You are living out the biblical call to compassion and justice and showing people the reign of God’s love is near. Your ministry changes people’s lives and you have the stories to back it up.
These stories deserve to be told with passion and depth.
We tell stories for a variety of reasons. Our stories can bring awareness to a cause and move people to action. Our stories can help people connect the call to love God and love your neighbor as yourself with practical examples. Our stories can lead to partnerships that increase our ministry’s impact. Telling your story isn’t meant to be self-serving but to foster community and give glory to God.
But where do you begin?
Here are four things to consider as you begin to share your story:
Consider Your Audience
Who needs to hear this story? You may have a variety of audiences.
For example, you may have a ministry that feeds homeless and low-income folk on a weekly basis. You may want to share this with the rest of the church through a newsletter article. You may also want to share this with local media to get your story out to the public. You may consider telling your story in a grant application to seek funding for your ministry. These are all different audiences.
While the story remains the same in each case, your delivery of it changes with each new audience. The church newsletter article may include churchy language like “the kingdom of God” or “the greatest commandment” or “the Sermon on the Mount.” Parishioners (another churchy word) know what you’re saying. The general public may not.
Consider using different language when you speak to the media. Instead of saying “the greatest commandment” or “Sermon on the Mount” you could say “Jesus’ teachings.” Those reviewing grant applications may appreciate this, too.
Understand that “Christianese” is not a universal language. It’s probably best to avoid it in order to have your story understood by a wider audience.
Consider the Outcome
What do you want people to do after reading the story? Consider adding a call to action to your story.
The example we used about ministry with the homeless and low-income folk can be shared a few different ways, with different anticipated outcomes:
- With parishioners to make them aware of local poverty and can inspire them to join you in this ministry.
- Told through local media, that same story could raise awareness to local poverty, encourage them to donate to your cause, join you in the work, or even advocate on behalf of those in need to elected officials.
- Told in a grant application, that same story can tug at the heartstrings of a grant reviewer and help them to clearly understand why your application should be awarded the grant.
- Told to a politician, your story could put real faces to an issue that they can solve through legislation.
Knowing your audience allows you to see potential outcomes in telling your story. Know the outcome you’d like from each audience and write in a way that gets them to act accordingly.
Consider Your Medium
The way you write the newsletter article is different from the way you pitch the story to the media or share on social media. The newsletter article can be longer and has a specific audience.
The pitch to the media should be brief – perhaps a short synopsis that covers the who, what, where, when, and why and contact information. Remember, you don’t have complete control over how this story is told. Consider a point person to speak to the media who can tell the story well. Bonus points if you have a compelling photo opportunity to accompany the story.
Social media is designed to be short and snappy. You may have a more complete story on your website or blog so link to that in your post and give a brief synopsis of your story. Again – use a compelling picture in your post so that people will want to actually read your post instead of simply scrolling by.
A #protip about photos – don’t use what journalists refer to as the “grip and grin” photo. You’ve seen them – someone hands someone else a check while they shake hands and smile at the camera.
Don’t use photos of everyone standing in a line-up. These photos are boring. Action shots tell your story way better than these ever will.
Keep the “grip and grin” for the scrapbook or slideshow.
Tell your story with someone doing something – like handing food to someone or praying with someone. Be creative!
Consider the Power of Personal Testimony
Personal testimony tells your story in more compelling ways. You may be able to tell what you do, but people affected by your ministry can tell you how they feel when they interact with you.
Share the spotlight. Find people who are willing to tell how you have impacted their lives. Get your volunteers to share their story, too. Grab a quick video of their story for your social media and website. Grab some quotes from them to feature in your blog or grant application. Make sure the media speaks to them as part of any news story. These stories are more interesting when they come first-hand. your organization’s story will be better for it.
What are some ways you’ve shared your ministry’s story that has really resonated? Any particular medium that works best with your audience? Share with us on the Affirm Fundraising Facebook page so that others can learn from you!
Sometimes, the very idea of telling your story leaves you stumped, or blocked. That’s where a professional like Brian comes in, here’s what he has to say about being able to help you amplify your story:
Do you need help? I’d love to help you amplify your story. I am a United Methodist pastor and a freelance writer. I spent nearly eight years in journalism telling lots of stories and seven years in ministry exploring a variety of ways to tell stories.