Sunday, July 24, 2011

Telling Stories

Here are two secrets - people that give money to churches and other non-profit organizations really, really want to know what their money was used for. AND, if you tell them and it is a compelling and life-changing story, they'll give you more money.

Most churches do a poor job of telling stories to their constituents. Churches just presume that people will continue to give "because that's what the Bible teaches." Sorry, that doesn't cut it any more. Our society has trained people, especially the under-40 crowd, to ask questions about "what happened to my money." They want to know - they expect and demand to know. There are two consequences:

  • Tell people where their money went
    • Once people see the good things that happened as a result of their money, they will tell others about it and, very often, give you more money. Telling stories is a game-changer: people will step up to the plate like they've not done before and they'll tell others the stories they are hearing. Telling stories is huge!
  • Don't tell people where their money went
    • If you do not prioritize telling people about how their money was used and you just presume that money will continue to come in, then you continue to operate as you are now. You may not see a decline in giving but you will probably not have an increase either.
How do you tell people? That's easy. Every way you possibly can.  Use every medium possible from print to social media to illustrations in sermons to my favorite, completely altering the offering time.

Telling stories during offering time
The offering time has changed in the past couple of decades. It used to be a time for special music to show off some piece the choir or a soloist worked on and wanted to fit in the worship service. Not any more. Offerings need to be interactive and here's how.

  • Every Sunday of the year, have a story about how the offerings have been used. You'll need to coordinate the stories - don't just insert stories - make them relevant to the message and/or to something going on in the life of the church at that time.
  • If you don't have 52 stories, you've got serious problems and they're not financial - your church is dying because you're not aware of how at least 52 lives have been affected by your church.
  • Take 3 or 4 minutes each week during the offering to tell a story in different formats
    • Use videos of different things, slide shows, live interviews on stage, narratives, songs by children, conversion and baptism stories, etc. 
    • Alter the format each week to keep the story-telling time fresh and interesting
    • Give each ministry of the church (missions, education, worship, fellowship, care, and administration) two or three times during the year for them to tell an interesting story about their ministry and how people's contributions made all the difference.
    • If you're doing a live interview, rehearse with the people you're interviewing so that you'll know their story and can help them get over their nerves about standing in front of "the whole church."
    • When planning a story, think about the end first. What do you want people in the pew to hear and take home? Then backtrack till you come to an appropriate place to start the story. But always, always think about the end of the story first and then decide how to start the story.
  • Tell stories about 
    • The youth mission trip that you're raising money for, that is going out next week, and that just came back. That's three times to tell the same story with different angles each time.
    • The Vacation Bible School that is coming next week and that happened last week. Two times for stories.
    • People!!! Every story is about people - every story must be centered around a person or group of people. Stories should have names (first name is enough) of lives that have been changed because of what people gave. I can't emphasize this enough - even if the story is about how members gave money for a building, then talk about who will use that building and why!
Critical Elements
There are two things that need to be in every story-telling time. These two things need to be used every week and they need to be said in different ways so that these words are honest and genuine, not a refrain that everyone tunes out.  Here they are:

  • Thank you
    • Say thank you every time you can. People like to be thanked, even if they only gave a couple of bucks. If people are shown appreciation and not taken for granted, they're more like to give next time. Say thank you as often as you can and be innovative in the ways that you use those words.
  • Generosity
    • Use the words generous and/or generosity as often as possible. Generosity has replaced "stewardship." There are no negative connotations to generosity while stewardship can have some minor misunderstandings. Use these words - generous is a more accurate depiction of what God has done for each of us in opening his hand to share with us his wealth of love and in spreading his arms out to die for us and in holding us close to him in times of our distress.
We need to encourage our constituents to be generous, like God, and thank them for their generosity. Tell them stories about how generous God has been with us and how their own generosity has changed the lives of so many people.  So please, TELL STORIES!!

Lead On!

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