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8-Week Program
: With God's Permission

Here's a complete resource for a congregation to begin using an asset-based approach to financial stewardship. "This simple program can help your congregation fund God’s mission in a fresh and exciting manner." Available for free PDF download. From ELCA Stewardship.

2006 Chronological Index of Content

For 2008, Click Here
For 2007, Click Here
For 2005,
Click Here
For 2004, Click Here
For 2003, Click Here


See also the archive of recent news articles and reports in Gleanings.

December 25, 2006
‘Do Not Be Afraid’ -- ELCA Bishop Mark S, Hanson
“In this season of Christmas, we encounter again Jesus, sent from God for our salvation. As the Word is proclaimed in both simple buildings and cathedrals of grandeur, we receive the good news of God's love in Christ Jesus for the whole earth.” Click here for the Christmas Message from Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

‘Transform the World’ – World Council of Churches
“The Word became flesh when God's son was born in a stable. Christ's incarnation is an invitation to each of us and all of us together: to receive this profound message of grace, of celebration, of justice; and to share that message with those around us in the hope that the whole world shall be transformed.” Click here for the message of The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.

‘The Light of Christ’ – Pope Benedict XVI
“The modern age is often seen as an awakening of reason from its slumbers, humanity’s enlightenment after an age of darkness. Yet without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world. For this reason, the words of the Christmas Gospel: ‘the true Light that enlightens every man was coming into this world’ (John 1:9) resound now more than ever as a proclamation of salvation.” Click here for “The Light of Christ” by Pope Benedict XVI.

‘The Gift of God’s Love for All’– Archbishop of Melbourne
“There are strong parallels between asylum seekers and refugees and Jesus Christ. Jesus was born in very humbling circumstances because Mary and Joseph were forced to travel to participate in the census. He suffered persecution throughout his life, leading to his painful and public humiliation upon the cross.” Click here for ‘The Gift of God’s Love for All,” from Dr Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne Diocese, Anglican Church of Australia.

Stewards of the Gift of Community
At their best churches do provide a sense of community. Like the old TV show "Cheers" -- the place where "everyone knows your name." But more the place where you can go and people are there to listen. People are there to help, and people are there who are in the same boat, and you can work at it together. Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

The Privacy of Financial Giving
“Financial giving in the church should be kept private, but not secret! Almost always, secrecy about members' financial giving is a symptom of unhealthy, poor giving. Secrecy is really a cover for individual or collective shame about how little we give.” Check out this resource to find out how your church is doing – and could do better. Click here for “The Privacy of Financial Giving.” From the United Methodist Church’s Center for Christian Stewardship.

December 11, 2006
Kids and consumerism
The Episcopal Church ventured to the Mall of America to explore how children use money and how the church can teach them the value of material possessions. “Our country now faces a crisis because children are growing up without balanced financial values or a well-thought approach to how they use money,” said Nathan Duncan, president of Share Save Spend. Click here for “Kids and consumerism,” from Episcopal Life magazine.

When the Holidays Hurt: 10 ways to cope with loss :
"For many people, the holidays are a traditional time of happiness and festivity. However, for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays are a time of mixed emotions. There can be pleasure, but there is also much pain, because the season magnifies the sense of loss." Great advice for individuals or congregational leaders whose parishioners suffer the holiday blues. Click here for “When the Holidays Hurt,” from Today's Christian magazine. This week’s Treasure Chest offering.

December 4, 2006
Should we teach stewardship to children?
"YES" is the answer to the question posed in the title of this informative resource.. "In today’s world, children are bombarded with materialistic messages that often lead to a sense of entitlement and to frustration and dissatisfaction with life. Stewardship can help kids find peace and joy in a crazy world.” Click here for “Should we teach stewardship to children?"; from The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Buy gifts-- for those who need them
"Often the recipients have so much already that it is hard to figure out what to give them.  Grandparents and parents have to coordinate so that the children do not receive duplicates or even triplicates of popular seasonal offerings.” Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.
 
Taking back Christmas
"Christmas is about the transformation of our world into the world God wants it to be. It is about our transformation into the beloved community. It is about God’s selfless love poured out on a world desperately in need of a savior. Somebody please tell me what this has to do with parents fighting to purchase the latest toy fad?" Wow! Put stewardship in perspective!  Click here for the “Take back Christmas!”  From Presbyterians Today, the magazine of the Presbyterian Church USA.

Open to God's surprises:
"Congregationally based stewardship begins with the steadfast recounting of the story of the riches of God’s grace lavished upon us in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen." Click here for “ Open to God's Surprises,” from The Lutheran Laity Movement archives. This week’s Treasure Chest offering.

