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Published on April 16th, 2018 | by ABCUSA

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Cultivate Generosity in Your Church by Sharing the Story

A team working together around the challenge of stewardship in the 21st century has worked hard over the past eighteen months to put together “The Generosity Project,” a pilot program running from Sept. 2017 – Dec. 2018 which will work to provide stewardship resources and support to a cohort group of pastors from New England regions. Members of the team have prepared blogs for “The Generosity Project” participants, which will also be shared on the ABCUSA website in the coming months. To learn more about The Generosity Project, click here.

In April 2018, team member Rev. Margaret Marcuson provides her thoughts about stewardship and giving.

If you want people in your church to show more generosity, try telling them a story. Help them imagine what you are asking them to give to. You will communicate with them why you want them to be generous. People are motivated to give to something meaningful.

Remember, people of all ages respond to stories. We all know that the sermons people remember are the ones with the best stories. The Bible is filled with wonderful stories for a reason.

Here are two ways to tell the story: Tell the story of the past, and paint a picture of the future. Both are important.

Tell the story of the past (recent and distant). Share with the congregation the ways your church has ministered in the past and present.

Here are a few ideas on how to do that:

• Tell a brief ministry story each week or once a month before the offering.
• In a sermon, tell a story from the more distant past that connects with what you are doing in the present.
• Include a ministry story in the quarterly report of giving.
• Make the annual report and meeting a story. Do more than share reports: have stories and pictures.

When people are excited about what is going on in the church, they will want to give generously to support it. (But don’t forget to ask.)

Try this: at a stewardship meeting, ask yourselves, what are 20 ways we could share the story of our past? Think fast, generate ideas (some of them ridiculous) and pick three that sound doable and fun.

Paint a picture of the future.
Share the vision of what you want for the future, and invite people to support the vision. Visioning is not a prediction, but a direction. You are inviting people to take a journey with you. The more compelling the story, the more likely they are to want to come along and support it with their resources.

Then tell them what decisions and resources are needed next year to make the story come true. A narrative budget is one way to begin to put numbers with the story. Here’s a great sample guide from the United Church of Christ.

Instead of a simple line-item budget with salaries, program and building costs (which causes most people’s eyes to glaze over), you can talk about ministry areas – and again, include stories and pictures. Have the numbers available for those who really want to look at each line. But most people don’t – it’s the story they care about.

Try this: Repeat the last exercise in relation to next year’s budget. Ask yourselves, What are 20 ways we could share the story of what we hope to do this year without using numbers? Do the same thing again: Think fast, generate ideas and pick three that sound doable and fun. Then do them (or at least one of them).

People will find it far more easy to be generous if you touch their hearts with stories of the past and of possibilities for the future.

Bio: Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources. Margaret is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry and Money and Your Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance. Get Six Ways to Last in Ministry at http://margaretmarcuson.com


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