a story so people engage (Part 1)

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Most ministry leaders often assume people want to be a part of what we’re doing simply because we’re doing good things.

If only we made how to sign up clear enough people would join us. 

However, making our sign-in tables more noticeable, our offering boxes brighter, or our “Donate” button more prominent isn’t where the conversation should begin. 

They’re important conversations, but not the first conversation.

The problem in ministry is the same problem in business. We aren’t addressing the problem we are solving.

EVERY GOOD STORY HAS A PROBLEM

Every story has to have a problem that needs to be solved. If there’s no problem being solved, there’s no plot.

In the gospel, there’s a problem. Sin. Separation from God. 

If there’s no problem, there’s no reason for the story of the cross.

When we announce an event, program, or mission, we need to begin with the problem we are trying to solve. When we begin with the problem, we open a story loop and invite people in to a narrative who need or want to see that problem solved.

For example, the church I attend is doing a free “Parents’ night out” in a few weeks. Of course, it’s the first thing on the announcement sheet my wife and I noticed because, well, baby sitters add an extra $50 - $80 to most date nights.

However, for many people to engage, we need to let them know why.  

If I were announcing the “Parents’ Night Out” event from the stage, I would begin with, 

“You know, most parents have a difficult time affording babysitters so they can spend quality time alone together.” Or, “Most parents’ find it difficult to have quality time alone together because finding a great babysitter can be difficult.” 

I begin by address the problem (or the “why”) we are trying to solve with this event first.  

TALKING ABOUT THE PROBLEM SEPARATES YOU FROM EVERYONE ELSE AND KEEPS YOU FOCUSED ON WHO YOU ARE NOT

On a bigger scale, talking about the problem can help you differentiate yourself from everyone else.

Like most churches in America, we are one of possibly hundreds in our community. Ultimately, we are all trying (hopefully) to address the same global problem. But what makes YOUR expression of the church different from the church next door?  What problem is YOUR community trying to solve?

Again, for my church, the problem we wanted to address was a lack of deep, expository teaching and a simple way of doing church without building a ton of programs.

There are maybe a handful of churches in our area that are doing real expository teaching. And for most of the churches in our area, they all kind of look the same, trying to do the same things with same kind of programs, music, and teaching style (some are even doing the same sermon series!).

Identifying a problem that people needed to solve, in our case, deep, biblical, verse-by-verse teaching, and church done simply, kept us focused on understanding who we are and who we are not. 

Talking about the problem we are trying to solve helped us communicate clearly who we are when people ask about our church. 

In most cases, whether it’s an event you’re announcing, a mission trip you’re hosting, or talking about what makes your organization different, begin with the problem you solve. 

Once you address the problem, then you move into how you solve it.

Stay tuned…