November 27, 2006
40 Questions to Ask God: 'How Generous Am I'

"How generous are you? How would you be able to tell? The only sure way of knowing is to ask God Himself.” These questions will help you in self-examination and prayer about money. Click here for “40 Questions” from ChristianityToday.com

What really keeps a church viable?
"Maybe instead of asking people to bring their money to church we should be asking people to share it in the world and let the world know that we are doing it because of what God has done for us. We make Christ visible again in the world by who we are in the world.” Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here
 
Take the 'Poverty Tour'
Here is a short presentation that will wake up anybody to the realities of poverty in America. It describes the reality of what it would take for a family of four to live at the poverty level of $19,307. It shows that the money "leaves out" a lot of necessities. Click here for the “Poverty Tour.”  From the Catholic Campaign for Human Development from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thankfulness shows spiritual maturity
 "Growing up, I never knew what my parents meant when they told me how much I took for granted and how I should be grateful for what I had: A good family, plenty of food, a secure American middle-class life. To me, life in a small New England town seemed so ordinary and unglamorous.” Click here for “A new look and feel,” by webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update. Click here to subscribe.
 
Planned giving awareness in the local church:
"It would appear that God and the IRS agree on one thing --  we can't take it with us," says this compelling article that explains why churches are frequently overlooked in their members' wills -- and how pastors and stewardship leaders can change things. Good, practical insights and tips. Click here for “Planned giving awareness,” from Planned Giving Today, a newsletter for philanthropic professionals. This week’s Treasure Chest offering.

November 20, 2006
Why pastors should teach more broadly on giving
Here is a roundup of some of the best, most practical wisdom you’ll find on teaching holistic stewardship to a congregation. "One friend calls it the lamentation of desperation for the church budget," says Dick Towner. "In large measure the church has failed to teach on stewardship. Materialism has won the day in the hearts and minds of people." Click here for “Why pastors should teach,” from ChurchCentral.com

Thanksgiving in good times and bad 
"As always giving thanks means living into the prayers that we offer.  When we give thanks that we have enough we also work to provide enough for all.  When we pray for peace we renew our resolve to become instruments of peace.” Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

True disciples renew their commitment with joy, thanksgiving
“Stewardship should be the distinguishing characteristic of those who have experienced the Risen Lord in their midst and in their hearts.  Having experienced his presence, we are called to surrender our wills and make a choice for Christ.  This is what it means to be a disciple, and it isn’t something that just happens.” Click here for “True Disciples.”  From Archbishop Alex J. Burnett of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.

Grace & Gratitude Grow Givers:
"This money, this talent, this time that I have is all owned by the one who shaped and fashioned me into his child. It all belongs to the one who made me and who claimed me in holy baptism. When I have settled this ownership issue then I have settled some very basic issues about my life. I have settled the issue of life's basic direction. So I am pointed in the direction of how I can best be shaped by the potter who fashioned me." Click here for “Grace & Gratitude Grow Givers,” from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week’s Treasure Chest offering.

November 13, 2006
Bottom line ministries that matter
Looking for a way to save money on regular expenses so you can spend more money on mission? Well, of course! Here’s a resource that will help you save up to 25-30 percent on energy a year by taking advantage of technology. In the process, you will also help reduce environmental pollution. A two-fer!  Click Here and look for “Bottom line ministries that matter,” from the Eco-Justice Program > of the National Council of Churches of Christ.

Demonstrate a little warmth for the poor
"When I worked as a nurse, a young mother brought in her baby sick and filthy.  It was March.  She said she hadn't bathed the baby since fall because it was too cold. I haven't demonstrated for years.  But this is not worldly politics.  It is the politics of God.  In my ordination and in our churches constitution I am called to stand with the poor and the powerless. Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

Thanksgiving: Developing gratitude in your church
You’ve read it on our website a zillion times – Stewardship begins with gratitude. Here is a cornucopia of free online resources to help you bring out the thankfulness in your church-members. Click here for Thanksgiving, from ChristianityToday.com.

Isaiah: Prophet for our time
Although some Scripture verses, especially from the Old Testament, lend support to the notion that God blesses righteous people with prosperity, these references are overwhelmingly outweighed and outnumbered by other verses that call for God's faithful people to be extremely wary of money and the lure it has to draw them away from God. Jesus was particularly clear on this point. Click here for “Isaiah: Prophet for our time,” by webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update.
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Gratitude training for children
"It's a little ironic that the season in which we give thanks and the one in which our children are making their holiday wish lists come so close together. We try to give our children so much, but sometimes forget to give them the greatest gift, the capacity to appreciate and to feel grateful." In this stirring essay in The Christian Science Monitor, a child psychologist offers keen observations and practical advice. Click here for “Gratitude training for children.” This week’s Treasure Chest offering.

November 6, 2006
Electronic giving: Embrace the future of tithing
"In today's wired world, many consumers have set aside their checkbooks in favor of electronic payment systems. Worshipers are no exception, and churches are taking notice of this trend by offering electronic giving options. Propelled by its consistent nature, ease of use, and ability to transcend physical in-house attendance, this relatively new method of accepting offerings is helping churches of all sizes increase their level of donations. Click here for "Electronic giving," from Your Church magazine.

