March 11

How to write an annual report for a church

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You want to be accountable to your congregation, and tell them what you’ve been up to as a church.

It sounds easy, but it’s not.

We know that.

So how can we do it?

You would see the typical list of sites that tell you to include:

  1. What you’ve done over the year
  2. What you’re looking forward to
  3. The team

Whilst all of that is important, it doesn’t address the most pressing question.

What do you actually want the annual report to do?

Too often, after designing dozens of reports, we’ve realised that the report is wasted, despite the amount of effort that goes into it.

If you think about it, producing an annual report is equivalent to producing a book. Every year.

What the annual report does

Use it well, and it could potentially be a source of greater engagement amongst your churchgoers, your staff, and your donors.

If you look at Central Christian Church Singapore’s 2021 report, it’s crafted to communicate what they focused on this year.

This helps people who read their report be clear on what to expect from their ministry.

Starting with the theme, CCC eventually crafted a report around their central narrative of power of Christ.
Starting with the theme, CCC eventually crafted a report around their central narrative of power of Christ.

Use it poorly, and it would be a waste of money.

Do it well, or not at all

You’re not required to submit an annual report of your record and achievements. All that’s needed in Singapore is for you to give the financial statements.

That’s why we recommend that if you want to go to the trouble, do it well.

Or not at all.

From our experience, it will take at least 176 to 200 man-hours, over a period of 3 months to properly do an annual report.

Person Why he’s involved Time commitment
Designer To beautify and lay out the annual report It takes an average of 3 hours to layout one page, and with most reports being about 50 pages, you will take at least 150 hours.
Account manager To communicate and manage the client’s expectations Attending the fortnightly meetings with the church staff, (12 hours), together with collaborating on the design with the designer (about 4 meetings of 2 hours each), equating to 20 hours.
Project manager (church staff) To provide the direction for the report Fortnightly, meetings of about 1 hour, over 3 months to get progress updates and guide the project

This equates to about 6 hours

Ask what you want the report to focus on

Whilst the report can do many things as a communication medium, it can really focus on one.

Too many organisations focus on too many things, and end up finding their message diluted.

The report can do one of three things:

  1. Spur greater growth, such as more donations, more churchgoers etc.
  2. Encourage current stakeholders by highlighting what you have done.
  3. Position yourself as the market leader

Learning from the best might be a good way.

DBS Bank, a Singaporean bank that was awarded the Gold Award by The Business Times for “Best Annual Report” in 2023, is consistently focusing on one key theme.

For example, in their most recent annual report, they focused on ‘Building a Sustainable Advantage’, and wove that throughout their entire report.

DBS’ report this year has focused on their sustainable advantage, with sustainable meaning the ESG aspects, but also how they entrench their current competitive advantage.
DBS’ report this year has focused on their sustainable advantage, with sustainable meaning the ESG aspects, but also how they entrench their current competitive advantage.

Clearly, having established a key market leadership position in markets like Singapore, they have chosen to focus on how they entrench that advantage, in this year’s report.

Start with the overarching theme

That’s why it’s vital to first think what the overarching theme for your year might be.

Coming up with a headline for that, as in CCC’s ‘The Power of Christ’ this year, can help you to focus your annual report.

Continue with a story

Let’s get down to the basics.

Facts tell. Stories sell.

Telling people the story isn’t enough. Telling people the highs and lows of your story matters more.

Take the example of my own church, Living Sanctuary Brethren Church (LSBC).

When they started, they started outreach at the Bukit Ho Swee estate, a group of subsidised rental flats.

LSBC’s site features their founding story, which helps people immediately relate to their humble roots.
LSBC’s site features their founding story, which helps people immediately relate to their humble roots.

From there, they grew.

But then came a time where the founding pastor, Lawrence Chua, intensely felt that his church was dying.

Praying for a revival, they soon found a new way of working, with the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

They were brought to bid for a new land parcel in Hougang.

Uprooting their entire communities, they went there, some moving more than an hour away. They sold their homes, and relocated their families to Hougang.

It’s an intense story of hope and revival.

And it’s worth telling. Because when potential churchgoers read the story, they are touched to see the hand of God behind the work of LSBC.

It’s why, whatever you write in your annual report, make sure you have some stories within.

Celebrating highlights with reasons

Often, we see churches highlighting their many achievements, but not explaining the reasons behind it.

This is a waste.

But there’s something to learn from the example of Heart of God Church, which decided to highlight their new leadership, and also explain why they did it that way.

They later explained how this was to promote a multi-generational leadership so as to better appeal to their youths.

With the explanations behind how they did their leadership changes, things were much clearer.
With the explanations behind how they did their leadership changes, things were much clearer.

Get professional help

As much as you can definitely put together the annual report on Canva, there’s something design agencies do that you can’t.

They can make it worth it.

Sure, your project team might struggle for 3 months with the report, and come up with something decent.

But if it becomes something you upload on the site, never to be seen again, there’s little point.

Is there?

how to write an annual report with a better framework
Here’s the framework we use for a better Annual Report

Evergreen annual reports

At our agency Media Lede, we believe in building evergreen annual reports.

Rather than just celebrating the year, it is built to last and be relevant beyond just the year.

That focus on first principles

Firstly, we ensure that the report contains thought leadership content that positions you as thought leader in the Christian space.

This can come through what churches like Heart of God have done, by presenting their thinking and their reasons for their work.

Demonstrated through the highlights of your year

Beyond that, it’s recognising that events are examples for your thinking.

Events should not be the focus of your report.

Rather, it’s the principles that matter more.

Think about it this way. If a new member wants to learn about you, opens your annual report, and suddenly sees a bunch of events, they might feel left out.

It’s your thinking that they are looking for, to better engage with your work.

Structured through a coherent narrative

It is the writing that will structure your year, into something coherent. As professional writers, the reason why we’ve been able to do such good work is because we’ve always returned to the things that don’t change.

If you think about it, whilst we’ve transformed mediums – from text to visuals, to videos, to short-form reels over TikTok, the main message has still been words.

Words don’t change.

The better the writers you get, the better the report you’ll produce.

Want to learn more?

Contact us here.

 

 


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