You're about to organize a financial campaign to underwrite your budget. How do you plan to communicate with church members? What methods will you use to tell the stories of your church's ministry?
You might want to consider using a slide presentation. Slides offer an inexpensive and practical way to help people see and hear the story of your church's ministry. However, don't depend on slides alone to do the job.
Joy in giving comes through participation. We find joy in giving and receiving because these acts relate us to one another. In 2 Corinthians 8:4 (TEV), Paul describes the Macedonian contribution to the poor: "Of their own free will they begged us and pleaded for the privilege of having a part in helping God's people in Judea." Having a part is participation—koinonia.
When people put money in the collection plate, they show a desire to have a part in helping God's people in this world. Church leaders have a responsibility to tell the stories that will develop a sense of participation.
There is a difference in reading statistics about the homeless and staying all night in a homeless shelter. There is a difference in citing facts about the number of people in the world who have never heard of Jesus Christ and in sharing your personal faith story with someone.
Although a slide show is not as effective as personal participation, it communicates more vividly than does a page of statistics. Pictures help people tie facts to feelings.
Nearly every congregation has a photographer or two. Invite several "shutterbugs" to take slides of your church's ministries. Offer to pay for the film and developing costs.
Most pictures will be candid, but it is all right to stage shots. For instance, you might want a picture of the pastor serving Communion to a shut-in. Get approval before you schedule the photo session. To illustrate a pastoral counseling session, stage a shot from the "counselee's" back to indicate the confidential nature of the ministry.
If your church has daycare or parents' day out programs, get slides of those ministries. If the United Methodist Men sponsor a scout troop, be sure to include slides of that outreach ministry.
Make slides of Sunday school classes of all ages. Photograph youth groups, vacation Bible school classes, choir rehearsals, Christmas programs, and Easter sunrise services. Make a list of the most exciting things about your church and make slides that will illustrate them.
Picture taking is a year-round activity. To get a representative selection, include slides taken at different times of the year. Start now for a slide presentation next year.
In addition to local pictures, ask district and conference leaders to provide slides. Many districts have work projects that receive funds and volunteers from local churches.
Your church supports conference camps, homes, hospitals, and many other outreach ministries through the apportionment system. Ask your annual conference to help you locate slides that will illustrate those ministries.
Borrow slides from someone who has visited an overseas mission project that is supported directly or indirectly by your congregation. Use the slides to illustrate how dollars in the offering plate support the mission of the church throughout the world.
Some people in your congregation may have had experience with slide presentations. Someone may even know how to use two or three projectors to "fade" from one scene to another. Ask for help.
Of course, most of us will not be able to find such expertise. If you are going to put together the slide show yourself, and if you have never done one, you can still produce an excellent show!
Before you put slides in order, outline your story. What aspect of the story needs to come first? Map out the entire presentation.
Decide whether you will have a narrative to go with the slides or whether you will play background music and let the slides tell their own story. Think it through before you begin looking through boxes of slides.
As you outline the story or write your script, you will think of scenes that have not been included. If you plan early enough, you can have your photographer take the shots you want to add to your presentation.
A narrative should not "talk about" the pictures. Instead, the slides should highlight the story. They should help the viewers laugh and cry, say "a-ha" and "oooooh."
Putting It All Together
You will need a light table (a frosted piece of plastic or glass with a light behind it) to view the slides. Remove the poor quality slides and those that do not fit the story. You should have many more slides than you will use. Be selective.
Choose several slides on the same subject. No picture should be on the screen for more than six seconds or for fewer than three seconds. (For a fifteen-minute presentation, show between 180 to 200 slides.) Even if you have a narrative, words are not necessary all the time the pictures are on the screen.
As you work with the slides, you may remember important areas left out of the scenario. Add what is appropriate, and remove any slide that doesn't fit the story.
When you have made your selections, preview the show. Have paper and pencil handy to make notes. Look for slides that do not have good composition or light quality. Keep track of the slides that need to be eliminated or replaced.
Pay attention to the flow. Are transitions abrupt? What needs to be done to have the pieces fit together? Will the slides help viewers "participate in" the ministries of the church? Most of the people who will see the presentation have been putting checks and bills in the collection plate for some time. They need to sense that they are in ministry through their offerings.
When you are reasonably satisfied with your slide selections, invite a friend to view them. You need an objective viewer to look for any problems with the presentation. Listen to your "consultant" and make any necessary changes.
Do a "dry run" where you will show the slides. Is the screen large enough? Where will the projector be set? (Have you considered a rear-projection screen?) Do you have a spare bulb? Are the chairs arranged so that there are no obstructions between viewers and the screen?
Check the lighting. Even with a daylight screen, slides are seen more clearly in subdued light. Know the location of light switches. Have someone prepared to turn lights on and off at appropriate times.
Since a slide presentation should not last more than twenty minutes (preferably fifteen minutes), you may want to have hymn singing or special music before the presentation. After the slide show, have someone tell of plans for new ministries in the coming year. If your presentation is part of the financial commitment program of your church, enlist a spokesperson to describe the next steps in the campaign.
You don't want to go through all the work of preparing a slide show and have no one to see it. Put as much effort into getting people to the presentation as you do in preparing the program.
Schedule the presentation when you are likely to get a good response. Some urban congregations find that a Sunday morning breakfast or a Sunday lunch are good times for attracting people. A soup and sandwich supper on Wednesday night may work in your congregation. Consider all your options.
Use all the usual ways to invite people. Place notices in the church bulletin and newsletter. Make announcements in youth and adult Sunday school classes. Pulpit announcements and posters will help. Be sure to encourage the children to come and see themselves on the screen and to bring their parents and grandparents. (This may be your most effective recruitment plan!)
Finally, organize a telephone brigade to invite everyone in the church to attend the slide presentation.
Don't Stop Here
Continue to tell the stories of your church. Let members know that their contributions touch the lives of people all over the world in the name of Jesus Christ.