Most saints leave an unseen legacy
 "But individually I don't think it is something we think about our even should, perhaps. Scripture doesn't talk much about how we will be remembered here on earth. In fact, if anything Scripture reminds us that we are dust, or that our days are fleeting." Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here
 
Effective Approaches to Growth and Stewardship in the Small Church
"What makes small churches unique? And what special approaches to growth and stewardship are most effective in the small church? Pastors who want to develop these areas of their ministries may find it helpful to understand what makes this size of congregation distinctive." Click here for "Effective Approaches," from The Alban Institute's Congregational Resource Center.

Stewardship of your life - now more than ever
 "For too many of Jesus's followers, the end-times hype promotes a kind of fatalistic hunkering down, a disengagement from the world and all its problems. Why care for the poor? Why fight injustice? Why look for an end to war? Why worry about global warming? All those problems count for nothing if God's big clock is about to run out anyway." Click here for this archive column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Time and Money:
When either one runs low, you've got a problem. Are you prepared? "Most pastors are not formally trained in financial management. Yet in many churches, it is the pastor who assumes responsibility for properly managing church finances. Is the pastor aware of the monetary risks that can threaten a ministry? Click here for "Time and Money." From Your Church magazine. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

October 30, 2006
The Pony-Express Stewardship Program

Billed as an alternative to the every-member canvas, this model takes inspiration from the Pioneer-era mail system to bring stewardship appeal materials to members of a congregation. It's an approach that builds on the strength of the personal touch of people within a community of worship. Click here for "The Pony Express Stewardship Program, from    The Orthodox Church in America

God promises us riches, but not wealth
"Jesus tells parables about a man who wastes his life accumulating wealth and then dies.  And the message is that what he accumulated will perish with him, but that there are greater riches in the kingdom. And Jesus also tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.  So if God wants us rich maybe it is because God doesn't want us in heaven?"  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

Finding your spiritual gifts self-assessment
Stewardship is more about how we use our lives than how we use our money, but how can congregations help their members discover their full lives? This spiritual gifts self-assessment helps people map their strengths and weaknesses in spiritual living. It's easy, and it's free online. Click here for "Finding your spiritual gifts," from The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Tithing: A Step in Walking the Way of Christ
"Jesus did tell his disciples to pay their taxes to Caesar; rendering to him the coin that has his face on it, but giving to God what is God's.  I guess that raises the question: what part of your life belongs to God?  Have you given it all to God, or just part of it?  Is Jesus the ruler of your life, or someone you follow on Sunday from 10:30 to noon?" Click here for "Tithing," by the Rev. Dr. Walk Jones, pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church, Pensacola, Fla. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

October 23, 2006
The Cattleprod and the Coverup, Ananias and Saphira

"Why do so many American Christians cheat on their offerings? This is a real basic question. They do it for a whole bunch of reasons," says master preacher Ed Marquart of Grace Lutheran in Seattle. It's a hard-hitting sermon that speaks to one of the big problems in Mainline churches -- under-giving. Click here for "The Cattleprod and the Coverup," from  Sermons from Seattle.

Break free of 'climate-controlled' faith
"We still can get to the place where we are rich enough and prosperous enough and don't really need God. We are a prosperous nation. Revelations 3:15-17 warns of lukewarm faith. It is about the lukewarm faith of a self-satisfied people."  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns,
click here.

Three Kinds of Congregations
How does your congregation handle stewardship -- or fail to handle it -- every year? Here is a resource that sorts churches into three main categories for you to think about. You'll also find a helpful list of "Money Talk Principles. Click here for "Three Kinds of Congregations," from New Jersey Synod, ELCA.

Loaves and fishes
This piece explores a biblical approach to "asset-based stewardship" for congregations. "Sometimes people phone or e-mail my office to inquire about stewardship resources. I often tell them that the Bible is our best stewardship book because it tells stories about Jesus, our finest stewardship teacher," writes Barb Fullerton, stewardship staff member with the United Church of Canada. Great reading! Click here for Loaves and fishes.  This week's Treasure Chest offering.

October 16, 2006

Stewardship at the heart of the lectionary
Stewardship is a year-round education effort, right? So here is a weekly resource that highlights stewardship themes in the lectionary texts coming up for the following Sunday. Click here for "Stewardship at the heart of the lectionary," from  ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Tithing is a matter of priorities
 "I have never regretted tithing.  It changed my life and my perspective.  It opened my heart to be more generous and to see where I can give instead of acquire.  I pray that owning a house again does not change that, but I know it will not ever make me an ex tither."  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here

Talking with your donors ... not speaking to them
People are being bombarded with requests for money, but some smart planning can help keep your church's needs from getting lost in the mix. "We hear more and more donors complaining about how tired they are of being 'sold to.'  We forecast this level of ennui will only increase, and it will take our collective imaginations to shape messages that will work in an environment that is cluttered."  Click here for "Talking with donors," from OnPhilanthropy.com.

