Seeds Conference 2015 | Breakouts – Friday

Seeds Conf - Breakouts - Friday

Here’s three more recaps from the breakouts I attended today. They include:

Section Communities: How They’re Changing Our Church with Ethan Vanse

Storytelling, Part 1: The Art of the Interview with Angie Woods

Storytelling, Part 2: The Art of the Edit with Gary Hornstien & Chris Munch

Section Communities: How They’re Changing Our Church with Ethan Vanse

Full Disclosure: My group got back from lunch a few minutes late, so I missed a few mins of the intro, but I don’t think it effects what I got out of the breakout.

If you want any of the resources that they are using at COTM, you can CLICK HERE.

They started off the session with a video they used when they launched sections.  It was basically Chris Munch on stage explaining what sections were, and they had people in the audience asking some FAQ’s.  Some were designed to help people understand what sections were, and others were hilarious examples of what they weren’t.

Good principle here: You can use humor to ease the tension of introducing change.

They got this idea from Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, IL, outside of Chicago.  Willow launched it 3 yeras ago, but they didn’t really see the effects they wanted.  They thought creating a replicatable system was the best method for implementing this, but that wasn’t working.

Instead, they decided to create the ideal for what they wanted sections to look like, and then encourage their leaders to make their sections look like that, in their own way.  Leaders have lots of freedom in what they do, and are encouraged to try new things.

Hybels understood the importance of this ministry, so he decided to own it, personally.  He belived that the power of this ministry lied in the leaders themselves.  They just need to train up their leaders and empower them.

It also sent a message to the church that Sections were important because the lead pastor was behind it, 100%.  This was a big deal, and its more than simply adding hosts to sections of your room.  These section leaders function very much like lay pastors, a term they like to use.

Section leaders are so important that COTM takes time EVERY WEEK (or every other week, depending on the time of year) to meet for training.  This isn’t section specific stuff all the time, but typically leadership training.  The goal is Ephesians 4:12, equipping the saints to do the work of ministry.

Honestly, this is the secret sauce of Sections.  Yes, having the community aspect is great and it does help your church to better connect with new people, but they are essentially raising up a crop of HIGH CAPACITY leaders who are DOING ministry, not just volunteering.

Leaders are encouraged to build a lead team for their section.  The goal is to raise up leaders, that raise up leaders, that raise up leaders.  The staff took a lot of time to train these leaders BEFORE they launched sections.  That way, when they launched, they had leaders prepared to do ministry.

They build sections on a cycle with 4 parts:

  • Fill – Helping them to grow as believers
  • Connect – Helping them to get to know you and others.
  • Disciple – Plugging them into a discipleship opportunity.
  • Mobilize – Finding a way to serve together.

Ethan talked about how they identified these leaders.  No one can volunteer to be a sections leader.  Rather, they must be asked and approved using the critera for church leaders found in 1 Timothy 3.

Finally, he emphasized the incredible care that these leaders can provide to those in their section.  A pastor can only do so much, especially when they are called into a situation where they have no relationship.  These section leaders know their people well and are able to care for them even better than a staff pastor could.

Storytelling, Part 1: The Art of the Interview with Angie Woods

Let me start by saying that I think this was my absolute FAVORITE part of the conference.  There is so much gold in here, so I highly reccommend trying to get a hold of the session .mp3. This was a very practical session, so there’s a lot of tips, lists, and ideas.

Angie started by outlining 4 Storyteller Must Haves:

1. The storyteller must have a story of life change.

  • There needs to be a beginning, middle and end.
  • Think about the lyrics of Amazing Grace (I was here, this happened, now I’m here).

2. The storyteller must be able to communicate clearly how God has changed their life.

  • This is something you feel out in a preproduction chat with the person.

3. The storyteller must be able to express how they feel in conversation.

  • You need to ask “how did that feel?”  This is a HUGE question to ask when people give story facts.

4. The story has to be interesting.

  • Ask yourself: Am I moved by this story?

She then talked about 3 Storyteller Kinda Nice to Haves:

1. The storyteller has a fresh story to tell.

  • There fresher the story, the closer they are to the feeling.

2. An interesting and likable personality.

  • Are they someone that people would like to know more about?
  • Do they have any quirks or something different about them?

3. A unique hobby or job is helpful.

  • This can help provide some direction for the b-roll of their story.

