Communications: The Power of Storytelling

By Liz Lennox, Director of Communications SUSUMC & WPAUMC

In February of 2016, I sat facing a group of eight kind faces as I interviewed for a part-time church secretary job at the local United Methodist Church. This was not a job I particularly wanted, but I had recently moved back to the area from a city I loved and missed and I was desperate. I was adrift and College Hill United Methodist Church tossed me the life raft I desperately needed. For the next year and a half, I walked into the wood-paneled church office every morning to answer phones, print bulletins and chat with the church members who would drop in to say hello. I could have never imagined where that job, begrudgingly accepted out of desperation, would lead me.

Six years and a few months later, I walked into my office in Mechanicsburg as the new shared Director of Communications for the Susquehanna and Western Pennsylvania Conferences of The United Methodist Church. On my desk was a signed welcome poster from the wonderful staff at the Susquehanna Conference. As I stood there reading the kind greetings from my new colleagues, I reflected on the time I’ve spent serving The United Methodist Church and the path God sent me down when I accepted that church secretary position.

Even as a part-time secretary for a small church, I recognized the vital importance of strong communication. My time spent working at the local church made me deeply value the critical role that communication plays and the relationship between local and conference communicators. I moved on from the local church to work for the Western Pennsylvania Conference as the social media and visual communications coordinator, but I carried with me that deep respect for the local church and the work they do. In my new role, I had the opportunity to work with numerous administrators, pastors and councils to strategize and strengthen their communication plans. It is my hope that I can continue to empower the local churches in the Susquehanna Conference by providing guidance and training around communication.

 

Story from District Six Museum in South Africa

Above all, I consider myself a storyteller. I recognize there’s a lot of power in the ability to tell stories—we use storytelling as a way to share news, inform and educate, preserve history and make a difference. Stories have the power to evoke hope, break hearts, speak truth and change lives. The most important stories are often deeply personal.

One of the more profound experiences of my life was reading the stories at the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. The museum, coincidentally located in the former Buitenkant Street Methodist Church, is dedicated to a Black neighborhood that was razed during apartheid. The people who lived in that neighborhood were removed from their homes and the entire neighborhood was destroyed. All that was left were various objects and stories. Some of those stories are written and displayed and some are shared verbally by the guides who once lived there. The museum and the stories stand as a gut-wrenching and powerful testament to the horrors of racism. Those profound stories changed my life and made me realize how important storytelling is.

 

 

Helping in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

In my time as a communicator in Western Pennsylvania, I have had the privilege to tell many stories of those I’ve encountered. I profiled the oldest living retired clergy person in the WPA Conference and introduced Quinn, the service dog the conference supports. I shared the heartbreaking story of a Puerto Rican man who lost everything in Hurricane Maria and had been unable to clear the wreckage of his home until our team assisted him. I highlighted an antiracism event that showcased the music of Paul Robeson. All these stories have demonstrated to the world who we are as United Methodists and what we represent.

My ability to tell stories is a gift and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share that gift in the Susquehanna Conference. My path has led me here, to this conference, to tell your stories. And I am blessed.