E-Giving Removes Hassles and Surprises
"We have been emphasizing the Simply Giving program in my church, but so far very few people have signed up. One reason may be that many people are reluctant to reveal that they 'only' give $10 a week. Perhaps they wish they could give more and don't want the church to know they give that amount, or perhaps they feel guilty and don't want to admit it to themselves." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Give with Pure Joy!
In this sermon, The Rev. Ronald Burcham, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, LCMS, Urbandale, IA, talks about attitudes of giving.  "The number one danger is that what you are giving to is to a church or an organization, not giving it to God. There is a difference." Click here for "Give with Pure Joy." Good stuff. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

October 9, 2006
Stewardship Bible Studies for Group Discussion. Here is a wonderful way to begin teaching Bible-based stewardship to members of your congregation. The resource is a compilation of seven studies on topics ranging from the environment to personal discipleship.  Click here for "Stewardship Bible Studies for Group Discussion," from  The Methodist Church of Great Britain.

God Never Becomes Complacent. Should We? "When we give, we give to God. And as stewards we are also charged with managing the money and caring for God's property, but it never belongs to us. So that day never dawns when we get to give less or get to relax or retire."  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

The Money-Wise Church. Financial experts cite various reasons for why people are giving less to churches, including poor giving habits and lack of teaching on stewardship. Others say people are giving less because they've lost confidence in how the church handles money. ... Churches can win back the confidence of givers by becoming better money managers. Click here for "The Money-Wise Church," from YourChurch magazine.

Giving is a Spiritual Discipline. "We are working hard to make it an exercise in discipleship that will invite our people to venture more deeply in their faith walk, and NOT play into their sense of guilt or shame. Sure, we could probably wring out a few extra bucks by making people feel bad, but that's not going to create any of the 'cheerful givers' that Paul talks about. " Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

A Theology of Stewardship. Growing in stewardship involves four distinct phases, according to this study guide that provides a biblically based program for a classroom or workshop series. Can be done on its own or incorporated or adapted for your own stewardship drive. Click here for "A Theology of Stewardship." Good stuff from Joy Lutheran Church (ELCA), Gurnee, Ill. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

October 2, 2006
Transforming Lives by Teaching on Money.  "If the local church is to live out its redemptive potential, it must provide not only hope but practical help and biblical teaching that meet people at their points of need. One of the most critical needs in the church today is helping people come to grips with their finances." Click here for "Transforming Lives by Teaching on Money," from  Building Church Leaders.

Breathe -- and be thankful for breath. nurse long before I was a pastor and I know how intricate is the body and how many things can go wrong. Given this, I am always amazed that we are healthy so much of the time. How many times does our heart beat? A reasonable estimate for the number of heartbeats in a lifetime is about three billion."  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

Church Giving by Electronic Fund Transfer. Maybe you've heard about these programs to make church contributions automatically and electronically, but don't know where to start. This article outlines the pros, cons and the how-tos of electronic giving. Good piece for the stewardship committee wrestling with the issue. Click here for "Church Giving by Electronic Fund Transfer," from the United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship.

A budget is a statement of faith. "Is your church's budget a menu of the hopes, dreams and missionary ministries your congregation wants to accomplish in the year to come?  Or is it a life-support prescription for how the congregation expects to pay the staff, keep the lights burning, the sanctuary heated and the grass mowed? " Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Eight ways congregations raise pledges.If you're looking for a way to increase giving at your church (and what leader is not?), here's an article for you! This piece looks at the strengths of eight pledge-raising approaches in order to help churches find the one that best fits their own situation. Good reading for the stewardship novice and seasoned hand alike. Click here for "Eight ways." From the Alban Institute's Congregational Resource Center.

September 25, 2006
The Things That Are God's. OK, pastors, do you dread that annual stewardship sermon and need a few ideas? Here is one given by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala. "I make no apologies for asking for financial support for the church. The Church has a just claim on your active, practical, and financial support if for no other reason than that your home is better, your community is better, your nation is better as a result of the existence of the Church." Click here for "The Things That Are God's," from  The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Eleven Steps to Better Stewardship. Your church may be doing a lot of things right, but this handy list may just give you a couple good pointers yet. Nice reality check for Stewardship Committees, pastors and other church leaders. Click here for "The starting Point of Stewardship," from the experts at the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

We surrender our heart, soul -- then wallet. "Luther said that the hardest conversion is the pocketbook. How does that occur?  Does it happen all at once?  Can anyone name the hour or the day that she first gave her pocketbook to God, the way she can name the day she gave her heart?  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

Swinging on the  Blessings of God. "In the rite of baptism in The Lutheran Book of Worship, we reject the Devil and all the Devil’s “empty promises.” In our consumer culture, we are especially vulnerable to the Devil's empty promise that it is our possessions and consumption that will make us happy. We reject that empty promise when we take our deepest happiness from the simplest gifts of the hand of God." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Pastor: Fund Raiser for Mission. "The time has come in our church when we, as clergy and leaders, can no longer divorce ourselves from raising money for mission. To a present culture of materialism, selfishness, and consumerism, we are called to model in our own lives and teach others Christian financial stewardship." Click here for "Pastor: Fund Raiser for Mission," by Jerry L. Schmalenberger, former president and professor of parish life at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. From the Lutheran Laity Movement archives.

