2021: A year for wellbeing
Last year was, as we say in my native Rhode Island, “Wicked Stressful!” The pandemic, the economy and a grueling political season really took a toll on our emotional, physical and spiritual health. That’s why it’s a good idea to emphasize wellbeing in 2021. Here are some ideas!
Gifts that won’t become clutter
We had WAY too much stuff, and Christmas gifts were a major contributing factor. Our culture’s gift-giving customs are not good stewardship. But we can change our gift-giving practices to give our recipients, ourselves and our world a richer, fuller and better outcome.
The Gospel worldview
It’s not the magical act of giving that makes people cheerful. People who give grudgingly tend to wind up more sour as a result. But people who are cheerful in their faith tend to give generously. There’s a tool that transforms grudging people into cheerful givers.
The Law’s tithing vs. the Gospel’s free generosity
Next time you’re at a church social function, go up to people who seem to be having fun and start talking about tithing. Most will run for cover faster than vampires at dawn. But the ones who remain may have an interesting story to share.
Start a prayerful ‘Gratitude Campaign’
Covid-19 has got everybody down in the dumps. We have lost so much in this Covid-19 pandemic, everybody is suffering some degree of grief for the lives we enjoyed just a couple months ago. What’s a congregational leader to do? Start a Prayerful Gratitude Campaign. It will help raise not only offerings but the spirit of the membership as well.
Happy 50th, Earth Day! We need your spirit now!
Earth Day 1970 was part of a movement that galvanized public opinion to demand action to clean up pollution. Back then, smog, acid rain, oil spills and toxic chemicals in the air and water were the big issues that drove people to demand action. As God’s people celebrate 50 years of Earth Day, we need to harness that kind of energy today to rally people everywhere to fight the climate crisis. Before it’s too late.
Don’t let the pandemic crash your offerings
(This is a follow-up to my last post, below.) Restrictions on travel and gathering have caused financial pains for churches across the land. When people stay away from church, usually so do their offerings. No one action or practice will ensure the financial stability of your congregation, but strategically putting enough elements in place will provide a strong framework for sustainable ministry.
Keep donations flowing during the COVID-19 crisis
The COVID-19 crises spells financial trouble for many congregations that are suspending group worship and activities. It’s too often the case that people give ONLY when they are physically present in church. There are, however, steps congregational leaders can take to maintain robust ministry and keep donations flowing.
Make Lent a time to focus
on congregational Stewardship
Lent is when we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter through special prayers and spiritual disciplines. This year make stewardship a key part of your Lenten practices. Rebound from Easter as an inspired, equipped and excited steward, ready to lead yourself and your congregation on the paths of stewardship. Here are some resources to get you going.
(Photo © robhainer – Fotolia.com)
Time to reboot (and rename?)
the Stewardship Committee?
In too many congregations the “Stewardship Committee” is the last place anyone wants to serve because it’s earned a nasty reputation as the team that badgers, begs and coerces money from tight wallets. If this is the case in your congregation, why not “reboot” and “rename” the committee? (Photo: “Protest Sign22” by a.mina is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
A cure for ‘Stewardship Procrastination’
It’s a malaise epidemic across the Christian landscape — Stewardship Procrastination. The symptoms are putting off until “next year” any meaningful action on stewardship, despite reading the best books, attending workshops and conferences. Here are some tips to get you going. (Photo: “DSCN5598” by watch repairer is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.)
Heed these ‘warning signs’ of financial trouble
Like the cardiac patient who winds up with a heart attack after ignoring both his deteriorating health and his doctor’s urgent advice, many congregations wait until there’s a crisis to start thinking seriously about stewardship and finance. And then it’s sometimes too late. You don’t want to be that congregation. (Photo: “Make sure you don’t do that.” by Aaron | Dan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Help for the campaign-phobic church
Too many congregations have erected such a high “wall of silence” around stewardship that any campaign is bound to fail. But there are ways to prepare the congregation and increase its chances of success. (Photo: “push for help” by justinls, Creative Commons) (9/1/19)
Do you suffer from worry and distraction?
