Use Offering Time To Tell Stories

  1. Donors want to hear how their gifts are being used in ministry. A financial statement doesn’t tell the whole story. Church leadership must share interesting stories of how offerings are being used.
  2. Find 52 compelling stories and insert those in the offertory time. If the church doesn’t have 52 stories, the church has bigger issues. Work with the worship leader to coordinate where in the worship the offering time will fall so that the offertory and its accompanying story add synergy to the service. Insert stories that relate to the sermon, to the liturgical calendar, to the school year, to seasons of the life of a church, etc. Make the story/offering time a key element of worship, not just a way to kill three minutes.
  3. During the year, give every ministry a chance to be on the platform telling one (and only ONE) story. Tell a story about real people, real events. Give ministries time to announce an upcoming youth event, a mission trip, Vacation Bible School, small groups, Christmas, or Easter activity, etc. This is “thank you” time (not an announcement time).
  4. Tell the stories using different methods such as interviews, slide shows, testimonies, songs, handouts, etc. Be creative each time and vary the method the story is told from week to week.
  5. Here are some examples:
    1. I’d like for you to see what our youth did on their summer mission trip. Because of your gifts, 13 kids spent a week that will change their lives for the next 60+ years. Thanks! (then comes slideshow with cool music)
    2. In two weeks we’re launching new small groups and we want you in one of them. If you can’t afford the study book, the church’s offerings will buy you a book. We’ll even pay for babysitting so you can be there. And yes, thanks to everyone’s contributions who are making this possible.
  6. Make each story compelling and have each presentation heart-touching. Always use the words “thank you” and “generosity/generous” – those words have no negative connotations. Soon, the offering time will be something people look forward to.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Community Invitation Campaign (Marketing)

Marketing works – the proof is that so many companies “Just Do It” (Nike) and “Think Different” (Apple). Churches used to do marketing when they advertised the annual revival or other special services. Today, most churches have forgotten the need to advertise to their own community. Publicity about the church on special occasions gets results. Here are some fairly inexpensive ways let your neighbors know you’re there and invite them to attend.

  1. In a one or two mile radius around the church, place door hangers on homes. Pairs of people can walk prescribed routes the weeks before Easter and Christmas.
  2. Ask members to distribute postcards to work colleagues and neighbors. The postcards must have a message and info about the church.
  3. Find the election polling locations near your church. Then distribute postcards and cool water or hot chocolate; put labels with info about the church on the water or cups. Distribute the materials by setting up a table attended by volunteers during election day. The table with your material must be at the legal distance from the actual voting site. Remember that everyone who votes at each location lives within a couple of miles and is thus a neighbor of the church.
  4. Hand out $5 Starbucks cards to people at various local events. Include a card inviting people to your church. Giving away $250 reaches 50 people directly and probably 250 with the ripple effect.
  5. Give away boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Put a label on them with a greeting and info about the church. No one turns down cookies.
  6. At local sporting events for children, set up a tent and provide snacks and drinks to the kids and parents. Give everyone a postcard or flyer, too.
  7. Print church info on magnets and distribute those at some of the above functions. People tend to not throw away fridge magnets. You can create your own fridge magnets pretty cheaply or have them made professionally.
  8. Have pens made and spread those around nearby businesses and restaurants. They are always looking for extra pens. Good pens are great marketing material.

Think of your own ways to advertise that are appropriate for your own community.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Marketing – Door Hangers

A couple of years ago I spoke with a guy doing political print ads. He said that the best way for a politician to get his point across was to speak directly to the voters. The second best way was for volunteers to put door hangers on people’s homes – the inference by the recipient is that someone walked up to their house and left the info. Voters see that as far more personal than a radio, TV, or web ad and respond favorably to door hangers.

Most churches don’t count neighbors within walking distance as potential attendees; we’ve become that much of a car society.  Decades ago, revivals and crusades used to be the church’s main form of growth and the church spent loads of money on those annual events. That was the marketing budget. The church doesn’t do crusades or revivals anymore and most churches don’t do any form of marketing much less neighborhood outreach. Churches must do something to tell the neighbors “we’re here; we’re not scary; come try us out at a special occasion.”

The best times in the year to do marketing are Easter, Christmas, and August-back-to-schooI. These are the times of the year that people are most open to changes in their routine, especially if it involves going to church for the first time in years or decades. A simple door hanger will be a great form of introduction to the neighbors of who the church is.

The door hanger must include a graphic (to catch the eye), an invitation to attend (what you want the person to do), times, dates, & place (when and where the events are), and words of appreciation for them being the church’s neighbor and your desire for them to come and get to know even more of their neighbors.

Doing this once or twice a year will have an impact on your attendance. The door hangers can be placed out on a couple of Saturdays by volunteers walking the streets around the church. Draw a radius of about one mile out from the church and assign blocks to teams who will spend an hour putting out door hangers. After the volunteers are done, ask them to come back to the church for a snack and to tell stories of what they encountered as they put out the hangers.

And, most importantly, have fun doing this!

Lead On!


First Time Donors

Coming to a church for the first time is frequently celebrated. People are encouraged to introduce themselves, provide contact information, and are even given coupons for coffee or food. These are good steps whose goal is to encourage the people to return again and again.

Churches can take another step which is to send a thank you note to all first time donors. The first time someone gives to a church is a big deal. It is one thing to come but it is an even bigger step to pull out your wallet and financially support the church. That action should be acknowledged.

Every first time donor should get a thank you note from a church leader – the pastor, the treasurer, or the church administrator. This simple act will take about 3 minutes per card and cost a dollar or two including postage. But the benefits of that expense will be enormous – people will comment about that for a long time and they will be genuinely surprised and grateful.

