Annual Reports Tell Stories that Increase Generosity

Communication // January 21, 2014

An annual report is something I have recommended to you before. As we start another year together this topic is important enough to revisit. The question usually goes something like this… “Why put the time and effort into gathering a bunch of details for another report?”

A church’s annual report is not created with the intention of simply providing an overview of financials and numbers (though that’s what most are providing in their reports – if they are doing one at all).

Although those are key elements that should be included in the report, one of the main purposes behind the report is to reflect on the church’s success in accomplishing it’s mission, and how one’s generosity is part of that success.

An effective way to “connect the dots” is through story – a narrative annual report. We know stories evoke emotion and change people’s perceptions – and that can ultimately change behavior. So this is your chance to illustrate how God is at work in your church. Use this opportunity to invite people to become even more committed to being generous where He is already working.

So how do we tell a story in an annual report?

  • Share information behind the baptisms and decisions for Christ at your church over the last year. These are stories of life change.
  • Provide details of funds allocated to mission projects, telling stories of outreach to those you have helped around the world.
  • Give examples of your local outreach efforts, sharing stories of how people in your immediate area have been reached in different ways with God’s love.
  • Share stories of service to others, illustrating how people are putting their feet to their faith.
  • Relate personal experiences from people in your life groups or Bible studies that show stories of growth and maturity in our walk with God.

Celebrating the recent past helps to provide stability and hope for the future.

My friend Will Mancini wrote in a recent post: “As a leader, it’s important to know your ‘folklore-‘ the stories of God that are worth sharing over and over and over.” Those are the kinds of things you want to highlight.

Consider sharing photos and videos in your annual report. Putting real faces of real people alongside these stories help them come to life and make an even bigger impact.

It’s easy for those of us “in the trenches”  of day-to-day ministry to develop a narrow focus on that which is immediately before us. It is healthy to take a step back and refocus on a bigger picture view. And now is the time.

When people actually see evidence of what God has done over the last year, they could become even more engaged and active in your church. And engaged and active people are often your most generous people.

Providing an annual report also builds credibility, if even in a subliminal way. When you are transparent about finances, accomplishments and goals of your church, you are building trust within your people (this is extremely important to millenials – they highly value transparency in the organizations they support). And when you appear to be trustworthy in these areas, people are more likely to trust you with their generosity.

Several churches “get it” in terms of creating their annual report. Here are a couple strong contenders for my unofficial “annual report of the year” award. Use them to get the thought process started for your church’s report this year:



What elements of your report have you found helpful to engage your audience? I would love to hear from you.

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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