Our written stories don’t have bylines. We do not credit individual writers, photographers, editors or filmmakers on our stories. It’s an unusual stance for any publication, perhaps especially so for a volunteer ministry. In this post, I want to explain why we made that choice.
When I first started writing for Story Team we had bylines for our stories. I can remember what it felt like to walk into the service on Sunday and be handed a bulletin that had my story, and my byline, on the back of it. It felt great. I loved the recognition. I loved seeing my name there. It was pride welling up in my heart. A deadly pride. I’m sure some of our artists didn’t have the same reaction, but I know that some others did.
The first time I saw one of our stories without a byline, my immediate reaction was frustration. I really liked having my name there, I thought. Of course, in time I realized that was the problem.
When I joined our team’s leadership and began to understand the heart behind the decision I started to think about bylines and credits again. I not only accepted the idea of uncredited work for the team, but now I firmly believe it is the right choice. By no means do we think that all work should be anonymous. For example, the posts on this site are all credited. But for the stories we publish, we believe it is the right choice for three reasons.
We’re not special
Every Sunday hundreds of people volunteer their time and emotions to serve the body of The Austin Stone. Across five locations we have parking teams, setup/tear down crews, Kids and Students teachers, Development Class teachers, Welcome teams, production teams, staff, deacons, elders and many more people working hard to make Sundays a great experience for our church. None of these volunteers and staff have their name on a bulletin or handed to every person to walk in the door.
Yes, telling stories can be hard and emotional work, but so is every other form of service to the church. We don’t deserve a place of recognition higher than anyone else serving the body.
It’s good for our sanctification
All believers are prone to idolatry, but artists have a particular form of idolatry to be concerned about. We tend to idolize art. We can look at the tools, process, product, the artist, or even the creative struggle itself and place them on the throne of our hearts. We pray our stories glorify God and help people remember Jesus for who he is and what he’s done, but he doesn’t need us or our art in order to accomplish those things.
As my experience indicates, eliminating credits also encourages humility. My pride is deadly, it’s one of my fiercest struggles. Proverbs tells us that, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom,” (11:2) and, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (16:18). Pride is destructive and fights against our efforts to grow in wisdom, and we want to be a team that fights for our artists’ growth.
It’s a team effort
Six different team members work to produce each written story:
- Lead Editor
- Publishing manager
Our film stories require even more work from a wider group of people. It’s always a team effort.
Of course, no one creates alone. In every book there is an Acknowledgements section for that reason. But, for this team, we want our stories to stand solely in the name of Story Team.
For these reasons, we are quite comfortable not crediting our stories. Besides a few conversations when we first removed the bylines, there have been no doubts or concerns raised from the team about our approach. In fact, one of our newest writers recently told me that she was excited to write under the Story Team name instead of her own. She found joy in writing anonymously, and giving God the glory for the work.
After my time on this team, I must say I agree with her.
Feature image by Christian Rudman.