September 18, 2006

Heard These Excuses Before?  If members of your congregation come up with one excuse after another for not giving generously -- or if you find yourself making excuses for not leading them -- here's a resource for you! This file rebuts every excuse imaginable. Makes for fun, interesting reading. Share it at your next Stewardship Committee meeting. Click here for "Heard These Excuses Before," from  Generous Giving.

Fall is a great time to clean out your schedule. (We are repeating this column because a technical difficulty made it impossible to view last week. We have repaired it. -- Webmaster) "What is it in your life that really gives life to you and to others, and what merely takes your time?  And even if some of the things you are doing are important to others, maybe you no longer need to be the one to do them."  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

The starting point of stewardship. Why do people make a commitment to stewardship? Is it an investment strategy? An obligation? In this essay the Rev. John Indermark explores these and other common reasons before offering one of his own. Click here for "The starting Point of Stewardship," posted on the website of the Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Statement of thanks. "Does your congregation give out statements of giving? Well columnist Tuck Aaker says you should make them statements of thanks. "We are not at Charlie’s TV Service sending out a bill for services. We are a congregation trying to be helpful to the person by keeping them up to date with what has been given thus far. "
Click here for this column by Tuck Aaker, writer for ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Vision Fulfillment.  Facing a major capital campaign? Here's one expert's step-by-step strategy for accomplishing going from vision to fulfillment. "Every successful capital campaign, whether for new construction, renovation, debt reduction, or budget enhancement, has a structure and a timeline from inception to completion. While campaign lengths vary, four years is typical, and a capital campaign firm is involved at strategic points when expertise and organization are needed most." In ChristianityToday.com. Click here for "Vision Fulfillment," from Your Church magazine.

September 11, 2006

Let's talk money: Advice from the pros on stewardship training.  "If your church charged an admission fee to cover its expenses, how much would it cost each person on a Sunday morning? A dollar? As much as $10? In 1994, the actual amount needed to operate most Protestant churches was $16-$21 per person." Click here for "Let's talk money," from  Your Church magazine.

Fall is a great time to clean out your schedule  "What is it in your life that really gives life to you and to others, and what merely takes your time?  And even if some of the things you are doing are important to others, maybe you no longer need to be the one to do them."  Click here for the latest weekly column by Pastor Dana Reardon. To read past columns, click here.

Christian giving ... is sacrificial giving. Check out this free study guide on stewardship that is available as a full-color pamphlet in PDF. The pamphlet looks great and covers important areas. Can be used by individuals or groups. Could be a wonderful additoin to the annual stewardship letter. Click here for Christian giving is sacrificial giving, from the Church of Scotland and posted on the stewardship website of the  United Methodist Church of Great Britain.

More labor daze. "OK, it's getting scary now. Yet another Labor Day has passed with dismal news for middle class Americans and those who earn lower than middle-class wages. These are the people who have been losing ground in the struggle to pay the day-to-day bills while also putting a little aside for retirement and the kids' education." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Life on the Edge: A Small Congregation Redefines Its Mission. "If North America is now a mission field, this fact has tremendous implications for small congregations. Being on the margins can provide fresh opportunities for offering bold witness. It is often a better position for discovering mission than is the center. In scripture, faithfulness seldom comes from, or results in, large numbers or success. God often elects the small for extraordinary missionary service." Click here for "Life on the Edge." By the Rev. Richard S. Bliese in The Christian Century. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

September 4, 2006
The Business of the Kingdom. Looking for new paradigms to run your church? Business guru Peter Drucker may have the answer. This insightful article looks at Drucker's business philosophies and how they can revolutionize church -- and the world! "Drucker developed an understanding of management that was deeply humane; not mechanical, not technical, but pastoral." Click here for "The Business of the Kingdom," from  Christianity Today.

Home economics. "In working with congregations I see it done every day by men and women old enough to know better. They are presented with a goal and full of enthusiasm “dive right into” the end result. No determining where they are before they begin, no planning  on what they want to accomplish, no action plan just “let’s do it” and then a feeling of bewilderment when the end result is not quite what they wanted."  Click here for "Home economics," from Tuck Aaker, columnist for ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Personal Budget Plans: A Faith & Money Approach.  Here's a no-brainer: Families whose personal finances are in a mess are less likely to be happy, fulfilled and contributing to church financially or personally. This useful essay will help pastors and other church leaders give their people advice to get their finances back on track.  Click here for "Personal Budget Plans," from United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship.

To whom much is expected, much is given.  "Faced with shrinking congregations and dwindling resources, many Mainline churches have relaxed their expectations of members.  But instead of drawing people to our churches, the easy approach unwittingly does just the opposite. It sends a bad message: 'Membership at our church doesn't  really mean very much. We're just glad you're here. Please come back!'"
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Eight ways congregations raise pledges. If you're looking for a way to increase giving at your church (and what leader is not?), here's an article for you! This piece looks at the strengths of eight pledge-raising approaches in order to help churches find the one that best fits their own situation. Good reading for the stewardship novice and seasoned hand alike. Click herefor "Eight ways." From the Alban Institute's Congregational Resource Center.  This week's Treasure Chest offering.