You don’t have to be a “Martha” to experience the joy-killing, soul-sucking, spirit-deflating effects of worry and distraction. They are positively epidemic in our crazy tilt-a-whirl world, but there are ways to cope. (Photo: “More signs” by Chadica, Creative Commons)(7/1/19)
Follow two rules to detoxify ‘money’ and ‘stewardship’
Yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater can touch off a panicked stampede. The same thing often happens when you say “money” or “stewardship” in church: Terrified parishioners flee as if their lives depended on it. Follow two cardinal rules and you can detoxify the concepts in your congregation. (6/1/19)
Feed your sheep with good information on nutrition
With America’s obesity crisis going full steam ahead, your congregation could help by educating your people about foods and eating habits that would optimize health. It would be a key part of a “holistic stewardship” effort. (5/1/19)
Help the planet – start a ‘Green Team’
The world’s scientists are sounding the alarm that environmental disaster looms in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. A congregational ‘Green Team’ could help educate folks and model practices on how to care for God’s creation. (4/18/19)
Ignore digital giving at your peril
Cash and checks have gone the way the way of the coin-operated payphone, yet too many churches still use the Sunday offering plate as the primary means for collecting church donations. It’s time to get smart, and go digital. (3/15/19)
Stewardship: Much more than asking for money
Lots of church leaders are uncomfortable asking for money (get over it) but asking is only ONE part of a comprehensive stewardship strategy. While learning how to make an ask, leaders can blaze forward with other important strategy components. (2/28/19)
Our neglected best assets
What are the most important gifts your congregation has to fulfill God’s mission? Many of God’s people can easily point out their church’s obvious assets while totally missing the most important ones of all! How about you? (2/14/19)
The daring, risky, but oh-so-necessary art of the ask
Most congregational leaders would rather do anything than ask for donations, yet other nonprofit organizations have no problem cheerfully and confidently soliciting OUR people for money. Christians can do much better. Here are tips. (1/31/19)
Break through money’s ‘Wall of Silence’
“We don’t talk about money in this congregation.” It’s a common mantra describing an attitude destructive to cultivating a culture of generous giving. But you can break through the “Wall of Silence” and lead greater generosity. (1/20/19
No raise for the pastor? HUGE mistake!
Churches that fail to maintain their clergy’s salary with inflation or denominational guidelines do a huge disservice to both their ministers and their congregation. It’s short-term thinking that leads to long-term problems. (10/18/18)
Think outside the line item with a narrative budget
It’ll happen every time! The finance team has worked hard to craft a budget and is excited about the ministries it will fund, but the confusing line-item spreadsheet leaves the congregation nonplussed. Why not try a narrative budget, which helps explain expenditures through the stories of your congregation’s ministries. (9/13/18)
Inspire folks to give throughout the summer
You know the drill: Summer vacations and relaxations mean that attendance will drop — and so will regular giving! Empower your congregants with ideas and ways to keep up their giving through the summer. (Maybe it’s time finally to put in that electronic giving option you’ve been thinking about!) Here are some things to think about. (6/7/17)
The bedrock of stewardship
When you read Acts 2 about the earliest Christian community, it’s almost too hard for us to believe. Everybody relinquished the idea of personal ownership and sold whatever they had? While Christians uphold values of frugality and charity, the Acts community took it to an extreme. What could turn their hearts to such radical generosity? Hint: It’s the same thing that can turn our hearts!(4/13/19)
Switch your congregants to ‘percentage giving’
How many in your congregation are stuck with “lump-sum” giving — week after week donating the same amount? A better way is to teach and encourage “percentage giving,” where givers calculate their offerings as a percentage of their income. It helps them see their gifts in proportion with their wealth, and it also positions them to work towards a tithe. (3/31/17)
Make giving your Lenten discipline
Lent is a perfect time to embrace spiritual disciplines that will sharpen our awareness, clear our mind, strengthen our self-control and help bring us closer to God. This year, consider a discipline that will challenge your will and make a big difference — financial giving. (2/2/17)
That nasty ‘S’ word
To many Christians, the term “stewardship” might as well be a “four letter word,” a synonym for crass, shameless betting. It gets the bad rap because so many leaders use it exclusively when the congregation is asking people for money. Here’s how to put a positive spin on stewardship! (5/14/14)
Ash Wednesday: Our Lenten wake-up call
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Nothing else besides Ash Wednesday gives me that black-coffee slap-in-the-face of reality that aligns all my personal and professional priorities. I need to be reminded that I am mortal. (2/2/13)
Lessons from ‘financial fasting’
The traditional discipline of fasting — from food for a specified time — is known to sharpen the senses, clear the mind, strengthen the will and expand spiritual awareness. I discovered many of the same benefits when I engaged in a ‘financial fast.’ (1-30-13)
How much we take for granted!
