To Love As God Loves, Give As God Gives October 30, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Giving & Generosity, Stewardship
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This was printed in our conference newspaper, Reflections, but I am receiving requests for an electronic copy and the right to reprint it. If anyone wants it, here it is:
It is easy to forget why we are here. There are so many demands on our time, so many deadlines to meet, so many bills to pay, and only so many hours in the day. We work hard to make a living, and the cost of living is measured not only in dollars and cents, but in time and energy as well. If we are not careful, life becomes little more than getting through the day in order to make ends meet. Is this REALLY what we believe God intends our life to be all about?
In our American culture, we do a pretty good job with the “getting” side of life – a good education, a decent job, a home, a car, a family, and a thousand and one necessities and luxuries that make life fun and enjoyable. We struggle a bit more with the “giving” side. Recent studies show that there is a slight decline in both charitable dollars and volunteer hours adults in the United States give to church and other good causes. The top two reasons that people give for this decrease is that they are too busy and that they lack adequate resources. These are interesting answers in light of the fact that Americans have never had a higher percentage of disposable income and that hourly demands are essentially unchanged over the past 70 years. If the amounts we have to work with are the same or greater than we have had before, what’s the explanation?
The Emma Dilemma December 14, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Christmas, Core Values, Generosity & Giving.
Tags: Christmas, Giving and Generosity, Values
Who deserves grace? In this season of giving and goodwill, who should be helped and who warrants disdain? I listened to a table-full of pastors lament this time of year when some unfortunate few attempt to exploit the system of charity for their own benefit.
I won’t let anyone have anything until I talk to them. I can tell if they’re pulling a fast one. If I even think they are trying to take advantage of us, I will show them the door — empty-handed!
We only give to people we know. We don’t offer assistance to strangers.
We used to give food and clothes away all the time, but I put my foot down when I got here. We hardly even have people stop at the church any more.
One courageous young pastor said,
We try to help everyone who asks…
This was met with stony silence. The consensus around the table was three-fold: you can’t trust people who come to the church for help, you can’t help everyone, so you need to have some standard by which to decide who deserves help and who does not. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I attended a church where the preacher confessed that he helps appreciative people much more than those who act like they are entitled to assistance. Apparently, generosity is conditional — we give to those who earn our approval.
Talk Is Cheap (Not Talking Is Costly) September 17, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian Education, Congregational Life, Core Values, Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: Christian Education, Giving & Generosity, Money and the Church, Stewardship
A pressing concern of many of our congregations is a lack of funds. I know you’re surprised, but money is a concern in many of our local churches. But, I’m going to let you in on a simple, yet very important secret. There is a simple, low-cost solution to most of our financial woes: we need to ask for more money from the people who have given their lives to Christ. The time has come to make sure people know that Christian discipleship impacts our entire life, including our wallet, pocketbook and checkbook. Myths about money and spirituality have been allowed to run wild, taking on the appearance of truth, but these myths are slowly (and not so slowly) killing many of our churches. Leadership requires that we sometimes challenge the conventional wisdom and speak the truth in love. Let’s destroy some myths, shall we?
The $100 Challenge May 12, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Core Values, Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church Leadership, Money and the Church, The United Methodist Church
A young man came up to me the other day and led off with the line, “You probably don’t remember me, but…” Having worked for the national church for almost 15 years, I have met an awful lot of people, and I must confess that I don’t remember too many of them, but this young man went back even further to my days in New Jersey. He said, “We only attended your church one time when I was like fifteen, but I still remember you.” I don’t think there is anything a preacher likes hearing more than that he or she said something to a teenager 22 years ago that made a lasting impression. Most of what we say seems to be forgotten before the majority of people exit the sanctuary… Anyway, what he remembered was “the $100 challenge.”
I haven’t thought of this in years. I went to two small churches that had a terrible track record paying their apportionments. (Apportionments being the “fair share” of missional and denominational support each congregation gives through the annual conference to support the work of the church.) The combined apportionment for the two churches was no more than $8,000, but generally each congregation only paid in the hundreds. Leaders in the congregations were fuzzy about what apportionments were and did. Paying apportionments in full was one of my top priorities, but the skeptical leadership didn’t share my commitment. I remember the chair of Trustees telling me, “if you can think of some way to raise the money, we’ll gladly pay them.” I took the dare and came up with the $100 challenge.