August 28, 2006

The Art and Science of Major Gift Fundraising.  "Major gift fundraising is as much an art as a science. Support by individuals makes up the majority of giving to philanthropic organizations, and major gifts from individuals can account for up to 90% of annual donations to non-profit organizations--often from as little as 5% of annual donors." How can you better reach willing donors?  Click here for "The Art and Science," from   OnPhilanthropy.com.

Stewardship as a Ministry in the Local Church.  "Martin Luther said there are three conversions—first the mind, then the heart, and finally the pocketbook. A ministry of stewardship focuses on the last conversion that is so desperately needed in lives today." Click here for "Stewardship as a Ministry in the Local Church," from Building Church Leaders.

Deep down, people want to give. "Imagine the stewardship opportunities that would await your congregation if you knew for sure that six out of every 10 of your members saw themselves as full-time servants of God, AND if you knew for sure that 90 percent of them considered themselves generous givers. Surprisingly, those figures are true!" Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Proclaiming stewardship. Here's a gem for pastors who want to emphasize stewardship from the pulpit and classroom. Susan K. Hedahl, professor of homiletics, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, offers tips for sermons and temple talks. "Ask what the stewardship profile of your congregation is -- Before public proclamation, it is necessary to ask: Where have we been? As a congregation, what gifts do we already employ for ourselves and others? Where do we hope to be in the months, the years ahead? Which resources do we need to consider, expand, develop?" From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives  This week's Treasure Chest offering.

August 21, 2006

Treasure Hunting: A presentation to discover gifts. So you are conducting your annual stewardship meeting. How can you help your people to understand their gifts and inspire them to use them in service of God and church? This fine presentation may help. Written from an ELCA viewpoint, but easily adaptable.  Click here for "Treasure Hunting," from the  Northwest Minnesota Synod, ELCA.

Help for church budget woes, but no quick fix. "It takes a long time and a lot of relearning for people to fight a debilitating disease like anorexia.  A whole different image of who they are and they are worth what is life giving have to be mastered. It is true for churches with poor stewardship."  Click here for "Hope for church budget woes," this week's essay from The Rev. Dana Reardon. To read previous columns in her archive, click here.

Profile: How Americans see themselves. What is your target group for new evangelism and stewardship? And how well do you really know the people who sit at the pews of your church Sunday after Sunday? This new profile from the respected Barna research group may help you gain insight, so your efforts may be more fruitful and productive. Click here for "How Americans see themselves," from The Barna Group.

Simplicity is a moving target. "There's nothing like a household move to reveal your true relationship with worldly possessions. Take it from me, in the midst of moving from the duplex where I've lived since 2002.  See, four years ago brought me a new start in life, a fresh beginning. I imagined centering my new life on the principles of simplicity, non-consumerism, prayer and discipline.  It was kind of Henry David Thoreau meets Thomas Merton. I vowed not to clutter my life or my little house with things that would distract from the spiritual life.
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Miracle Sunday stewardship. Here's a program outline for launching a financial campaign for a major project. Through the example and experience of a local church that wanted to pay off its mortgage to save interest and free up money for mission, you'll get ideas on how your own church can manage a successful stewardship campaign. From the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers.  This week's Treasure Chest offering.

August 14, 2006
Sacrifice for Growth. Church leaders always answer, "Of course" when asked if they want their congregation to grow. "The real question is are you willing to accept the changes needed.  Will you sacrifice stability, tradition, the status quo for flexibility, creativity and change? Most congregations say they want to grow but ONLY on their terms.  Click here for this essay by Tuck Aaker, stewardship columnist for ELCA Stewardship resources.

Stewardship Prayers Here are some fine prayers for any church occasion involving stewardship -- a  liturgy for Stewardship Sunday, to open or close a cottage meeting, to go with a sermon on giving. Includes a nice prayer service called "Stewardship: A way of Life," as well as stewardship prayer for children and other innovative prayers. Click here for "Stewardship Prayers," posted on the website of the ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod.

What Makes a Volunteer Tick? "I deal with so many people who give so much time for which they do not get paid, helping others and meeting human need.  And if there are any thank you's  or kudos, they are few and far between and so removed from the initial impulse to help that I doubt that they would be a motivating factor."  Click here for "What Makes a Volunteer Tick," this week's essay from The Rev. Dana Reardon. To read previous columns in her archive, click here.