One minute you’re sitting in your nice warm house, listening to James Taylor and enjoying a cup of tea when suddenly things change. Hurricane Sandy showed us that there’s nothing like a little 24-hour power outage to show us how much we take for granted! (10/31/12)
Celebrate the harvest — especially this year!
As our economic recovery continues with all the speed of continental drift, mere stability is a plentiful harvest, indeed. So this autumn celebrate the harvest. Thank God for the blessings, the fruits of all our labors. (10/3/12)
Cool it! Naturally!
Oppressive summer heat has many of us scurrying from one air-conditioned sanctuary to another. But for the environmentally conscious there are lots of ways to stay cool without expending a lot of electricity.
Do Mormons love Jesus more?
A clever bumper sticker says, “Tithe if you love Jesus. Anyone can honk.” If that’s true, we have to ask, “Do Mormons love Jesus more than other Christians?” An impressive 79 percent of Mormons tithe their income — giving 10 percent to their church. (4/12/12)
A new commandment
On Maundy Thursday Jesus washes the feet of the disciples to express the divine attitude towards us, but also to model how the disciples should act towards others. And then he made it more than a suggestion. What does that mean to you? (4/12/12)
Resolutions you can really use
Now we’ve all made those silly New Year’s resolutions we know, really know, deep down, that we’ll never fulfill. Why not make them with some spiritual discretion and then improve your chances of taking them seriously? (2/2/12)
Giving that is blessed, indeed!
At the Episcopal church my family attended when I was growing up, Father Walter Hurley always commenced the weekly collection by saying, “Remember words of Our Lord, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”When you look at the scripture behind the announcement, you see powerful depths of meaning.
No power for worship?
When Hurricane Irene knocked out our power just hours before service, it became an occasion to reflect on the key question: What force really powers our worship, anyway? (9/7/11)
My travels with Charlie
My spiritual life has recently been invigorated by a Springer Spaniel with an inquisitive mind, a super-sensitive nose and unwavering insistence. Charlie is a new addition to the household, and has daily needs that I must help him fulfill, lest my carpet and hardwood floors suffer the consequences. (9/22/10)
Are you spiritually fit?
Getting into shape spiritually has a lot in common with our efforts to lose weight and become physically fit. What’s important is that we have a sound strategy and then summon the discipline to stick to it. The payoff? A close connection with the eternal source! (9/10/10)
Thirsting for God
A summer-long drought has dried out our normally lush landscape. Especially distressed trees have changed color, bringing October yellow into August. Some trees dropped leaves. Our spiritual lives can be like that. We require a steady supply of God’s living water to keep our spirits lush, supple, pleasing, healthy and vibrant. (8/25/10)
Prescription for better health
As America’s percentage of overweight and obese people continues to rise, nutritionists and health care professionals tell us we need to eat better, reducing consumption of fatty and sugary processed foods, and increasing our intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. (8/16/10)
Mary enters God’s Kingdom
Advent in August? The editors of Augsburg Fortress, from whom my church buys bulletin covers printed with the Lectionary readings, selected the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) for this coming Sunday. Huh? This was the same reading we heard last December, on the fourth Sunday in Advent. (8/12/10)
Slow-cooking is a great a way of preparing food, but it also serves as a good philosophy for life, and especially the Christian life. The wise person gives time for everything worthwhile. (7/9/10)
A fellow Christian once told me that God had no sense of humor. “Nowhere,” he said sanctimoniously, “does the Bible record that the Lord Jesus laughed.” I replied, “It doesn’t record that he went to the bathroom, either, but I don’t think he held it in for 33 years! He wasn’t into that kind of miracle.” (6/23/10)
When’s the last time you took a vacation that really recharged your batteries? Do you have enough time in the course of a year to renew your spirit? If you suspect you are vacation deprived, you may be right. (6/18/10)
Ordinary time? How about Miracle time?
