Stories from a plentiful harvest
March 1, 2019 by Stephen Keizer
Sir Abner was sleeping as sound as a rock.
He woke with a jerk when he heard someone knock.
“Who is it?” he said with a stretch and a yawn. “Who’s waking me up at the hour of dawn?”
“It’s Hector, your helper,” the timid voice said. “Oh please sir get up and get out of bed. The grapes in the vineyard are ready to fall and we need to have workers to harvest them all…….”
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, dinner at our house was always a big deal. I knew that I had to be home by 6 p.m. every day so I could sit down with my mom, dad, brother and sister.
Mom was a great cook and dinner was always something different but good. While the food may have been different each night, one thing that was always the same was that dinner was followed with some type of bible study every time. It didn’t matter who was sharing our table, whether it was family, friends, or parishioners.
My favorite was when my dad would bring out the box of Arch Books and let either my brother, sister or me pick. More times than not we would pick the same book over and over, Sir Abner and His Grape Pickers by Janice Kramer. (Editor’s note: this book is now sold as The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard by Jonathan Schkade and you can find it here.)
As you can see, we read it so many times that I can still remember most of it by heart today (and no I didn’t Google it). The story tells the parable from Matthew 20:1-16 of the Workers in the Vineyard.
As we all know, Jesus used parables frequently in his teachings. He knew that stories are an important part of how we learn and how we remember. Stories make it easy to remember and illustrate the point that is trying to be made. Telling stories should be an integral part of everything that we do at our church. Donors give to make an impact in the lives of others. Our stories need to reflect that impact.
Going out into the community
One church that I have been working with saw the benefit of telling stories. Through a strategic planning process, church leaders determined that they needed to have a bigger connection to their community. Instead of always planning events at their facility for others to attend, they decided to find things in the community that they could attend.
Church members started participating regularly in a community dinner. Over time, those attending had the opportunity to share things that were going on at the church. One of the ministries they shared with those attending the community dinner was the after school program they hosted for children who would arrive home after school to an empty house.
One day, a check for $100,000 showed up at the church office for the after school program. When the pastor reached out to the donor, she learned that the donor heard a member talk about the program at one of the community dinners. The donor was so moved by the program and the fact that members were an active part of their local community that he sent in the check.
Now, I am not saying that a check like this will show up on your desk if you simply go out and tell your story. But I do know that they wouldn’t have gotten anything from this donor if they didn’t.
Finding stories of impact
In what ways does your congregation make an impact in your local community? Here’s a few examples to consider.
- Does your church host AA meetings for those in recovery?
- Does your church have a food pantry or clothes closet for those in need?
- Do members of your congregation volunteer as tutors at local schools?
- Does your church contribute to global mission efforts in the PC(USA), or elsewhere?
- How often does someone visit members of your church who are in the hospital or homebound?
Even the simplest of visits is a ministry that brings hope to those who need it. Both those who have volunteered and those who have received the gifts of company or time may be willing to share those stories of impact. Asking them to do so is key to inspiring generosity.
Stephen Keizer serves as Vice President of Ministry Relations for the Presbyterian Foundation. He serves congregations in Ohio and Michigan. You can reach him at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org, or find your Ministry Relations Officer at www.presbyterianfoundation.org/mro.