Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Promoting Disaster Relief in Haiti

If your church has a screen, projector, and computer available in your sanctuary, you are ready to immediately promote ways your congregation can assist with the relief efforts underway in earthquake-devastated Haiti.

There are several places in any worship service where visuals can be used to inform, educate, and encourage involvement in mission projects and immediate disaster relief. These could be before the worship service in the form of picture and text announcements; as part of a dedicated “mission moment” time in the service; as an introduction to the offering, and/or during the time when the plates are passed; and in a sermon.

If you have access to the Internet in your sanctuary, you’ll be able to show YouTube video clips from many sources; articles and appeals on denominational websites; photographs of specific schools and medical facilities your church has or is sponsoring, etc. Since people may already be overloaded with visual images from television and their own Internet use, you will want to select visuals that tell the unique story of your church and/or denomination's presence in that country.

My experience has been that adding such visuals to worship services is a highly effective way for helping people better understand the mission causes the church is promoting through special offerings, and will result in much higher participation and generosity of giving.

Showing pictures and video clips of the needs help draw people into the story of the project and make it easy for them to give to support what’s needed. In one mid-sized church I served, we raised thousands of dollars over several weeks for victims of Hurricane Katrina because we were able to show pictures of local people on site in Louisiana purchasing and delivering diapers, towels and blankets from the initial donations provided by our church.

That kind of outpouring for disaster relief had previously been unheard of in that church, and it was clear that the combination of having family of church members on the scene emailing pictures of what they were doing, along with the visual presentation of this in worship, produced generous support. The couple in place emailed us pictures as they purchased and delivered supplies, helping dramatize the urgency of the situation as well as showing the specific ways our congregation’s donations were being used. More gifts followed these pictorial reports.

Having the projector, screen, and computer in the sanctuary made it easy to “think visually” and show the various causes we were supporting, thus making it easy to raise much-needed funds.

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