3 (Really!) Easy Ways to Tell Your Story
Call me morbid, if you will (and you can), but I love reading obituaries. I especially enjoy the Sunday obits because there’s at least a full page of them where I can learn about (hopefully) people I don’t know. I am always surprised how long and detailed some of them are. I suppose when I go to that great by and by my husband or kids will spend a bagillion dollars and take out a full-page obituary just for me. But then again, they probably won’t. Now I’m mad at them for not getting that full-page obit for me. O.K., I’m over it, all is forgiven. Let's move on.
My all-time favorite obituary is Cloteel Nickleberry’s. It begins, “On January 21, 2007 Cloteel took a 2:30AM flight to her heavenly home having secured her personal relationship with her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Now that’s the way to start an obituary. Cloteel was the 18th child in her family. In particular, she was a dedicated tithing member of her church. Her motto was “You should walk the walk and talk the talk and give some money too!” She was married for 65 years, loved to cook down home southern food and was outspoken about her faith. In her words, “I’m not going to heaven by myself!”
After reading Cloteel’s obituary, I wish that I had known her. I wanted to know more about her life, her story. And that’s what should happen when you tell your church's story too. So instead of writing your obituary, here are three ways to tell your congregation’s story while you’re still alive and kicking:
- Your Newsletter: This almost seems like an antiquated form of getting information out but I know that this is still the primary way many of your parishioners get news about the church. Take advantage of it. If you’re a clergy person, be sure you write a column for the newsletter. It’s a way for you to communicate. And use it as an opportunity to thank your people and to tell them one great way their offering is making a difference.
- An E-mail Blast: I recently learned that Rev. Adam Hamilton (yes, that Adam Hamilton) sends out an email every Friday to people in his congregation. People who don’t even live in Kansas get it too. What a great way for you to quickly and easily send out an inspirational story about something that happened to you during the week (and I'm sure you can think of something inspirational that happened, right?). It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does help people to feel connected to you and the mission of your church.
- A Blog: As one of my favorite bloggers said, “If you’ve been reading Clarification you know by know that I’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits. If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.” Of the three, this is the most time intensive – at the start. But, if it is to be believed, check out this article – “How to Start a WordPress Blog in Five Minutes.” Once again, a blog is a great way to share your thoughts about what is going on in your church. Give up on the notion of perfect grammar and punctuation – people care far more that they are hearing from you and the story you have to tell about faith and the church.
So, there you have it. An old school way for you to tell the story and a couple of new ways too. It’s not time to write your obituary (really!). You’ve got way too much Good News to share with your congregation and the world. Just go and write it down.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. She hopes there will be some professional criers at her funeral. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.