Giving extravagantly. "We are people of great abundance, and we can afford to give extravagantly. Thousands of children still die each day from hunger in this world. How can we continue to deny an abundance that makes dieting a higher priority for us than searching for food? ... But the most important reason of all to give extravagantly is because we must give that way if we want to participate in the extravagant love of God, the giver of Jesus Christ."
Click here for "Giving Extravagantly. Prophetic words in an essay by Margaret G. Payne, Bishop of the New England Synod. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Miracle lessons for every Christian. "John's account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes has been stirring in my heart ever since we read it as the appointed Gospel a couple Sundays back. In particular, Jesus's actions just before feeding the multitude and just afterwards. In a miracle that handily demonstrates God's abundant providence, Jesus models two important stewardship principles.
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

August 7, 2006
New program! Celebrate Generosity. Here is a great resource for congregations looking for something new to do with stewardship. Celebrate Generosity aims to encourage members of a congregation to increase their giving up to a full tithe or another set goal amount. The free 27-page resource contains not only how-to guides, but also workshop outlines, sample handout materials and other materials. Everything you'll need. It's written by Eugene Grimm, one of the most respected stewardship authors today.  Click here for "Celebrate Generosity" posted on the website of the ELCA Central States Synod.

Rick Warren: Secrets of a fruitful ministry. From Rick Warren comes an essay on how ministers and churches can get the most out of their ministries.  "The Bible doesn’t use the word 'productivity;' instead, you’ll find the word 'fruitfulness.' This week I want to show you some principles that will produce a godly fruitfulness in your life."  Click here for "Secrets of a fruitful ministry," from Warren's website, Pastors.com.

Stewardship advice is just a prayer away. "Corporately we might pray that we be good stewards, but we don't often pray about money individually.  Okay, so maybe we do when it comes to needing some, or to give thanks when God has been generous. Do you ever pray, "Lord I just got a big raise, how should it change my life?"  or, "What should I do with my income tax return this year?" Click here for this weekly column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

20-Day Stewardship Devotional. Good for your stewardship committee, congregation council or general membership, here is a resource that will get your folks thinking and brainstorming about stewardship. Each Bible-based daily devotion challenges and inspires. Click here for "20-Day Stewardship Devotional," from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City. PDF file requires Acrobat Reader. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Who is up to the task of stewardship? "Against the deceptions of our self-absorbed culture, churches proclaim the Gospel truth of God's Reign breaking in all around us every day. God's Reign happens whenever the promise of God's love and salvation is proclaimed, heard and believed. The Gospel alone has the power to transform hearts from greed to generosity, to reorder our priorities and clear our vision."
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

July 31, 2006
Martin E. Marty: The joy of stewardship. In this essay, the esteemed theologian looks at the philanthropic partnership of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. " 'Giving back' is just about the highest theologically based motive.  Sorry if that's a cliché, but it has become so for having been stressed so frequently in the scriptures and traditions. " Click here for "The Joy of Stewardship," from Sightings, published by The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago.

Gifts in Action: Asset-based stewardship.  Here is a wonderful primer on asset-based stewardship, as well as workshops to explore the issue with the leaders of your church. "Asset-based stewardship begins with gratitude for the gifts God has given us. God gave us those gifts for a reason, and we are called to use them." Click here for "Asset-based stewardship," from the United Church of Canada Stewardship Resources.

The real miracle at the feeding of 5000. "There are all kinds of miracles going on in the story.  Often people want to focus on just one. They want to point to the miracle of being able to feed so many people with so little. That is what a real miracle is about isn't it? Doing what is impossible?" Click here for this weekly column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Douglas John Hall: Stewardship as a Human Vocation. With the world facing crises on many fronts, now more than ever it is time for people of faith to embrace their God-ordained vocations as stewards. From Douglas John Hall, one of North America's most prophetic theologian, an essay given as a lecture last year at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary. Click here for "Stewardship as a Human Vocation. (PDF file requires Adobe Reader.) This week's Treasure Chest offering.

The law's tithing versus the Gospel's free generosity.  "Next time you're at a church social function, go up to groups of 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. That's because a wide majority of churchgoers believes giving a tenth of their gross income is utterly impossible and totally unrealistic."
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

July 24, 2006
Radical generosity. This is the testimony of a business owner who went from a typical giver -- a cautious, "sacrificial" 2 percent giver -- to a deliriously happy tither. "The thing that has amazed us most is the joy! We experience more joy and satisfaction from the money we give away than from the money we keep. I have learned that among tithers this is a very common experience."
Click here for "Radical generosity." It's just one of the helpful stewardship resources from Stewardship in the 21st Century at Luther Seminary.

The measure of a steward. "We are the Body of Christ in this world.  Not just when we gather in church.  Sure, church is where the bread is broken and we are constituted into the Body of Christ, but it is in the world where we work and play that we are sent to be Christ to a hurting world." Click here for this weekly column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Fundamentals of Christian Stewardship.  Here's a no-nonsense explanation of what stewardship means to a walk of faith. "Jesus invites his disciples to practice inward freedom from consumption. Those who aspire to embrace Christian stewardship will be compelled to renounce a preoccupation with possessions and consumption." Click here for "Fundamentals of Christian Stewardship," from the Archdiocese of Detroit, Roman Catholic Church.

