Which of the following statements would inspire more giving from your congregation?

  1. We had Vacation Bible School last week.
  2. This past week we had Vacation Bible School, and we celebrate having 65 kids attending.
  3. This past week at Vacation Bible School, and one little girl name Anna asked our pastor to baptize her because she has decided to follow Jesus.

Or how about these?

  1. Our church supports Habitat for Humanity.
  2. Our church had 12 people working at Habitat for Humanity.
  3. Our church helped a mom named Rachel, and her kids Mario and Maria, find the home and stability they have been dreaming of for years.

In both cases, most people will be more generous hearing statement #3.  Why is that?  First, people connect with people, and with people stories.  Other human beings move us to compassion.  We are generally less interested in our church’s shoddy shingles than we are in our community’s hurting people.

Secondly, people are motivated by singular and specific stories, not as much by large and general ones.  For whatever reason the idea of 5,000 hungry children does not move us as much as hearing about one named Timmy.  We tend to see the larger problem through the lens of the smaller one.  Timmy is a window to hungry children, and Timmy is a hungry child we can feed.  We get overwhelmed thinking about feeding 5,000.  Don’t you remember how overwhelming 5000 hungry stomachs were to the disciples?

Third, people want to know they are making a difference through their church, and its mission.  When we share that a baptism has resulted from VBS we know our mission is working.  When a family turns the key to their new home, we know our ministry is effective.  People give to winning causes, not to sinking ships.  When the church wins, our stewardship is winning, too—and not in vain.

As you think about giving in the life of your church, make sure you are connecting the gifts with the outcomes, and make sure the outcomes are about the people with whom you are making a difference.

Glenn HowellWe make house calls.  Let us know If you want more ideas for stewardship and giving, whether pastor or lay person. Contact us at your United Methodist Foundation here or call us toll free at 877-391-8811.

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Glenn Howell
Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana