The Finance Council meeting is upon you. Budgets are examined, compelling cases for more funding are reviewed, and special projects are discussed. When it comes time to increase your offertory or raise money for a particular project, all too often we focus on the numbers and the hard facts. These are true realities! Your church has staff to pay. Your church has a boiler that needs to be replaced. But your church also has a mission, and it has a story — hundreds of them, in fact! Learn why stories impact us, and discover ways your parish can harness the power of storytelling.
It’s in the Science
Researchers who study the human brain have found interesting results on the power of storytelling. One such study occurred at Princeton University. A woman’s brain activity was measured as she told a personal story. As she shared, her own auditory and emotional cortex regions lit up, indicating activity. After this, the researchers played a recording of the story and mapped brain activity of the listeners. The same regions of the brain activated at the same time throughout the story. Another study had similar findings. Researchers learned that the very mention of a word like “coffee” or “perfume” could affect the olfactory cortex, the part of the brain that processes smell.
Stories stir our memories, rouse our empathy, and have the power to create change. A 2016 study published by the American Psychological Association illustrates just that. Three sets of science students were given three sets of stories to read. One group read about the impressive successes of scientists. Another group read about the personal difficulties certain scientists had to overcome to succeed. The third group learned about the initial professional failures of now-successful scientists. In the end, the two sets of students who read about triumph through struggle showed greater grade improvement.
What Would Jesus Do?
The Bible is filled with life-changing stories. We tell and re-tell these acts of mercy and power to help illustrate who God is and how we are called to be. The average Catholic might not have all the 10 Commandments memorized, but they know Jesus multiplied loaves, calmed storms, and rose from the dead! Jesus himself embraced the power of storytelling in his ministry. His parables helped his followers understand what he meant about discipleship and the Kingdom of God. This method clearly had an impact on the Apostles. In Peter’s speech at Pentecost , it’s clear that he understands this model of evangelization. “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.”
Your Parish and the Power of Storytelling
When your parish is looking to effect change and move your parishioners to action, there is no better way than to tell a story. Identifying how to tell the story might not be immediately obvious. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What is the real problem right now?
- Who is most impacted by this particular increase in funds?
- How can these individuals or groups be helped?
- What about this project will make people’s lives better than they were yesterday?
Consider having actual parishioners tell their own story and their personal connection to the project. This makes things real in a way that general facts do not. There are many different ways you could incorporate storytelling into your giving campaign:
- Share a personal testimony during the announcements section of Mass.
- Include a bulletin insert or a column with parishioner stories related to the giving opportunity.
- Add testimonial quotes to the description of the giving opportunity on your online giving platform.
- If any additional materials are created to promote the giving opportunity, leave room for a story.
Which stories is your parish telling?