church annual reports

Church Annual Reports: Tips for Writing an Outstanding Report

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

October 16, 2023

Church annual reports help you communicate with donors, summarize your church’s achievements, and lay out your vision for your church’s future. They also help you comply with state corporation laws. Despite these benefits, many ministers struggle to write their church annual reports. Here’s a guide to making the process faster and easier.

What Are Church Annual Reports?

Like a business annual report, church annual reports provides an overview and summary of your church’s activities for the past year. While business annual reports are primarily about a company’s financial stability, church annual reports have several components:

  • Spiritual well-being of the pastor and members
  • Financial stability, donations, and funding
  • Community outreach and volunteer work
  • Building and property issues
  • Overview of future plans

Why You Need Yearly Church Annual Reports

If the thought of writing an annual report fills you with dread, you’re not alone. However, there are important reasons to get it done. The first one you write will probably be the hardest. After that, you’ll have a standard template to work with and the experience of having gone through it once.

Comply with state laws

Churches are exempt from some laws that regulate businesses and charity. However, individual states may have specific requirements that you must meet, even though you’re a church.

  • In some states, every corporation registered in the state must file an annual report with the state’s office of the secretary of state. This includes church annual reports. Failure to do this can result in fines and the loss of your tax status. In some states, it only takes a few minutes to do this: You go to the department of the secretary of state’s online site, and you fill out a quick, three-sentence statement of your profits and losses.
  • Is your church classed as a nonprofit charity? You may also be required to register with a state agency before you can take in donations. Some states require a full report every time you sell property.

An annual report will help you comply with state laws or requirements. It’s a good way to protect yourself and your members.

Inspire your members

Has your church been involved in community outreach efforts that were particularly inspiring? Are members talking about how membership in your church transformed their spiritual lives? Share these stories with the world, and celebrate the people who made them happen. You may have highlighted these stories in your church newsletter or other publication, but church annual reports are more of a legacy. Let these stories shine as part of your church’s history. A spotlight on volunteers, donation drives, and inspirational stories is a key part of any church annual report.

Market your church to donors and new members

If you want your church to grow, you need more members and more donors. Even if you’re not focused on growth right now, you want your church to be a valued part of your community. By creating well-written, attractive church annual reports, you’ll have something to show potential donors and members who ask, “Why should I join you, or fund this project?” A church annual report is a summary of your church’s successes, mission statement, and vision for the future.

Write your church’s history

A church annual report is a legal, financial, and historical document. It tells the story of your church year over year. It tracks your church’s changing goals and its successes and failures. It also tells the story of your volunteers, church groups, events, and other key moments. Writing church annual reports allow you to reflect on the past year and preserve its memory for the future.

Get Ready to Write

When you start writing an annual report, you’ll need to begin by gathering information. Some of this may already be in your files.

  • Start with planning and organizing. Give yourself a firm deadline to collect the information, pictures, and stories you need. Include dates for getting your materials to a printer and distributing the annual report.
  • Enlist the help of other people. Ask leaders of church groups and volunteer organizations to give you photos of key events or people from their outreach efforts. You may also ask them to write a brief, one-paragraph summary of what their volunteer group accomplished.
  • Gather financial documents. You should have these easily at hand. If your church employes an accountant or bookkeeper, ask that person for all relevant financial documents.
  • Choose a layout and design. There are many templates out there for church annual reports, and one will work for you.
  • Line up a printer. Part of preparing your annual report is finding the right printer. Work with an experienced, professional company that specializes in small print projects.

Components of Church Annual Reports

Mission statement

What is the mission of your church? If you haven’t yet written a church mission statement, this is the time to do it. Once you write it, you can use the same mission statement every year. Ask yourself: How well has your church lived up to its mission statement? Answering that will be the theme of your annual report.

Inspirational stories

Heartwarming, powerful stories about the way your church transformed lives are part of every church annual report. These stories celebrate your volunteers and other members. Shine a spotlight on those who made these wonderful things happen.

These stories inspire the readers and tell a key story about your church. They also provide a way for you to reflect on what you’ve done as the leader of your church. Stress and overwork can make us forget the good we create in the world. Going over these stories will give you a sense of pride and the determination to continue.

Photos and other illustrations

Heartwarming stories make a stronger impact when they’re accompanied by heartwarming photographs and illustrations. Pictures and infographics make the report more readable.

Financial statements

Financial statements are an important part of your annual report. Use this format to report your finances:

  • Beginning balance
  • Standard budget showing where the money comes from
  • Contributions or donations beyond the usual budget
  • Allocation of funds: What amount went to various expenses, including building repairs, community help, church bulletin printing, and other financial outlays
  • Unused contributions and donations
  • Current balance

Numbers and statistics

When possible, use numbers and statistics to present information about donations, contributions, and expenses. You can also use numbers to report increases in membership, numbers of weddings and baptisms, and number of families who participated in church events.

Reporting these facts helps your congregation feel they’re part of the process of growing their church. If the numbers are exciting, highlight them. If they could be better, acknowledge that and tell your congregants that you welcome their suggestions for improvement.

Welcome to new members

Churches can’t flourish without new members. Devote one section of the annual report to welcoming any members who joined over the past year. List their names, express your happiness that they’ve joined, and ask your church members to make them feel welcome. If you have room, and if they agree, include their photos.

Future vision

What is your goal for the coming year? What changes do you anticipate at your church in the New Year? When you write your annual report, include your vision for the future.

You Can Create Great-Looking Church Annual Reports

Church annual reports are important documents. It deserves thoughtful writing, layout, and design. It also deserves professional printing to look its best. When you’re ready, contact Publishing Xpress for a quote.

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