Christmas Memories II – Everett & Brenda December 11, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Christmas, Generosity & Giving, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christmas, Faith Sharing
We all know Christmas is more about giving than receiving, yet the most significant Christmases of all for me are those where through giving I received more than I can describe or explain. There is a magical truth in the simple fact that there is no truly unselfish gift. People who give are the first to admit that they give because of the joy, thrill, and/or satisfaction they receive. It is in pleasing others, doing something meaningful and kind, that (for me) the true meaning of Christmas comes shining through. I didn’t always understand this, but I can point to a turning point in my life where the kindness of a whole community of people produced a minor miracle.
In college I was part of a tight-knit cluster of seven people — Dave and Lisa, Steve, Everett and Brenda, Stacy, and myself — who spent a lot of time together and were as close as any family. We were different ages and from very different backgrounds, but all of us found deep connection with one another. We were all college kids, scraping by, but generally having a great time — until Brenda contracted a viral infection that put her in and out of the hospital for much of 1979. Everett and Brenda were a sweet couple that both escaped difficult homes as children and by God’s grace found each other. Everett’s parents died when he was a toddler, and he spent his life going from one foster family to another. He never laid down roots, and as an adult had no family to speak of. Brenda came from an abusive home — her father died when she was a teenager and she was estranged from her mom. Neither she nor Everett had siblings — they basically had each other, and three beautiful daughters, ages six, four and three. Everett was a pre-med student, deep in debt with student loans, and working two jobs just to stay in school. Only a year away from graduation, the loss of Brenda’s income and the mounting medical bills made it unlikely that Everett would be able to finish school. In early October, Everett lost the higher paying of his two jobs, and their situation got desperate. Over the course of a couple months, they sold everything not nailed down — stereo, television, car, furniture, books — all to be able to subsist on tomato soup and Kraft macaroni and cheese. Their home was a sofa, a table and chairs, a few clothes and toys for the kids and Everett’s typewriter and textbooks.
Christmas Bonus December 4, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Generosity & Giving, Mission of the Church.
Tags: Christian service, Mission & Purpose, Money and the Church
I read the article yesterday about two homeless Hungarian men who stand to inherit $6.6 billion dollars from their grandmother — of course they have to split it with a sister, but what’s a couple billion between family? Beyond it being one of those “made-for-holiday-TV” type fairy stories, it simply raises the simple, personal question: What would I do with a couple billion dollars? First of all, I truly cannot comprehend a billion anything. I am capable of handling “hundreds” and even “thousands” but things get a little fuzzier at the “hundreds of thousands” level and beyond. I have just never dealt with such vast amounts — of anything. I could give 25 cents to everyone on the planet and still have a chunk of change, but that doesn’t seem very helpful. I am not being disingenuous to say I would want to give most of it away, but I must confess, I wouldn’t know where to begin to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. I know that one place I would commit a sizeable chunk would be a foundation for education for young people showing great potential, but with the odds stacked against them. I also think I would like to endow the good works of others. I look at some of the phenomenal work done in my own annual conference (Wisconsin) and I would love to fund Harbor House and Northcott Center and Children’s Services of Wisconsin so that the leadership of those organizations didn’t have to worry so much about resources. I also know we can do a better job in most of our churches serving and engaging with the poor and marginalized. I would love to give funds to help those things happen.
I also have a passion for literacy — I believe that it is a primary key to succeeding in our world today. I also believe computer competency is essential, and there are a signficant number of young people who have little or no access to necessary equipment. There are many things I would do… if I had the money.
Giving Giving a Good Name October 15, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Money and the Church, Stewardship, Values
Believe it or not, there are churches that have virtually no financial concerns — and they are not all big, growing, or led by Pastor Popular. Instead, they are healthy. And how did they get healthy? Intentionally, slowly and deliberately. And one of the key areas they focused on was money. But not money FOR the church. Instead, they focus on our relationship with money and material possessions. They address money as a whole lifestyle issue — not just the giving of money, but the earning, managing, spending, and value of money as well. (Sound Wesleyan? Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can? Of course his advise was to escape the fires of hell, but we try not to bring that up…) In our healthiest churches, money is about the whole person — it is as much a spiritual and emotional issue as it is a practical/material one.
