How to Make the Annie Armstrong Offering Fresh and Personal
Most pastors will tell you that they often struggle to make annual events fresh and engaging for their members. After you have been in the ministry for long, the struggle becomes, what more can you say that you haven’t said already? How can you make essentially the same story fresh and personal so that my members won’t zone out when you talk on that subject? When an event occurs regularly year after year, our members tend to lose interest. Could that be because we have lost interest, or we have nothing new to say or add?
The WMU’s webpage has this to say about the Annie Armstrong offering. “In 1895, an offering was first collected for the work of the Home Missions Board. In 1934, this offering was renamed the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for Home Missions to honor the work of Annie Armstrong as a tireless advocate for giving, praying, and going to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who did not know him.”1. Year after year, Southern Baptists have collected this offering to support mission work in North America.
Pastors are always looking for fresh ideas on how we can better communicate the value of these offerings. We reached out to Senior Pastor Dennis Gard of Central Baptist, Eureka MO, asking how he approaches the Annie Armstrong offering. The following is our interview…
The Stewardship Journal: Dennis, how do you go about promoting the Annie Armstrong offering?
Dennis: One of the best ways to promote any offering is to make a personal connection with those whom you are trying to help. For me, the best promotion is connecting with a missionary each year and either having them visit the church or doing a short 5 min video remote session with them live during the service. I do the same for Lottie Moon, but it is more difficult to find a missionary who can do a remote session, so once you find one, don’t let them go.
The Stewardship Journal: How do you find missionaries to interview?
Dennis: Finding NAMB missionaries to help is easy, as most pastors get the calendar prayer guide each year, which has the contact information of hundreds of missionaries who can help promote the Easter Annie Armstrong offering. I typically email 3-5 missionaries explaining that I’d like to schedule a time to do a live video remote session during our services.
The Stewardship Journal: Walk us through the process once you have found your missionary.
Dennis: Once they agree to help, I set a date for them to do the remote session. I normally send them 3-5 interview questions: 1) Tell us where you serve, 2) How long have you been on-site, 3) How were you called to your current position, 4) How has the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering helped your ministry, 5) What are some things we could pray with you about? Then I interview the missionary asking these questions and letting them tell us about themselves.
The Stewardship Journal: So, this isn’t an idea you can come up with on Saturday night hours before Sunday’s service. When do you begin planning for this? Is this costly to do, and finally, is this something any pastor can do?
Dennis: Yeah, this is not a throw-it-together idea. I typically start contacting NAMB Missionaries in January, as soon as I receive the calendrer. Since they include the email addresses for each missionary, it’s easy to select 3-5 and email them directly with the request. I’ve had a very good response from the missionaries. The cost of a remote session can be free if you use a free internet service like Zoom or Skype, so any pastor could use this idea. However, you could offer to bring the missionary to speak at your church, provide for their travel expenses, and perhaps give them a love offering, if you want a truly personal connection.
The Stewardship Journal: What have been the results of this for CBC?
Dennis: When people can put a face to the cause, it really helps them be willing to give to that cause. Traditionally, I’ve seen our giving increase by about 15% once people see the cause in action. Also, I’ve had people ask about past missionaries we’ve showcased, and I’ve had them back at other times of the year to give us updates and encouragement. In fact, we’ve even looked into going on a mission trip to help one of the missionaries we showcased. Sadly, COVID hit, and we have not been able to visit them yet, but perhaps one day soon. The more you can join in missions, the better, and personal interviews give you a good opportunity to build a relationship with a missionary.
One of my favorite interviews happened a few years ago with Travis Kern from Salt Lake City UT. He and his family had moved from Tennessee to Utah with another couple to plant a church. Travis told us about his struggles and how he was coping with the differences of going from the Bible belt to the Mormon capital of the world. His story was inspiring as they formed a house church and tried to reach families for Jesus. His dedication and commitment to the Lord inspired many in our church to look for more opportunities to share the love of Jesus. You never know how a simple interview might inspire someone to serve the Lord.
Thanks, Pastor Dennis! We pray these ideas will give you a fresh and personal approach for not only the Annie Armstrong offering but for all our annual mission offerings. With a bit of creativity, you can help educate and inspire the next generation of faithful Southern Baptists committed to the Great Commission.