One of the biggest struggles for most interviewers is getting the storyteller comfortable on camera.  Angie advised you to be very invested in the person who is telling their story, and make sure they know that.  You need to be willing to welcome their vulnerability with your own.

Angie mentioned this great quote from Ira Glass, from This American Life, about to get your storyteller to get comfortable:

“An interview is a party and you’re the host of the party.  The interviewee will do what you do.  If you tell funny stories, they will tell funny stories back.  If you tell personal stories, they tell personal stories back.  I will talk about myself because I know if I talk about myself in a way that’s real, they will feel safer and will open up more. Then they do it too and it’s a fair trade.”

She suggests going very deep and very wide in your pre-interview meet-up.  Get the entire story and try to really connect with them.  Also, she says do it face-to-face and don’t use any electronics or to even take notes.

Pro tip: Use your phone to record the conversation and make notes on it later, this will also help you editor.

Angie then transitioned to talk about 5 things you need to communicate upfront with them.  I took these verbatim from her notes:

  1. I know sharing your story feels intimidating.  You are not alone, I’m going to help you
  2. I know your story feels big.  I’m going to help you focus on one aspect or angle that will inspire people to life change.
  3. When we shoot the interview, you and me are going to sit across from each other and talk just like we’ve already done.
  4. We will talk for a while, but the story will be about 4-6 minutes when its finished.
  5. We will be showing the story at church and it will be posted online. Are you okay with that?

Then she got to the most important part of the breakout: learning to use a traditional story structure to provide the framework for the story you are telling.  She talked about 6 parts of the story structure:

1. Exposition

  • This is all about getting to know the storyteller.
  • You should use this to setup the world they live in.
  • This gives the audience a chance to care and invest emotionally in the storyteller.

2. Inciting Incident

  • This is where the story really begins.
  • It’s when the thing that they longed for more than anything else in the world was taken away.
  • Or, it’s when their life gets turned upside down, and everything seems completely out of reach.

3. Progressive Complications

  • This is where the storyteller is trying everything in their power to fix the problem.
  • They are things that they try to do that simply make things worse.
  • You want to look for 2-3 of these in the story.

4. Crisis / Climax

  • This is the moment of truth, the fork in the road moment for the storyteller.
  • They have a decision to make: will they stay the same or change?
  • Its essentially the breaking point of the story.

5. Resolution

  • This is where all the tension is gone, and the conflict is resolved.
  • This is the “Now I’m Here” part of the story.

6. Moral of the Story

  • While probably not explicitly stated, this is the lesson learned from the story.
  • Ask them this question: “What do you know about God today that you didn’t know before?”

Do your best to lay out the story before the interview using this framework.  Use a whiteboard and determine the beats of the story that you want to cover with them.  If you can, find the root of the story and use that to help guide your questions.

She then moved on to talking about preparing your storyteller for the shoot.  These are 7 things to communicate before you show up to shoot:

1. Be clear about arrival time, the small crew, and amount of gear that you are bringing to the shoot.

  • Do your best to operate with the smallest crew possible, it’ll make it easier on the storyteller.

2. Setting up a shot typically takes about an hour.  We may need to move some furniture around to accommodate for lighting and gear.  Is that okay?

3. Talk hair, makeup, and clothing.

  • Having clothing options is the best way to take the pressure off of them.  You can make the decision together.
  • Be sure to fill them in on details of hair and makeup.

4. Explain the flow of the shoot (set up, first pass, break, second pass, b-roll).

  • First pass is the longest, probably 40-50 minutes of footage.
  • During the break, you should meet with editor, if they are there (which is preferred). Talk about what you need in the second pass.
  • Second pass is much shorter, more directed, use notes from pow wow.
  • A-roll is video of you talking, and b-roll is extra footage of stuff to support the story.

5. Explain the difference between the interview and b-roll

6. Ask about room noise, pets, children, or any distractions that might be an audio issue on set.

7. Be clear and realistic about the time commitment for the shoot, and if B-roll if needed.

While on set, your role as the interviewer is to be the host of the party.  You should introduce everyone to the storyteller.  Don’t talk about the story at all before you start shooting, keep things light and fun.

Also, you should explain everything that’s happenning at every turn, just to keep them comfortable.  Talk about make up & clothing when the time is right.  Also, NEVER show them the shot, because they’ll start to get self consious (no one likes to see themself on camera).  When it’s time to shoot, you need to lead the conversation.