When I conducted the Vital Signs study, I noted that of the 111 healthiest churches, only three used annual financial “stewardship” campaigns. All of these churches were financially sound — in fact, many found themselves with a surplus at the end of the year and were seeking ways to use the money for new missions and ministry. Seventeen of these churches paid more than 100% of their apportionments to their conferences, and 29 of them used their surpluses to help less financially viable ministries in their areas. How is it possible to receive this kind of giving revenue without campaigns? I identified five fundamental practices or approaches to financial stewardship in these vital congregations different from “normal”:
focus on generosity instead of giving
took a “preach, teach, heal” approach to money
offered a “ministry of money” to the congregation and community
differentiated their messages about giving
aligned everything in the church around vision
Paying for Our Stewardship Sins October 14, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: Money and the Church, Stewardship
Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you have all the money and resources you need? Hold them up high while we count you on the fingers of one hand. Most of us do not have all we need, and in fact over 50% are wondering whether there will be enough just to make it through the year (let alone pay the apportionments…) So, what do we do about it? If we’re like most churches, we do some pretty self-defeated and short-sighted things — like distributing line-item budgets, holding once a year pledge campaigns, operating from a unified budget, or printing pesky little “updates” in our bulletins and newsletters. What? Tried, true, tested, and traditional practices self-defeating and short-sighted? Yep, pretty much. What we think we’re doing and what actually happens are usually two very different things. Read on.
Fit To Be Tithed October 13, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: church, Money and the Church, Stewardship
An interesting thing happened in the church during the twentieth century in the United States. Christian giving shifted from caring for the poor, saving lives and spreading the gospel to funding the church budget. Centuries old spiritual teachings morphed into platitudes for raising money and getting people to put more in the collection plate. Perhaps no Biblical principle has been more abused or misunderstood than the tithe.
Let’s take a little quiz to put things in perspective:
- Giving 10% of gross income to God
- Giving 10% of net income to God
- Giving 10% of all we have to God
- Giving thanks to God for all the good things God provides
The Joy of Giving October 12, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Generosity & Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: Giving, Money and the Church, Stewardship
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Year’s ago, I attended worship in a small New England church in the fall of the year during the annual “stewardship” campaign. The pastor was a quiet, gentle man who obviously cared for his congregation, which is a good thing because he was a poor preacher. He read his sermon from a manuscript in a soft monotone voice, uhming and uhing every few words, and rarely looking up at the congregation. Approximately fifty people sat in the pews, and shortly after worship began many developed “the nods” and drifted into sleep. Drowsiness spread like a virus, affecting just about everyone but one young boy — maybe three or four years old — attending church with his dad. While the preacher droned on and on, and the congregation battled sleep, the little boy climbed up and down on the pew, waved to people, flipped through the Bible and Hymnal — just as chipper and alert as he could be. The young boy’s dad, however, lost his fight with sleep and fell into a deep, bracing unconsciousness. The pastor was speaking of the importance of “giving all to Jesus,” and tied this concept to the weekly offering. He wrapped up his comments and called the ushers forward to pass the plates. The little boy looked at his sleeping father, then snaked his hand into his father’s jacket and came out with his dad’s wallet. As they plate came by, the boy took the entire wad of cash out of dad’s wallet, and he didn’t just place it in the offering plate, he slam-dunked it with both hands, making the metal plate clang. Dad came to with a start, just in time to see his worldly wealth pass away down the pew — and from where I was, it looked to be a sizeable amount, with twenties, fifties, and hundreds in evidence. He looked at his son, then at the plate, then at his son, then at the plate — undecided what to do. It was obvious he wanted to dive down the pew and tackle the usher to retrieve his cash, but his son was watching him closely — beaming with smiles and laughter. Truly, if God loves a cheerful giver, at that moment he must have loved that little boy best of all.