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What if the story is never told?

booksIf you’ve read my blogs or Why Church Buildings Matter, you know I’m a fan and proponent of “story.” I believe that story is a critical part to our lives — and particularly the physical manifestation of our church’s vision, mission and culture via our facilities.

But, what happens if the story is never completed or told? What if everything always stayed in a perpetual state of “draft”? Matthews 5:15 tells us, “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” Stories were meant to be told, shared, enjoyed and fulfilled.

Think about these questions:

1) Is the script enough? Will the story be told if all we do is write a script?

2) Is the set design enough? Will the story be conveyed if we only envision, plan and select the color pallets for the stage set?

3) Is the storyboard enough? Who actually sees the storyboard? Usually, it’s just a handful of people.

4) How many tickets can you sell to a concert of an incomplete symphonic work?

(I’m going somewhere with this, so hang in there.)

I did a Google search for statistics about the number of manuscripts that never make it to published book status, and how many screenplays end up in the black hole of the “could have been” file. The numbers are staggering:

  • On average, there are 50 spec screenplays sold every year out of 250,000 spec screenplays circulating around Hollywood and various other filmmaking venues. That translates into 5,000-to-1 odds.
  • The odds of fatally slipping in your bath or shower are 2,232-to-1. So, you have a better chance of dying due to a shower fall than getting a screenplay published.
  • Literary Agencies typically reject 99.5 percent of everything they see. Out of nearly 500 queries a month (electronic and surface mail) they might receive, they invite perhaps 50 proposals for review. Out of that 50, maybe one — or sometimes two — are ready to be delivered to publishers. So, your odds of getting your literary “baby” to a publisher is 500-to-1, or .2 percent.

These odd aren’t great; yet, authors, scriptwriters and the like continue to produce manuscripts, drafts and screenplays year after year. Why? Because there’s this hope that eventually they’ll be noticed, or that their proverbial ship will come in and their lives will be altered forever. Hope upon hope. Envisioning a better, more spectacular future.

So how does this relate to the story of our church facilities?

I’ve been serving churches for 28 years and built my first church project in 1986 (before many of you were born) for Bethelview United Methodist Church outside Boone, NC. I’ve been a part of some incredibly exciting development projects and ministry initiatives. I’ve been privy to some remarkable stories. The concern I have is when I see a church or other ministry invests tens of thousands — and even hundreds of thousands — of ministry dollars, entrusted to them by God, to only develop the manuscript or screenplay. They spend countless hours and monies, contributed by people giving sacrificially, to develop pretty pictures, concept drawings and even complete architectural plans. But, those are just the manuscript of the story.

Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy the creative process and the vision sessions I’ve been a part of and led. But, is that enough? Is the pretty storyboard and fly-through videos of our planned spaces enough? Have we been prudent and diligent in our stewardship initiatives if that’s as far as we get?

I say no. Not just “no,” but …  just NO, but … you can fill in the rest.

If the story was worth the effort to commit the time and dollars to develop the manuscript, and it’s financially feasible (which means your manuscript needs a section on financial responsibility), and it provides the right, intentional tools to fulfill the vision and mission, then the story needs to be told. It needs to come to fruition. It needs to be built … or leased … or purchased … or renovated … or converted.

Don’t allow your manuscripts and pretty pictures to wind up in a closet at the church or in the pastor’s car trunk. We don’t have the luxury of gambling with odds as in the examples above, with Kingdom assets. We can’t spend dollars, given sacrificially, knowing that the likelihood of reaching the finish line has a success ratio of 500-to-1. That’s a high-stakes venture, and not very responsible as a leader.

If your team has been properly led through a well-crafted process, and has fully vetted your ministry needs, culture, financial capabilities, congregational buy-in, team and other market conditions, then complete the work. Tell your story.

There’s a world waiting to read it.

TimCool-newphotoTim Cool is the Chief Solutions Office of Cool Solutions Group. Since 1986, Tim has led churches to be intentional with the planning, development and life cycle management of the facilities God has entrusted them.  He can be reached at tim@coolsolutionsgroup.com. This blog originally appeared on his blog, “Cool Conversations Live.”

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