Take the time to write a thank you note. It is a big deal.

 Lead On!




More Fish Pictures

2014 12-December 23 (585) Vatican; Sistine Chapel

A few decades ago I was visiting my best friend, Charlie, at his work when I heard a story about James Knight, the owner of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, and its flagship, the Miami Herald. Charlie worked for one of their papers, The Keynoter, a weekly tabloid-style paper aimed at residents and tourists in the Florida Keys. Every page has three things: a news story, advertisements, and a picture of a tourist with a trophy fish catch.

The manager of floor told me that one day, there was something unusual about The Keynoter and James Knight saw it. As Mr. Knight was proofing the paper after it came off the press, something caught his eye. Actually, it was the absence of something. He picked up the phone, called the editor, and told him the paper needed “more damn fish pictures.”

Mr. Knight knew that a large portion of the sales of the newspaper was by tourists who bought dozens of copies to take home to show their friends their trophy-sized fish. If there weren’t fish pictures then sales would drop off. Mr. Knight knew his business and he knew the power of images.

I’m not suggesting that churches publish more fish pictures, but I am saying that churches should use images and pictures more and words less. The current best example I can think of to prove the value and power of images is Facebook. We are naturally drawn to read stories and captions where there are pictures. When friends post only words, we skim what is written, but our eyes are drawn to the next post with a picture.

Use images as often as possible. Jesus used word pictures because there weren’t any images for the common person in Gospel days and people could see in their mind’s eye what Jesus was telling. Be imaginative in your use of picture and images. And use lots of them!


Lead On!


Degradation of Civility

I heard this term recently. It’s a good description of what we’ve all seen on social media: someone gives their opinion on a topic and others attack the person for his/her point of view. When we hide behind a computer screen, we feel we can be impersonal and even uncivil if not outright vicious.

  1. Attack the problem, not the person. Attacking a person is not healthy on your part – in fact, it speaks very loudly about who you are, not the other person. Besides, if you are that passionate about an opposing point of view, then surely you should have sound rebuttals.
  2. For Christians only: you must always value the person more than either your point of view or theirs. God loves people, not opinions. Christians don’t get a pass on this – non-Christians may get a pass (depending on their faith-teachings).

Do all you can to respect people even it means you will just barely tolerate their opinions. People can change their point of view but hearing uncivil words and/or even being attacked is downright wrong.


Lead On!



Star Trek & Star Wars

Pick one of those two space sagas – I don’t care which one, choose your favorite. Okay, now, name the seven major (good) characters in each one:

Star Trek

  • Kirk

Star Wars

  • Luke
    Han Solo
    Obi-wan Kenobi

You may not be a fan of one or the other; you may not like either series. There are a few similarities and many, many differences between these two groups of characters but let me focus on one in particular as it applies to churches and their leadership: #6 in each list.

Uhura is more than the sex appeal for Star Trek, she’s the communications officer. She is on the bridge, sitting just behind the captain and ready to carry out his orders but also making suggestions based on her experience and knowledge of language and culture.

C3PO is the golden robot and comic appeal in Star Wars. He is also conversant in “more than 6 million forms of communication.” He talks non-stop to everyone especially his buddy and fellow robot R2D2.

Both are utterly critical to the success of each mission. Uhura and C3PO ensure that the message from the leader is spoken clearly and without misunderstanding (well, C3PO does mess up a few times) so that the story is moved along and that everyone knows what is going on.

Transition: who is the communications person in your church? Are you like most churches, relying on the pastor who is already doing everything else (preparing sermons, marrying, burying, counseling, helping members, leading staff, going to meetings, etc.)? Or are you intentional about using someone who is gifted in this area to take the message from the leadership and craft it in a multitude of forms so that the message is transmitted to everyone in every way possible? That person may not know six million forms of communication, but he or she is probably more knowledgeable than the pastor about how to disseminate the message.

Churches need to have a clear, consistent, comprehensive, and cohesive communications cohort. The pastor and other leaders must develop the message in a succinct manner. Then, they must work with and trust the communications specialist to send the message out in every way possible to the broadest possible audience.

The audience will see, hear, and read it in multiple ways. Marketing experts say that it takes a person seven views before the person will internalize a message. Communications people love the challenge of finding ways to tell things; most non-communications get weak-kneed at the idea of telling the same thing seven different times.

Even Hollywood recognizes the importance of communications in a leadership group. How much more should the church recognize the importance of communications since the church has the greatest message in the world? How intentional is your church in its communications? And what do you need to do to be more intentional about it?

Lead On!



Saying Thanks!

Here is a link to a good article about thanking your donors. Thanking, explaining, sharing stories, and helping others know what is going on in your church is vital to your church’s finances. People liked to be thanked – please do it often and use as many platforms as you possibly can:

  • Personal letters
  • Articles in the church bulletin
  • Social media
  • Webpage
  • Hallway conversations

If you make this part of your daily attitude, that same attitude of gratitude will flow into your staff and your church members. After all, it is well known that every organization takes on the attitude of the top dog. So, be grateful, tell others thanks, and encourage everyone to follow your lead.

1. Write a Greeting Card, Not a Business Letter
2. Share Recent Progress, However Small
3. Add an Invitation—But Not to Something That Requires Another Donation!
4. Use a More Creative, Personal Opening
5. Include Results-Oriented Photography
6. Record a Video Message
7. Send a Postcard from Behind the Scenes
8. Be Specific about How the Gift Is Being Used
9. Change Who’s Saying Thank You   Lead On! Steve