Ministry storytelling increases generosity

Many churches across the Texas Annual Conference use a powerful form of storytelling right before the offering to increase giving and maintain tithing. It's subtle, but effective.

Each Sunday, the Rev. Pat Sparks uses this storytelling method with his church. He calls it the "Life Changing Story." This serves as both as an opportunity to raise awareness of the church's ministries, as well as a call to members, asking them to be generous and keep up the good work, says Sparks, Senior Pastor of the Katy church.

The Life Changing Story was already a part of St. Peter's UMC when Sparks came on board about six years ago. He visited the church as a district superintendent in the past. "I thought it was a really cool way to help people know where their dollars are going," he said.

When he took the helm at the church, Sparks decided to carry on the tradition. Church leaders know about the importance of sharing their efforts and provide ideas all the time, he explained.

After Vacation Bible School, for example, Sparks will show photos of the ministry. In the past, he has shown videos of church members fixing homes after Harvey and shared thank you letters the church received from its prayer quilt program, which includes notes explaining that the recipient will be covered in prayer.

The Power Up Vacation Bible School included hands-on learning and scripture for all ages, attracting over 400 kids from the community. St. Peter's UMC also hosted their first Special Needs VBS with 38 participants.

Each year, the Life Changing Story highlights high school seniors, who go on a mission trip to Jamaica to help build a school. They come back with tons of photos that Sparks projects during his Life Changing Story.

After sharing these stories, Sparks explains that this is the type of activity supported by church offerings.

"We thank everyone for their generosity," he said. "We want to tie the dollars they give to the stories."

Sometimes, people forget that the ministries can be costly, Sparks explained. Each requires funding, facilities and personnel.

"As you give, be aware of how much impact you have," Sparks said.

He pointed to the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus talks about laying treasures in heaven and says, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

"If you can get people to invest in the church, they'll care more about what happens in the church," Sparks said. "Put your treasure and your heart in the same place."

Sparks explained that overall giving at St. Peter's UMC has increased since beginning the practice of The Life Changing Story.

When church members see where their resources go, they naturally ask what they can do next to help more in the community, Sparks explained.

"It gives them a connection to our outreach," he said.

That's a tie-in that everyone in the pews appreciates, he added, especially young members who are mission-minded. They want to know their offerings in the church go to changing lives.

Facts don't inspire generosity. Stories of impact grow giving.

excerpt from a story by Lindsay Peyton, Texas Annual Conference

This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.