Adapting a story template
What is a story template?
Each "story template" is one way of summarizing the biblical "story of the world" in about 800 words. Though we call it a template, its purpose is not to be a guide for mechanically punching out copies. It should be used loosely as a pattern, like a pattern for a shirt which can be adjusted by the seamstress depending on the person the shirt is supposed to fit.
A "mini-story" is a story template condensed to about 100 words.
A "story of the world" is a person's story of how things are, how they got that way, and what to do about it. Everybody has a story and lives by it, whether they can consciously tell their story or not. Often they can't. A fish is the last creature that could describe water.
The SYNC "story templates" get the biblical story up to the conscious level so that those of us who live by it can explain it easily and let other people get in on it if they want to.
Who adapts the templates, and why?
If we believe that the biblical "story of the world" is a true picture of the world we live in, we believe that God is running a campaign to heal, bless, and connect the world. Jesus is the center of it all, the spearhead of the campaign. We live in SYNC with that story by letting him integrate us into his campaign team, sharing in its purpose and its benefits.
Many other people are missing out on the benefits we enjoy because they either don't know the story, they don't see how it connects with them, or they are living by some other story they don't want to give up. We who are in SYNC with the story adapt the story templates in order to help other people see what they are missing.
Who wants to be out of SYNC with healing, blessing, and connection? But people can't SYNC with a rhythm they can't hear. The templates help them hear the rhythm and fall in love with it.
Step 1: Focusing on your audience and its readiness
As in any presentation, the presenter needs to identify his/her audience. If we do not do that well, we tell the biblical story in whatever version moved us toward Christ even if that is not the version that is most likely to move our audience. It takes a conscious effort to put their preferences above our own, but that is the only way to succeed in our adaptation of the biblical story.
If your adapted template story is ready but your audience isn't, you probably won't get far. Watch for these signs that your audience is ready:
If they ask about how you handled a situation, or why you did a certain thing, the template story is a natural answer. That's why we call them "Who Are We?" stories. They all end with a statement about how we see ourselves in Christ.
If they ask a big question like, "What is Christianity anyway?" or "Do you really believe such and such?" the template story gives the big picture. Caution: watch them to make sure you are not giving more detail in your template than they were wanting.
If they make an unfair criticism of Christians like, "Christians are so judgmental," you can say, "Those are all Christians who don't realize that the biblical story is about healing, blessing, and connecting, not judging. Would you like to hear the story they don't know? It takes about 3 or 4 minutes for me to tell it."
If they describe a pain or problem of theirs that shows they are missing out on the benefits of God's campaign, you may say, "I'm sure God doesn't want you to be feeling that. He's actually on a campaign to end that kind of feeling. Do you want to hear about it?"
If the audience is not ready but the Spirit of Jesus nudges us to use the template story anyway, we go ahead. It may not seem like the smartest thing to do from a human point of view, but this is not our campaign. It's God's campaign, and sometimes he wants his story told whether people are ready or not.
Step 2: Choosing one template to adapt
With your audience in mind, ask yourself which of the seven mini-stories is most likely to connect with them, and why you think so. This is a great question to explore with a friend or two or with a team if you have one. It helps you deepen your understanding of your audience.
Note: if more than one mini-story seems likely to connect, choose one to start with. Later you might decide to blend a couple of the themes into one story, but it is simpler to start with one by itself.
Step 3: Adapting your template (no copyright restrictions)
Move from your chosen mini-story to the full template story that expands it. Your goal is to own the biblical story. Put the template ideas into your own words, perhaps by telling the story in front of a mirror or to a friend or two. Then work on a written version, taking out anything that does not sound like you.
As you do that, keep thinking of your audience, and keep remembering that you have lots of editorial freedom. Your adapted version might be half as long or twice as long as the template. It might emphasize something that is glossed over in the template, or it might gloss over something the template emphasized. It might have an introduction that is not there in the template at all.
Keep your adaptation faithful to the biblical story as you understand it; however, watch out for one very common danger for adapters. Since we all already have a favorite way of summarizing the gospel, we tend to put all that familiar content back into our adaptation so it sounds right to us. That kills the adaptation process! It changes the story from the template you chose to the template you may have been treating as the one and only "real" version of the gospel.
Usually this old favorite is the "Mercy" version, but for many audiences, that happens to be the version least likely to connect. Convince yourself that the other versions are just as "biblical" as that version even though they don't sound like it to you. They are not watered down. They are actually beefed up with important biblical themes that the Mercy version skips lightly over.
Step 4: Testing and refining your template
The templates on this web site are not final versions, and your adaptation won't be final either. Try it out and keep it flexible. You might tell your version to ten people without telling it twice in exactly the same way. You might also publish a version in print, which does make it seem final. However, even then it is good to think of a second edition.
While the story can be written and read, it is really meant to be remembered and told. It need not be memorized and quoted exactly. Good storytellers can do amazing things with stories as good as your adapted story will be.
Learning community of template adapters (Facebook)
These templates are new and experimental. SYNC would like to develop a learning community on Facebook for people who are adapting the SYNC stories for different contexts. Perhaps there will be several learning communities, one for each version. For the present, use Contact Us to let us know of your audience and which story you are adapting. As we become aware of adapters with overlapping interests, we will try to put you in touch.
Why the templates were created
SYNC believes that the biblical story is a rich multi-layered story, and that we do not do it justice when we boil it all down to one familiar theme. There are so many other ways to describe the central role of Jesus in the story of the world, and so many other ways to see ourselves as we join him in his campaign to heal, bless, and connect the world.
If we are going to take the whole gospel to the whole world, we must get beyond the "one size fits all" approach, and that is what the SYNC templates are trying to help us all do.