History is important in every realm of life. No matter your occupation, location, or background, your daily life is influenced by history and those who made discoveries before you. In the same way, Christianity hinges on history. In fact, the Nation of Israel recognized history as a means through which God made His mark in the world. Literally speaking, it is “His story.” Therefore, it is no doubt that local church histories play a significant part in the progression of the world, and God’s plan for the world.
What are the samples and tips for how to write local church history? There are 13 main points to include in local church history. Additionally, there are 13 stylistic and detailed oriented points to add. Furthermore, it is beneficial for churches to first understand their purpose of establishing church history. From there, churches can gather their information and format it in over 7 ways.
This blog outlines and explains the necessities of local church history. It also expands on details to help churches find what works for them. I have written tips for gathering information and where to get it. I have also presented reflection questions for churches to better understand their goal and vision for their church history. Lastly, I discuss, various formatting and three distinct samples.
The Main Elements to Include
When it comes to church history, it is personal to each and every church. There is no right or wrong way to assemble church history. Cultural and societal atmospheres greatly impact local churches. The way that a city progresses through history also plays a role.
Areas that have experienced great hardship (the Great Depression, lack of daily needs, deep loss, progression, political uproar, etc.) are often shaped by these things. With that in mind, there may be additional things that your church should include in its history. Despite these variances, I do believe there are a few key things to include. This list can help give you an idea of the types of content that should be in your church history.
- The Original Vision or Reason to Begin the Church.
- Who the First Leaders Were.
- When the Leaders First Decided there Was a Need for the Church.
- Significant Needs that the Church was Seeking to Meet.
- Any Connections to Other Church Plants.
- What the Process looked like.
- Where the First Place of Meeting Was.
- The Major Statements of Belief and Doctrine.
- The Church Mission Statement.
- The First Landmark Occurrences (baptisms, success in evangelism and discipleship, unique ways that the Lord worked).
- Church Growth and Fruitfulness.
- The Progression Over the Years and the Factors that Influenced Them.
- Where the Church Stands Now Compared to its History.
Additional Information to Provide
Here is some additional information to provide. These add interest and style to your church history. Furthermore, these types of elements make church history more personal, informational, interactive, and memorable. Choose what is best for your project and church.
- Interviews with Church Members of All Ages.
- Pictures and Videos of Past and Recent Events.
- Charts, Graphs, and Timelines to Easily Display Content.
- Quotes and Inspirational Content from Church Members or Leadership.
- Scripture References.
- History of the City or Town.
- Pictures of the First Building Project. (Before and After Photos).
- Financial Statements or Use of Funds.
- Future Goals.
- Steps to Reach Those Goals.
- How Members of the Church Can Become Involved.
Deciding the Purpose of Your Local Church History
Before I give a list on how to construct your history and where to make it available for your church attenders, you should be clear on your purpose. You may decide on a few of these methods and strategies, depending on your purpose. If you are clear on your vision and intention, you will have a better idea of what types of resources to use.
Are you providing church history for first-time attendees to understand the church vision? Is your church history geared towards honoring the older generations in your church? Is your history designed as a gift to a Pastor or leader?
What is the overarching purpose of documenting your local church history? Do you seek to inspire or influence others for change? Are you hoping to stir up faith and hope within your local church and community? Will you present your church history and movement online as a means of evangelism? Is this more for logistical reasons than anything else?
The best place to look for information is from the church itself. If you can, look through old records, pictures, and documents that the church has kept. If you are the Pastor, elder, or in leadership, check with the other leaders in the church to ensure accountability and that you aren’t opening any sensitive or personal documents about church members.
For those who are not in leadership, ask your church leadership for permission before you dive into their paperwork. Additionally, you may find information from your town’s city hall or government offices that may contain records. Looking at the history of your city can provide great information and background into the needs that the church was seeking to meet.
Another great place to gather information is from church members. If you have members in your church who were involved at the beginning of the church, this is ideal. If these individuals are no longer present, ask their close family members who have been involved. Chances are, these individuals told stories or raised their families in the church.
You can also interview various generations within the church. Staring with oldest to youngest. This will give a fresh perspective. It will be exciting for the older generations in the church to see the young people being impacted. Moreover, it is beneficial for the young generations to know their heritage, the hardships, and the joy that was experienced. Ask your church attendees if they have any photos, memories, objects, or anything else to contribute to the project.
Formatting Church History
Once you gather your information, it is time to decide how you will organize and present it. I recommend making photocopies of documents, pictures, and historical information. Use the photocopies in your project records or upload them in a file online. Keep the original copies in a safe and secure place.
I don’t recommend using the original content for your presentation. That is to say, if you are formating your church history in a hardcopy form. If you are using a digital program, you don’t have to worry about preserving important documents. In addition, label personal items that church members have contributed so as not to lose them.
Many churches have a bulletin that they hand out each service. You may want to add a section within this bulletin for history. Since a bulletin is limited in space, use the most crucial information and keep out the details. You can use the details in another location.
The design and layout of this depend on the theme that you are already using for your bulletin. You may desire to write a short paragraph, use a listicle form, or dedicate a whole page to your church history.
Additionally, you can use a timeline. A timeline can be placed in any format. For example, you may make a hard copy timeline to display in your church lobby. You can also create a timeline to add to your church website, social media, a PowerPoint presentation, or a video.
A timeline is a creative way to display history because it can include pictures and various details that may be left out in other formats. Furthermore, a timeline is a simple and quick way for members to understand church history. Since there are many different learning styles, the timeline format would cater to your members who are visual learners.
Wall of History
In the same vein of thought, there is a wall of history. This wall is a dedicated place in the church to display photos, testimonies, facts, the mission statement, major beliefs, and personal church history. This is helpful because it is a concrete place for history to be recognized and for new announcements and landmark events to be documented.
