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?
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?
Teach September 15, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian Education, Communication in the Church, Congregational Life, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship, The Bible.
Tags: Christian Education, Communication, Evangelism, prayer, Stewardship
I may get blasted on this. That’s okay. I am sharing almost twenty years of similar responses here, and I think we — especially clergy — need to listen. Laity across the United Methodist Church are sending four messages loud and clear: prayer, stewardship, evangelism and Bible are NOT being taught in our churches. We are assuming that people know these things. Yet, it is clear that our church is in danger of extinction because these four things (at the very least) are not being taught. In our fever to grow, get new people, build more buildings, pay our bills, and keep up with the newest 7 Steps, 12 Keys, 40 Days programs we have drifted from the basics. We have cultivated a Christian culture of biblically illiterate, nominally connected, scarcity-minded, non-evangelicals.
In Wisconsin I have continued to ask the same questions I did across the denomination for the 14+ years I worked for the General Board of Discipleship. Essentially, I ask lay people how well equipped they are to grow in their spirituality and their discipleship. The vast majority do not remember the last time anyone taught about prayer in the church. Most cannot remember the last time anyone encouraged them to pray. Many are aware that there is a “prayer circle” or “prayer chain” in their church, but they don’t know how it works. Four-out-of-five United Methodists can’t tell you the difference between intercessory prayer, confession, petition, and they don’t know what a doxology or benediction are. Small matter? Maybe, but they are indicators of the more fundamental issue. United Methodists don’t pray much at all. Over 50% don’t think prayer is very important to their faith, and as indicated in an earlier post, many simply are “too busy” to pray on a regular basis. Almost 40% admit that they really “don’t know how to pray” or don’t know “if I do it right.”
Faith, Money & Spirituality August 4, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Money and the Church, Stewardship.
Tags: Money and the Church, Stewardship, Values
Western philosophy tends toward dualism: good and evil, light and darkness, inside and outside. This way of thinking permeates all aspects of our lives. We draw lines of distinction that help us organize our lives. We put things in categories that help us make sense of the world. Often, this tendency toward either/or thinking helps us greatly, but occasionally it makes us divide that which is better integrated.
Few places is this truer than in the relationship between our spiritual faith and our relationship with money. Money is viewed as a worldly asset, a profane good. Our Christian faith is of a higher order, a spiritual value. Pastors commonly hear members of the congregation say that they shouldn’t talk about money from the pulpit. Many people—both clergy and laity—dread messages about stewardship, assuming they will be nothing more than appeals for financial gifts.
Sinking the Steward Ship October 16, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Money and the Church, spiritual practices, Stewardship.
Funny thing. Writing about stewardship all this week resulted in a 30% drop-off in my readership. I’ve gotten a handful of emails this week expressing sentiments like “I expect better from you,” and “you’re as bad as my local church,” and “why are you marching out this tired old song,” and “you’re selling out to the mainline.” First of all, I wonder if these people actually read more than the titles. The other emails I have received are telling me that I am full of fertilizer and that if any of the stuff I am writing is true other people would be saying it, too. The bottom line is that people struggle with stewardship. The wonderful term and concept of “stewardship” has been usurped, co opted, and compromised by the institutional church so that it makes almost everyone squirm. I wish the concept could be redeemed.
In my understanding discipleship and stewardship are two sides of one coin — the yin/yang of the authentic Christian life. Discipleship is based in learning, growing, developing, and following. It is a lifelong process of discovery and empowerment. Stewardship is based in doing, leading, teaching, working, improving, and testing. It is a lifelong journey of managing and employing all that God has placed in our care. There is a dynamic tension between the two that propels a Christian to ever higher expressions of faith and ever deeper relationships within the body of Christ. It is about the whole person — including his wallet and her pocketbook — and all they are and can ever be. It is too bad we have so radically reduced both concepts. In research I did for the denomination, 71% of United Methodists define discipleship as “believing in Jesus as the Son of God,” and 84% define stewardship as “giving time, talent, and treasure to the church.”
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.
Stewardship TOE July 19, 2009Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church Leadership, Core Values, Critical Thinking, Mission of the Church, Stewardship, Vision.
Tags: Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, Stewardship
In the scientific worlds of physics and astronomy an enormous effort is underway to discover a unifying force or principle that underlies all of creation. Scientists are pursuing nothing short of a theory of everything, or T.O.E. Since Einstein transformed our understanding of the known world, the universe, and all it contains, through his theories of relativity – both specific and general – the scientific community has searched for the core, the essence, the substance of all that is. It is believed that once we gain insight into this essence, there is nothing we will not be able to understand and achieve. There is a parallel in the church — a quest for a unifying factor that gives definition to our life and ministry together, around which everything we do is aligned. It is our theory of everything. While we may never actually discover something that unifies all of our thinking and doing in the church, it is still a provocative idea. To illustrate it, I want to share some thinking about stewardship, and to talk about ways I see individual congregations moving in this direction. For some churches working on stewardship, they have discovered a unifying principle — a basis for their “theory of everything” — by defining for themselves an “ultimate concern.”
is the essence that binds together our core values, sense of purpose (mission), shared vision, and commitment to achievement in the congregation.
As awesome as this task is, there is almost no doubt among scientists that a unifying principle will be found. Borrowing both the concept and the confidence, I would like to explore this unifying principle for Christian stewardship – a stewardship theory of everything (TOE). This theory may be correct or wrong, but if nothing else it offers a challenge to the way we think about stewardship.