“Ordinary Time.” What a crummy name for a church season. Can it get any worse? Yes! The liturgical color is green. (6/10/10)
How to stay spiritually fit
How are you meeting your spiritual needs? Like physical health, spiritual health needs our attention and priority if we are to enjoy lives that are strong, balanced and joyful. (6/7/10)
After a decade or more of resistance, I have finally surrendered to the theology of the Rapture. I’m certain the Rapture will take place in the not-too-distant future — probably before the end of President Palin’s second term. (6/2/10)
The prayerful pose
Press you hands together, palm-to-palm, finger-to-finger, thumb-to-thumb. Go ahead. Do it now, and hold it for a few seconds. Are you doing it? Not a very natural pose, is it? In fact, it feels kind of awkward, right? At least it does for me. (6/1/10)
Commencement advice for every day
Commencement addresses give us hope, wisdom, inspiration to live better lives. They put things in perspective and help focus our energies. But why do we reserve this kind of advice for only once or twice in a lifetime? (5/19/10)
How to avoid boring worship
There is a cure for boring worship. Worship Boring? Come on, now, admit it. In your faith life you have occasionally thought of worship as boring, haven’t you? OK then. (5/12/10)
Free will? What free will?
This Lent has taught me that Martin Luther was correct: We have no free will. Our wills are thoroughly corrupted by sin and our selfish desires. See, I had given up sweets for Lent! (4/1/10)
Resolve to ask, seek and knock this New Year
This coming New Year, resolve to grow in faith — that is, to draw closer to God and become more spiritually mature. It’s a tall order, but Jesus tells us exactly how to do it. (12/27/09)
Tell the Christmas Rescue Story
God loves us so much that the very Sovereign of the Universe staged a daring rescue, arriving in person to save us from sin, death and the power of Satan. And God did it with boldness and dramatic revelation about the nature of the Divine Heart. (12/14/2009)
I found the elusive ‘perfect’ Christmas gift!
My experience of shopping for my parents is representative of the gift-giving insanity that takes place every December in our country. We frantically shop for people who really don’t need anything and who have already got what they want. (12/7/2009)
Gratitude overcomes the darkness of entitlement
When my son was just six, he taught me an important lesson about how most people view their possessions. When it comes to their “toys,” most adults are plain childish! (11/30/2009)
Stewardship in five simple steps
When it comes to figuring out how much to give, most people don’t know where to start. My congregation came up with a five-step plan for our members and included it as the annual “Stewardship Seeds” mailing. Here are the steps! (11/9/2009
Christmas all the time
Christmas alters our attitudes towards one another, if just for a time. Our Lord’s coming into the world signaled God’s solidarity with human beings, the fragile, pig-headed and fallen race that we are. Christmas provides hope and joy in the midst of our deepest problems and pain. (12/22/2008)
Fight the REAL ‘War on Christmas’
The real War on Christmas is not whether “Merry Christmas” gets edged out of the crass commercial marketplace, those houses of material worship where people spend way too much money on stuff they really don’t need. The real War on Christmas is the growing reality in the culture that the shopping and the decorations and the over-consumption is actually the major part of the celebration of Christmas. (12/19/2005)