Establish your wall of history in a strategic place so that first-time visitors see it upon entry. Many people who are searching for a church want to know more about the church before they commit. This is especially helpful in large churches where newcomers can easily walk in and out without connecting with church leadership about their questions.
Speakers may give a PowerPoint presentation during a service. The speaker may want to incorporate written details, pictures, videos, interviews, a timeline, graphs, charts, ministry opportunities, and financial information. This is a great avenue for churches who are specifically reviewing their church history and deciding goals for the future.
A video presentation fits any purpose you decide. Presentation times can be in church services, church events or parties, or through continual viewing. Continual presentations are played on TVs or computers in the church lobby. Additionally, videos can be added to the church’s website or social media.
Social media is prominent worldwide. Especially for the younger generations, social media is a significant way to reach people. You can use your church history video or media content to reach the unchurched. Or, you can use it for personal needs and reasons of the local church. Either way, it is beneficial to have your local church history readily available.
A church website is crucial. Since we live in a digital age, I advocate that the church uses media for God’s glory and purposes. The extent of this varies. However, a church website is where many people experience church before they walk through the doors. The website should contain information about service times, location, contact information, and ministries. Moreover, it should give statements of belief.
Church history is crucial in this process. You may present your church history through any of the means presented above. Having church history readily available to all attendees of a local church is favorable. The way in which you do this may vary. Yet, I do recommend that the history is clearly displayed and located.
Sample of Written History
Here is a sample of local church history from Bethany Church in Bloomington, MN. Find the following section word for word at bethanychurchmn.com. For the purpose of format replication, I have split up the statement of history. I have established subheadings that were not originally used by Bethany Church.
My purpose in this is to provide you a clear example. You may use the subheadings as a basis for your church history. After we look at this sample, we will discuss certain elements and how they were positively utilized.
The Igniting Factor and Progression
“The beginnings of Bethany Church are rooted in God’s intervention and transformation of the life of Ted Hegre in 1935. Ted and his wife Lucile were newlyweds when Rev. Joe Stump spoke at the church they attended in South Minneapolis for a week of evangelistic meetings. Ted later wrote, ‘For the first time I heard God’s estimate of sin and the sinner and I discovered I was hopelessly lost. But thanks to God, Jesus was revealed as the Savior of sinners and I accepted him as my Savior.’
In late 1942 in the midst of World War II Ted started a Bible study where 40 young people began coming regularly. The group eventually purchased a chapel at 57th and Nicollet and the first service of Bethany Chapel was held on Palm Sunday, April 25th, 1943.
In the coming season, the Holy Spirit spoke to the tiny congregation about a vision for missions, and specifically, sending 100 missionaries. Five families from the church committed themselves to missions, sold their individual homes, pooled their personal resources, and moved into one home to form Bethany Fellowship to fulfill the vision to train, send, and support one hundred missionaries.
Development and Fruit
From this radical commitment, God blessed the efforts of Bethany Fellowship – one organization with different ministries including the church (today called Bethany Church), Bethany Fellowship Missionary Training Center (today Bethany Global University), Bethany Fellowship Missions (now Bethany Gateways), Bethany House Publishers (now owned by Baker Publishing), Bethany Academy (K-12 Christian school), Bethany Press International, and other entrepreneurial efforts started to support world-wide evangelization.
The values that gave birth to our church and to the move of God at Bethany still prevail as we cultivate a community of believers who pledge to continue “going deep, reaching wide, and living for the age to come.”
The Content that Bethany Church Included
Bethany Church presents their history on their webpage. They dedicated an “about” section on the website for this information. Additionally, they added a black and white photo of the church’s early beginnings.
Specific information is added. For example, dates, the first street address, and reference to Palm Sunday are used. Any information like this makes local church history standout.
Then, Bethany Church outlined the initial goals of the church. They explain what God was speaking during that time. Next, they show the steps of obedience they took. From there, they add all that God has done. They explain the ministries, organizations, and fruit that has resulted over the years.
Sample of Testimonial History
Bethany Global University also has a section on its website about its history. Since it began as a branch of Bethany Church, much of its history is similar (read the full history statement here). However, two elements that Bethany Global University uses on its website stand out to me.
First, it categorizes its history in a broad category labeled, “about”. Within this category are a detailed history, videos, frequently asked questions, the mission statement, and statement of faith. Then, the University presents testimonies. Here are some of the testimonies (verbatim).
“Everyone here is so passionate and focused on Jesus and the beautiful mission He gave the church. I’m thankful to be around people who want to go out and share his love. It holds me accountable and gives me a ton of joy and hope.” —Maddy C.
“I like being in an environment where I know that God is present. Being involved here has helped me develop time management and given me valuable life skills.” —Logan F.
“BGU is an awesome community to grow and learn in fellowship about God and His word.” —Chris M.
“I love and trust the leadership and staff members at BGU. I appreciate their passion and that they really care about us.” —Tiffany G.
“Bethany has a rich heritage, a spiritual DNA of faith, international fruitfulness, and a great future ahead.” —Loren Cunningham
You can watch video recorded testimonies here. This may give you an idea of how you would like to format any testimonies given about your local church.
Verses to Use in Church History
Scripture is crucial to all Bible-believing churches. Therefore, you may want to include scripture in your church history. The following verse references are derived from the blog, A Primary List of Verses about the Local Church. You may refer to this blog if you are looking for additional verses.
- Hebrews 10:25
- Hebrews 13:17
- 1 Peter 5:1-2
- Colossians 3:16
- 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
- Ephesians 3:10
- Galatians 6:10