By Justin Rossow

On Sunday, 10.01, at 10:01 a.m, St. Luke launched a 1-year initiative called, “Celebrating 1,001 Stories.” I was really impressed with the conversation in the Great Room. I want to share some of the feedback we received, but first, here is the basic description of our one year goal:

Celebrating 1,001 Stories

By 10.01 of next year, we imagine celebrating 1,001 stories of Jesus active in our everyday lives. Individuals at St. Luke will seek 2 stories every 2 months, giving us a 2×2 approach to celebrating 1,001 stories.

Our hope is that these stories will reflect our St. Luke values and mission, and paint a vivid picture of what Jesus is up to in our lives. People will feel equipped with everything they need to seek and share these stories with a trusted friend as well as with the congregation as a whole.

We have a dream for how our view of Jesus will expand and deepen as we encourage one another to see his ongoing work in our lives. We believe that God will use this year to shape a culture at St. Luke that is open and receptive to where he is taking us next. Celebrating 1,001 Stories will help us reimagine what Jesus is doing in us and through us at St. Luke.

The Story Card

On Sunday, I also shared a draft of the “Story Card,” the primary tool we are developing to help us seek stories, capture stories, and share stories with other people here at St. Luke. The front of the card gives you space to share what you have seen Jesus doing in your life; the back asks you to process that experience with another follower of Jesus. The hope is that sharing the Story Card will help you process what Jesus is doing in and through you in a way that invites someone else to wonder what He is doing in and through them.

The specifics on how this will all work are still to come. But I am excited to be in the first stages of this adventure. A group of 133 St. Luke people–from 80-year-olds to 6th-graders–heard the initial presentation on how we are imagining Celebrating 1,001 Stories. In fact, some of the comments from the youth were about how “encouraging” it was to be part of the conversation; and some of the most well-season members specifically thought is was “exciting” to get to “communicate with teenagers.”

That kind of mutual respect characterized the entire discussion. Check out more comments below, and look for more concrete training in the weeks to come.

Your Initial Response

Celebrating 1,001 Stories is one small part of a larger vision. It expresses our values, helps us live out our mission, gives us a goal for our growth environments, and spurs us toward the kind of discipleship we are trying to cultivate at St. Luke. The responses from our congregation show both the excitement and the challenge of having a unified one-year goal. Some major themes seemed to cover most of our responses.

Building Relationships Is Huge (And A Little Scary)

The importance and benefits of authentic relationships struck a common chord in the responses we received. As one person put it:

I think it’s important that people throughout the church get to know one another better throughout this process. Moreover, I hope the church will grow closer to Jesus as people become closer to each other.

In fact, the expectation for growth in relationships is both a hoped-for outcome and a potential challenge:

How do I find someone to share with? I am thinking it should not be the same person all the time.

That sense of challenge, with maybe a little fear, was fairly common. But there was also an expectation that good will come from the challenge. Listen to these three different but related comments:

  • Connecting is hard, so thank you to St. Luke for providing opportunities.

  • This is a scary thing that we will be doing, especially for the more introverted people and the people who would lean towards isolation.

  • This isn’t going to be easy, but it will be worth it.


We Could Use A Little Help! (Examples Would Be Great.)

St. Luke staff and lay leaders have already been experimenting with how best to describe the Story Card process and make people feel confident in sharing stories. So it’s great to hear that others want the kind of equipping we are hoping to provide:

  • Some of us need an extra measure of courage to undertake this- but we’re excited!

  • We need non-threatening concrete examples of stories from different demographic groups- genders, ages, etc. to get started. Eventually we can handle more risk, but initially we need it to be less scary! Thank you. It’s a great goal.

  • It’s important to have an example to use.

Sticking with a year-long goal will bring benefits and challenges, and I really resonate with the people who shared something like:

[We need] to have the church community follow through, so in a year from now we are celebrating 1,001 stories.


A New Way of Seeing

Many comments captured the heart of the 1,001 Stories goal: to change how we see our everyday, ordinary lives. We aren’t looking for heroic stories of faith; rather, we want Jesus to open our eyes to where He is up to something in the ordinary details of our ordinary week. So I love comments like these:

  • People should understand that they’re writing about events that are not contrived. People don’t have to create contrived situations.

  • I’m excited to be more aware of the stories in my life. Big-and especially small-everyday stories.

  • It seems people are excited to watch for the “small” ways Jesus is working in their lives. If you are watching for something every month they aren’t all going to be monumental.

