Austin is a unique city, and that’s reflected in the culture of The Austin Stone Story Team. Our church is undoubtedly blessed with an abundance of artistic talent, and Story Team is a major beneficiary of that abundance. Our volunteer artists are the backbone of our team, and as we grow and evolve, their importance is only growing.
But not every church has a similar talent pool. When we talk to church leaders from around the country who want to start a storytelling ministry, we are commonly asked, “How do I find artists?” or its pessimistic cousin, “What do I do if I have no artists?” It’s an understandable question, but it also belies an unhelpful assumption. Unless your church is very small, you most likely have a talent pool you’re not aware of.
What is an Artist?
The label “artist” carries a lot of baggage in our culture—some good, some bad. When many people hear “artist” they think of professionals who make their whole living writing, painting or with other creative work. Some people think of flighty art students. Some think of coffee shops and spoken word poetry. Others think of less charitable characteristics. But in our view, an artist is simply someone who uses their God-given talents to create with intention and purpose.
The almost sixty volunteer artists on Story Team are a diverse bunch, spanning from full-time, professional creatives to aspiring pros and true amateurs. But they all share a few characteristics. Our artists are talented, experienced, and dedicated to their craft. Many of our photographers make a living with weddings or freelance corporate gigs, but we also have a few dedicated amateurs. Our writers and editors are bloggers, teachers, social media managers, stay-at-home mothers, novelists and more. Our volunteer film team spans the gamut from professional filmmakers to those who aspire to be. But the bottom line is the same: these are talented, experienced creatives who approach Story Team work like professionals, even if they are not.
Even in a city with a deep arts culture like Austin, we do not have a team full of professionals. And I’m convinced that’s a good thing.
Reconsider Who You are Looking For
If you want to build a storytelling team but don’t know of any writers, editors, photographers or filmmakers in your church, reconsider who you are actually looking for. For example, if you want to start publishing written stories to your church (which is a great way to start, but that’s a different post), you may need to reconsider who you are looking for. Your first instinct might be to look for a journalist or a professional writer. Those are great options, if you have them. If not, cast a wider net. English teachers, social media content creators, marketing and advertising writers are all great options. Other possibilities to consider might be the high school student who (actually) wants to be a writer one day, the stay-at-home mom who blogs, avid readers or college students studying marketing, journalism, or English.
Find people in your church who read a lot, who love art, or who enjoy art films and documentaries, and get to know them. Don’t ask them if they are an artist—ask them if they create anything. Many of our best writers and editors would never use the label “artist” on their own, and many of them are still uncomfortable with it. But they are, though they don’t want to call themselves that. So ask for what you need. Ask around for photographers who like shooting portraits and telling a story through images. Find copyeditors by asking around for avid readers who love to correct grammar mistakes. There are people in your church who want to serve with their talents, but you have to find them and cast a vision for them.
When looking to identify artists, a resume is not the best yardstick. Taste, talent, spiritual maturity, availability and teachability carry far more weight than a title or college degree. You can find people with those traits in many, many places. You can cast a wide net. When you find these people and they buy in, view or read their work. Examine their character for the qualities of a great storyteller. Trust that God will bring you exactly who He wants to serve His church, and then move forward in confidence.
Feature image by Jordan Vonderhaar