Stewardship Leader, Tell a Story
By Rebekah Basinger
This article was originally published in Giving Magazine Vol. 20 in 2018. You can access the full issue here.
People listen differently when stories are told. Their ears perk up. They smile. They nod. And they remember. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a well-told story can be priceless.
And therein lies the challenge for stewardship leaders. It takes a particular kind of story when the purpose in the telling is to grow generous hearts.
Specifically, stories that help move folks from casual givers to joy-filled stewards are those that:
Aim for the heart. Facts are important and are essential to trust-building and transparency within congregational life. However, facts alone don’t inspire passion or build excitement. For that, you need to infuse emotion into your stories.
Are specific rather than general. Adding up your congregation’s giving and then reporting the total at year-end can be impressive, even grand. But telling the stories of the parts—the various ministry priorities and commitments of your church—is more likely to grow givers’ hearts.
Are timely. Don’t worry if there’s more of the story yet to be told. Begin telling the story as soon as possible after people have given: the very next Sunday is best. If you find yourself needing to remind people of what it was to which they gave, you’ve waited too long.
Include a call to action. Stewardship- themed stories go beyond the usual “once- upon-a-time” setting and include a future- focused “and then” invitation to continued generosity. A well-told story is a means to the desired end of generous, joyful stewardship.
And how do you craft stories that do all this? The following pointers can help.
Start with the end in mind. How do you want people to feel upon hearing the story? Just as important, what action(s) do you hope to inspire? If you don’t know where your story is leading, it’s guaranteed the listeners won’t either.
Provide context. You know why you chose the story you plan to tell. Your listeners don’t.
That’s why it’s important to weave back-story details into your narrative, specifically the who, what, when, and why of the giving event. Without context, your story is more likely to confuse than inspire.
Keep the focus on the givers. Make the changing of lives, not the sustaining of your church the focus of the story, and funds will follow. Talking up a church’s money woes can bring a short-term surge in giving. However, this is not the way to grow generous hearts.
Stories, when told well and with conviction, really are a stewardship leader’s best friend. The folks in the pews appreciate them, too. So, stewardship leader, tell a story. Please.
Rebekah Basinger provides fundraising and board education counseling and coaching to small and mid-size faith-based nonprofit organizations as Basinger Consulting and is a popular speaker and workshop leader. She is co-author of Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry.
Giving Magazine was a premier stewardship resource published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (ESC) from 1999 until 2020. The magazine served Christian faith communities throughout North America, providing thoughtful, practical, and inspirational content on faith and giving from thought leaders and practitioners alike. Giving was published annually from 1999 until 2018 (volumes 1-20), and then quarterly in 2019 and 2020 (volumes 21-28) in digital form only. In 2021 ESC closed its doors and committed its archives to the care of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. For further information on ESC or its archives, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights, a bi-weekly e-newsletter, is a resource for the religious community and fundraisers of faith-based organizations that provides:
- Reflections on important developments in the field of faith and giving
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