Stories – Part Two – Normalizing the Conversation

Communication // June 1, 2012

Let’s recap. Generally speaking, pastors don’t like to talk about money. So many don’t. That seems to work out just great because most church attendees don’t want to hear about money anyway.

Except  . . . money is a spiritual issue, so the church can’t exactly ignore it.

Week in and week out, churches collect an offering. That might look a bit different depending on the context—from gold-plated trays passed with usher-assisted formality to “joy boxes” at the back of the room—but the great majority of worship experiences include a time to “give back to God.”

The money is collected, scurried away to a lockbox or safe, and then what?

Other than a letter and a few bar graphs included with annual giving statements (if that), many church families may never hears a word about how the money was spent.

They are just asked to give more. Now, if you’re looking to maintain the status quo, that’s a fine strategy.

But if you’re looking to accelerate generosity and empower your church family to experience what it’s like to trust God with their finances, we have to think differently.

Enter story. As it relates to generosity, story-telling takes two forms:                                                                                         

  • Ministry Impact. These stories help people connect the dots between what goes in to the offering basket and how lives are changing as a result.
  • Personal Impact. These stories are shared from the givers’ perspective. They explore why they give, how they learned to give, how faith is a part of their giving decisions, and so on. The benefits of sharing stories with your church family are significant:

1. Telling stories shifts the conversation. More than just a less-churchy synonym for “testimony,” storytelling is an entirely new paradigm.
As it relates to generosity, storytelling helps shift the conversation from the traditional giving to (the church, a budget, the building campaign) to a more radical posture of giving from a heart that has been transformed.

2. Telling stories grants permission. As pastors begin to regularly share stories of generosity (rather than “preaching the annual stewardship series”), the subject of money becomes less taboo. Generosity becomes a normal part of a church’s conversation and pastors no longer have to dread the annual, money-sermon-related drop in worship attendance.

3. Telling stories creates and confirms culture. Over time, storytelling alters the DNA of a church. You’ll begin to feel a new excitement around the issue of giving: “This is how we deal with money.” You’ll hear things like, “We’re a generous church.” People will begin to truly celebrate the opportunity to be a part of God’s work through your church. They’ll even look forward to the offering time. (Can you imagine?)

4. Telling stories compels people to action. As your church family connects the dots between generosity and life change, they’ll feel inspired to give. This is huge!

5. Telling stories creates curiosity. Finally, when first-time guests experience how you celebrate generosity, they’ll undoubtedly think, “This place is different” . . . and they’ll want to know more.

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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