Angie had 3 things you should tell the storyteller right before the cameras roll:

  1. No need to look at the camera!  You can look right at me.
  2. I’m not going to be a part of the video, so when I ask you a question, think about rephrasing my question in your answer so it’s a full sentence.  If you forget about this, I’ll help you remember!  But it’s good to keep it in the front of your mind as we talk.
  3. Ask them if you can pray with them.  Use your prayer to cast vision for them one last time on why we’re here today and pray that God would lead your conversation in a way that would speak to people in the church who are struggling.  Thank God for life change that will take place because of their story. When you say “Amen,” the cameras are rolling.

From here on, Angie went on a roll with a bunch of great tips and tricks for being a better interview.  So, instead of being cute and trying to work them into a paragraph, I’m just gonna give em to you so you can tweet them if you’d like:

  • Your story structure is where you get your questions from.
  • Don’t start with anything too important, help them get warmed up with questions. 
  • Take your time in the first pass, that’s where all of the emotion is going to live.
  • Think about balancing facts with feelings.  “How did that feel?”
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Don’t be afraid of emotion. 
  • Second pass is a lot about transitions and context (who are the he’s & she’s?)
  • You’re not going to be able to recapture emotion in the second pass. Don’t feel bad about it.
  • Pro-Tip: When you’re done, put your notes away, and then ask one more question.  This will catch them off guard.
  • A lot of times, the edit you end up with isn’t the story structure you started with.  Feel free to abandon it for something else if its not working. 
  • How do you get better? Just keep telling stories & learn.  Listen to great storytellers.
  • You can go watch other story videos and get distracted with the visual aspects of them, but you need to focus on the story first.  You can’t polish a turd.  If the story is bad, the video will be bad.
  • This is not about you taking a story from someone, its about you giving people an opportunity to tell their story.

Storytelling, Part 2: The Art of the Edit with Gary Hornstien & Chris Munch

This was a very practical breakout, so you video editors listen up, there’s some great stuff here for you.  The guys outlined some good thoughts on how to be a better video editor, so below you’ll find the thought with some notes about each one.

Get Organized.

  • In this step, you’re simply getting things ready for your creativity, so set yourself up well.  This should be systemized and very efficient for you.
  • They guys talked about this great app called Post Haste, which helps you to setup a work flow for setting up new projects from raw footage.
  • Pro Tip: Work off of a portable hard drive, rather than a computer.  Helps you to trade off projects to others.  Make sure you use USB 3 7200 RPM drives.

Know the Story You’re Trying to Tell.

  • Communication is really important, espcially with your interviewer.
  • Speecifics are good, get as much information as you can.
  • When you’re editing, your first pass should be for pulling anything that’s interesting, and your second pass you’re starting to actually make your timeline.
  • Balance the facts of the story with the feelings.
  • Once you whittle the clips all the way down, you start to build the story structure (see above).  Find the dots in your story and connect them.
  • Be inspired by what is said rather than what you want to hear. 
  • Pro Tip: Edit to music.  Music enhances emotion, and can give you a better feel for a section.

Create Tension.

  • Make the audience want to know what’s next.
  • You want to create immediate tension, even with the first statement.
  • Music helps to create tension.  If you’re looking for a place to find good, licensed music, go to
  • Avoid tension killers, don’t release the tension too soon. 
  • You can create tension by controlling the pacing of the story. 
  • The cadence with which something is said can also cause tension, even by using pauses and by chopping it up.

Keep Your Stories Short.

  • The longer the story, the bigger the payoff HAS to be.
  • You have to be able to identify any story points/lines that need to be cut.
  • Do your best to tell the story as best you can with the least amount of footage.

Be Careful About B-roll.

  • B-roll can be really distracting and can take you out of the story if not used well.
  • It should be a support to the story, not the main focus.
  • Err towards the abstract.
  • Find stuff that the subject is generally interested in.  When in doubt, get them to make coffee.
  • Check this out for great b-roll: Ed’s Story.

Test Your Story.

  • Get people who have no experience with the story to watch it.
  • Watch the people as they watch it.
  • Ask how they felt, what things didn’t connect, where they lost interest.
  • Ask them questions about what they’re thinking about it.

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