The Titanic, Your Lobby and Lifeboat 14

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Storytelling is one of the most important aspects of building a dynamic small group culture.  Telling the right stories, choosing the right metaphors, makes all the difference in communication.  Buy-in is almost always a direct result of the spot-on selection of the stories you tell.

One of the stories I tell all the time when I’m talking with pastors and leaders is the Titanic.  There is a lesson in it that is so powerful and so memorable.  Your team will never look at the lobby in the same way.  To get the most out of this you have to see how I tell it AND how I use it.

Here’s how I tell it:

There is a scene in the movie Titanic that grips me every time I watch it.  It’s right after the ship has gone down and what you see from a distant camera angle looks like a debris field.  All kinds of stuff bobbing in the water.  As the camera closes in you realize that what’s in the water are people.  Lots of them.  Hundreds of them.  And then you begin to hear them.  They’re screaming and calling out for help.

And then the scene shifts to a group of lifeboats some distance away.  The passengers who were fortunate enough to get into a boat can hear the screams and the calls for help…but they’re not rowing back.  And no one seems to care except for one passenger (Molly Brown, played by Kathy Bates in the movie).  She says, “We have to go back!”

Here’s the thing…that night, in the 28° water, you really couldn’t live that long.  Leonardo DiCaprio aside, if you were in the water for long…you were not going to make it.  That night, in the 28° water, 20 lifeboats were launched.  19 rowed away.  Only lifeboat 14 came back to help anyone.  The reason we know the name of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe is that he was at the tiller of the only boat that returned. Only four survivors were pulled alive from the water.  Four.  Everyone else died.

Here’s how I use the story:

Here’s the general idea: When you’re in a small group…you’re in a lifeboat.  If you’re not in a lifeboat…you’re not going to make it very long.

Here’s the application for small group leaders and leadership: Next Sunday, as you’re walking through the lobby, you need to realize that three out of every four people you bump into are in the water.  They’re not in a small group.  And they can’t make it very long.  They’re one tough thing away from not being here anymore.  A divorce.  The loss of a job.  Problems with children.  Illness.  One tough thing is often all it takes to cause someone to stop coming.  To be in the water is not a good thing.  To be alone is not a good thing.  God didn’t make us to be alone.  We need to become a “lifeboat-making factory.”

Here’s the application for the congregation: You need to know that we’re concerned for you.  We believe that you were made for community and connection with other people.  We need each other.  We’re really not made to make it on our own.  If you’re ready to get out of the water…

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  1. Richard Wollard on January 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I used to have a great Lifeboat 14 video clip I can’t find. This one on sermon spice goes with the theme of lifeboats:

  2. Anonymous on January 11, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Thanks for the link! I’ve used a clip from Titanic that picks up just after the ship has sunk with Kathy Bates character imploring her lifeboat captain to go back. Great stuff…very compelling.