What story does your annual report tell? I read the annual report of a congregation in preparation for meeting with a church council. The pastor’s report started off with a comment about a picture being worth a thousand words. I looked through the 50-page report – not a picture to be found. Instead, every board, committee, ministry, and seemingly 5th Sunday usher wrote up a few paragraphs about what they did in sleep inducing prose.
The congregation missed the opportunity to tell a compelling story.
If this sounds like your congregation, try creating a common story about impact of your ministry.
Instead of collecting a few paragraphs from each committee on what they did, ask them to share 1-3 pictures of the past year and to discuss as team these questions:
- When did we see our congregation at its best?
- What impact do we make in people’s lives?
- Where do we find a growing edge or challenge in our ministry?
As a council, reflect on what you hear from your committees to identity shared themes. Based on this discussion, write up the story of your last year as a congregation. Try to speak to the difference your congregation makes in people’s lives, name goals for the coming year, and thank 1-3 crucial volunteers. Once the council agrees on a narrative for the year, pick out some of the best photos to intersperse with the text.
Alternatively, hold a council conversation that reflects on the mission statement of the congregation. Name the ways you lived out the mission statement in the last year. Think of what you might try in the coming year. Use this conversation to write up a short reflection for the whole congregation (and don’t forget to include some pictures from throughout the year).
Annual reports produced by these processes will tell a common story of why the congregation mattered, how people engaged the ministry, and what impact it made in the community. When we tell a common story, we can inspire people to give (and help make them feel good about the gifts already given).
You will have much more material from committees – comments and photos – than you can use in the annual report. Use the best of these “scraps” to write up quarterly or monthly notes on the impact of your congregation, perhaps sent out with updates on donations or as part of your newsletter.
Overall, move from a laundry list of committee reports to a compelling narrative (with pictures) of your ministry.
Yours in Faith,
PS: Check out how First Congregational in River Falls moved away from narrative reports completely by making a graphic annual report. (link: https://dq5pwpg1q8ru0.cloudfront.net/2022/02/01/07/22/04/50df28a5-9220-49a1-9675-d7bc0faa0c3e/ANNUAL%20REPORT%20-%20GRAPHICS%20-%202021.pdf).