  • I like the idea of people paying a bit more attention to what God is doing so that they can share it. Seems to encourage deeper sharing with each other (talking about God not the weather).


Take It To The Next Level

Every time staff or leadership brings an idea to the congregation, I learn more about what we are trying to do by listening to the insights of our faith family. 1,001 Stories is not an exception. Some of the thoughts expressed below were already on our hearts, and some really take the whole enterprise to another level. We’ll continue to keep these in mind as we move forward. And we’re always glad to receive more thoughtful responses from our St. Luke family.

How can it become normal to share these cards, so we don’t feel like the one weirdo who’s obsessed with pushing our stories on people?

I love the honesty of that response, and I love how it assumes they will be doing this, and they don’t want to do it alone. We’ve begun trying this out at staff and lay leadership meetings. We’ll be equipping Home Groups to try this in their setting. You’ll be seeing Story Cards in worship and in Bible class. Yes, we want it to be a normal part of our St. Luke life together. And we think it’s going to be a powerful experience.

You can connect and discover a story with someone you already know.

Absolutely. Some of what Jesus is doing in us will happen in the everyday communities where we live, work, and play. Some of what Jesus is doing will happen best in a discipling relationship. And some of it will happen in the St. Luke relationships that help make this place feel like home. We expect that some of the most meaningful Story Cards will come from St. Luke people seeking the story of other St. Luke people. And that kind of experience will equip us better to see Jesus working in other areas as well.

I need to know that the stories I share about connections with non-believers (or those outside St. Luke) won’t end up circling back to them in a way that makes them feel like a notch on my belt or means to an end.

Wow. That is so true. We can never lose sight of the fact that the Story Cards are merely ways of capturing authentic moments in a relationship and wondering how Jesus is using that moment in His bigger story. As soon as 1,001 becomes a pure numerical target, we have lost the soul of the initiative. We want to measure our progress, but the authenticity of the story is far more important than what number Story Card you handed in. Thanks for reminding us of what’s important.

I don’t like the homework feel to this. But I understand you need a goal to get anywhere. It feels like talking to a person and connecting with your community feels like a check box and not something that flows out of you naturally like it’s supposed to.

Yes, I can see what you mean. It could become an empty exercise if we are only focused on the numbers. But like doing 10 push-ups a day is more about a healthy habit than a numerical goal, we want 1,0001 Stories to become a healthy way of living that naturally engages our hearts and minds with what Jesus is doing all around us all the time.

In fact, the number “1,001” was chosen with some real deliberation. The staff wanted something big enough to require us to work together as a whole congregation, and small enough to be realistic and attainable. We knew we were scheduled to launch on the one year initiative on 10.01. And we now have 10:01 a.m. daily staff check ins to keep us focused on the goal. What’s more, one of our staff assured us that, according to Wikipedia, “1,001” as a Greek numeral is ,ΑΑ´, with MI being the Roman numeral variant. So 1,001 Stories seemed like the right goal to launch on 10.01 at 10:01 at St. Luke, ΑΑ, MI.

And yes, if this is merely homework, or only a box to check, we have missed the mark. We want our mission statement, “Seeking everyone’s story … sharing in HIS story.” to flow out of us naturally in our daily life. We need this caution against making Story Cards rote or technical to keep us intentional and mindful of what is important. Thanks.

Stories have beginnings, middles and ends. Life is lived before the end is fully known. It is important that we can talk about incomplete stories, that there is a way to say “God has taken me this far. I’m not done yet.”

This is so important for what we are trying to do. In fact, some of us have already experienced the benefit of keeping track of what we see Jesus doing through Story Cards: any individual Story Card can leave you wondering what happens next. And every Story Card invites you to name a next step. But when you get four or five Story Cards in progression, each building on the others, you start to see the individual experiences with your friends or neighbors, your coworkers and prayer partners, as part of a larger story.

“Incomplete stories” are all we will have until Jesus comes again. And seeing the value of those incomplete stories in the context of His story is part of what Celebrating 1,001 Stories is all about.


Your Next Step

I am so thankful for all of the input we received last Sunday. The goal of Celebrating 1,001 Stories is just starting. Look for ways you can engage the process in the coming weeks. Join us for worship and Bible class in November. Engage with the videos and blog content we are preparing to roll out one step at a time. Talk to another follower of Jesus about what you see going on in your life. Send us an email with a comment or a question. This is going to be an exciting year at St. Luke; I can’t wait to see what Jesus does in us and through us this year!