Blog Entries

Heed these ‘warning signs’ of financial trouble

warning cliff

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)

helpHelp 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)

signsDo 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)

poison narrowFollow 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)

Organic produce narrowFeed 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)

Green Tree Frog on Pickerelweed at Bluebonnet Swamp Nature CenterHelp 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)

computerIgnore 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)

money narrowStewardship: 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)

cobwebOur 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)

ask_blogThe 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)

breakthrough medBreak 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.
(12/15/2011)

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-cooker spirituality

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)

Holy laughter

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)

Vacation daze!

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)

Enraptured!

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)

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