In Brian McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change, he writes about “framing stories” and the effects they have on groups and societies (Chapter 9, pp. 65-73). A framing story is that which we tell ourselves and follow in life. He writes on page 67, “If our framing story is wise, strong, realistic, and constructive, it can send us on a hopeful trajectory. But if our framing story is dysfunctional, weak, false, unrealistic, or destructive, it can send us on a downward arc, a dangerous, high-speed joyride through un-peace, un-health, un-prosperity, and even un-life.“.

I think another way to think about the definition of a framing story is, what is the vision that created the group and guides it today.

The idea of a “framing story” is challenging to consider. Our founding fathers, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, certainly began framing our story as a nation. This framed story guides our justice system, I think, more than the other two branches of our government today.

As I read more about the concept of a “framing story”, it made me wonder about congregations, and their framing story. How does their story get started? How does the original framed story impact their lives today? How many are aware of their congregation’s framing story? How can understanding their story impact their future in positive ways? How do they work at re-framing their story, so that it remains relevant to their participants and inviting to new people?

I think so often we follow the script of our framing story almost unconsciously. Thus, it guides us without our consciously reflecting upon, “Is this where we want/need to go?”.

One of the things that excites me about the Emergent Church is their passion for following Christ pushes them to reframe their congregation’s story. Or, in the case of church planting, frame a new story for people to be guided by.

If you’re in an established church, do you know your congregation’s “framing story” is? What are some of the ways that you think your congregation’s “framing story” guides it today? Are you satisfied with it, or desire a new story to follow?

What story does your congregation live by?