In The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, University of Southern California president Steven Sample makes the case that all leaders should discern the creation story for their organization. A creation story is a brief overview of the organization’s history that recounts how the organization got started, what motivated its founders, notable accomplishments over the years, and why it is important today.
Articulating a compelling creation story is an important communication strategy for church leaders. Why? A creation story appeals to church members by honoring their past. But it also can educate and inspire those who are new to a community, build a renewed sense of mission, and engender hope for the future. A creation story can help the leader of an established church gain consensus regarding the broad vision God has held for the church in the past and present, as well as its future calling. When this story is shared from the pulpit, in new member classes, and in the community, a new consensus can emerge regarding the ministry and values of the congregation.
Church creation stories have a biblical precedent. In Deuteronomy 26:5-10, the Lord commands the people of Israel to recite such a story when they bring their offering to the priest in the Promised Land.
Articulating a compelling creation story is an important communication strategy for church leaders. A creation story can help the leader of an established church gain consensus regarding the broad vision God has held for the church in the past and present, as well as its future calling.
This brief history was used to remind future generations of the humble beginnings of their ancestors, to show how God sustained them during hard times, and to frame the present reality in a way that led people to feel hope for their future.
What should be included in a church creation story? It should include elements of the church’s past calling and journey that are consistent with its calling today. It should be honest and truthful. It may mention things in the church that did not go well and hard times through which God’s sustaining power was felt. It should also include what was learned and what values emerged that now impact the congregation in positive ways.It should be an engaging story that lasts no more than about five minutes.
Creation Story for Floris United Methodist Church
I serve Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia. The congregation was established over a century ago when Herndon was a rural farming community. Now, it is a burgeoning suburb of Washington, DC. Much has changed for the congregation over the past several decades. But the following creation story reminds us that the church’s current growth is linked to its original mission and sense of identity.
Floris has always been a place where people have shown a special devotion to the cause of Christ and the work of the church. Floris is not a story of well-known or specially gifted pastors, but laity who were willing to take leadership and servant roles to insure that the ministry of the church was fulfilled.
In the 1980s, when the Herndon community rapidly expanded with the development of farms in the area, Floris members made a difficult decision to leave behind their historic church building, purchase a new property, and construct a modern facility. A smaller church that enjoyed tight-knit relationships knew that it would please God if it would widen its circle for new residents. Within five years it became evident that the facility and property would be too small to accommodate the continued growth of the church and community. Another difficult decision was made to purchase a new piece of property and build a larger facility so that the circle could widen again. During this period, Floris’s outreach to those struggling with poverty and other needs has extended farther into the community and world than ever before, offering our members ever growing opportunities to serve Christ by serving others.