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Serving as a counselor at a camp called Roger (in Rockford, MI), we'd go out each week for a night in tents. Gathering around the campfire, we'd tell or read stories. One of my most memorable storytelling times came when I read stories from the Apocrypha. The boys couldn't get enough of stories like Daniel, Bel, and the Dragon.

Campfire stories [1]. What are your favorite campfire stories? Where did you hear them? What makes them your favorites?

The church, as the family of God, tells its own campfire stories. Campfire stories are 5 to 10 pivotal events in the family's life. These events may focus on: 

  • a significant change that happened in the congregation
  • a time when God showed up in an unexpected way
  • a moment of crisis that brought transformation
  • an unexpected opportunity for ministry that the congregation engaged
  • a time of particular joy or sorrow

Campfire stories are positive stories. They speak of the best of what your sacred family of God has been able to accomplish, along with the values, systems, and God-given vision that contributed to this ministry moment.

As God's new creation people, you tell these campfire stories to embed a specific congregational character into your life together.

When we don't identify and tell these stories, we begin to forget who we are and whose we are.

In his book Leadership Is An Art, Max Dupree writes: 

Dr. Carl Frost, a good friend, tells a story of his experience in Nigeria during the late sixties.

Electricity had just been brought to the village where he and his family were living. Each family got a single light bulb in its hut—a real sign of progress. The trouble was that at night, though they had nothing to read and many of them didn't know how to read, the families would sit in their huts in awe of this wonderful symbol of technology.

The light bulb watching began to replace the customary nighttime gathering by the tribal fire, where the tribal storytellers—the elders—would pass along the history of the tribes. The tribe was losing its history in the light of a few electric bulbs.

DePree points out what happens when a tribe loses its campfire stories. He describes how they lose their history and the fundamental values that bind them together. People forget who they are.

Campfire stories are designed to remind us of who we are as the family of God in our particular location, with our specific story and calling.

When you reflect on the sacred family you belong to, try asking these questions: 

  • What are your church's campfire stories?
  • Who tells the campfire stories in your congregation?
  • Where are the campfire stories told so you don't forget who you are?
  • What are the essential character traits and values portrayed in your campfire stories?

Are you ready to gather some wood and kindling to start the fire?

[1] The book Corporate Legends and Lore extensively shaped this blogpost.

Would your congregation like to think more about its campfire stories? Vibrant Congregations can help. Contact us via our website or email.

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