Every church's security nightmare. "At First Lutheran Church in Bend, Ore., a man entered the kitchen and demanded money from a church worker. When immediate assistance was not forthcoming, he grabbed a knife from a drawer, stabbed her in the abdomen, then fled. This kind of risk has been growing in recent years." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

5 ways to beat the clock. Stewardship of your personal time - and how timely! In the gospel for this past week the apostles were so busy they didn't even have time to eat. Here are some ideas for modern-day apostles like us. This article lists five tips for young adults, but they really apply to all of us. From Campus Life magazine.  This week's Treasure Chest offering.

July 17, 2006
'St. Hardup's' Stewardship Presentation. Is your church's financial picture as dire as that of St. Hardup in Stoneybroke? Maybe, maybe not, but here is a stewardship presentation that the fictitious parish -- and you -- might use to help improve things. Click here for "St. Hardup's Stewardship Presentation." It's just one of the helpful stewardship resources you can check out on the website of St. Asaph's Diocese in the the Church in Wales.

What is your stewardship credo? "The creeds express a world view which sees the primary work of God as bringing about salvation and reconciliation between God and God's people and among all God's people.  It is a sureness that God's Spirit is at work in this world, working through God's Word to bring people to faith and to the new life that God offers." Click here for this weekly column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

 Ministry to Deep-Pocket Donors. The wealthiest members of your congregation may be eager to assist -- or to assist more -- with the ministry of your church, and they can be encouraged to see their wealth as a spiritual gift, says a veteran pastor. "When I approach someone about giving, I don't see myself as a salesman, a fundraiser, or a beggar. I am the church's leader, charged with the responsibility of training every member to use his or her spiritual gift so that the body might be built up into the image of Christ."  Click here for "Ministry to Deep-Pocket Donors," from Building Church Leaders.

Why didn't Adam & Eve tithe? What was the original sin that Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden so long ago, and why should we be thinking about it in a stewardship column? I've been thinking about this for two reasons, the second of which is that Disney's movie Pirates of the Caribbean raked in a record-breaking $132 million on its first weekend."
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Loaves and fishes. This piece explores a biblical approach to "asset-based stewardship" for congregations. "Sometimes people phone or e-mail my office to inquire about stewardship resources. I often tell them that the Bible is our best stewardship book because it tells stories about Jesus, our finest stewardship teacher," writes Barb Fullerton, stewardship staff member with the United Church of Canada. Great reading! Click here for Loaves and fishes. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

July 10, 2006
Welcome to Stewardship. Churches looking for ideas for a soup-to-nuts stewardship program can take inspiration from this 51-page resource that outlines approaches, provides sample letters and tips for follow-up.
Click here for "Welcome to Stewardship," from the Stewardship Ministry of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America. While you're there, check out some of their other interesting resources. PDF file requires Adobe Reader.

Faithful discipleship is risky business. "A church that is willing to risk for the sake of the Gospel is young at heart and will grow and spread God's Word.  Churches that incur debt to grow are usually thriving. Churches that hang on to their money as if there is not going to be an offering next week begin to be in trouble." Click here for this weekly column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Stewardship: The 'S' word. What do Mainline Christians think about stewardship? This essay explores it from a Presbyterian perspective, which offers common sense and biblical theology. "A poor church is not one without money, but one without a vision. When people have a clear Biblical and theological understanding of the mission of the church, healthy stewardship practices emerge."  Click here for "Stewardship: The "S" word," from Presbyterians Today.

You Get What You Pay For. When it comes to wise stewardship of financial resources, going the cheap route can sometimes be counterproductive, says ELCA stewardship columnist Tuck Aaker. "There are many congregations that are ruled by the balance sheet, without regard to how it affects the mission that God has for that congregation. Click here for this column from ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Christian History Corner: Serving God with Mammon. John Wesley's wisdom for hard economic times: earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. Insights from Wesley, the 18th century founder of the Methodist Church, reported in this illuminating article. Click here for "Serving God with Mammon," from ChristainityToday.com. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

July 3, 2006
Assumptions about giving are hard to shake. "For all of you who still operate out of a Depression Era sense of scarcity, let me remind you that giving was much more generous in the Depression than it is now.  If giving increase even at the rate of inflation and increased wealth since then our churches would all be doing well." Click here for this weekly column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Resistance to Pledging? Ways to Respond. "Are pledges down, but the money seems to be coming in at a rate somewhat above the previous year? If so, your church is not unusual. Many committees on finance are very anxious because won't people sign their pledge cards and turn them in."  This two-part article deals with the phenomenon and how to handle it.
Click here for "part one, "Resistance to pledging." Click here for part two, "How to Respond.  From the United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship.

The Realistic Forecast. Low-performing organizations, including struggling congregations, frequently fail because they do not set their sights high enough, says ELCA stewardship columnist Tuck Aaker. "The Cardinal Rule in setting goals is don’t ever set goals so low you can reach them. Set them so high you have to stretch to have a chance to come close!" Click here for this column from ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Bicycling pastor models good stewardship. "A pastor I know is a great stewardship role model for his congregation, his fellow pastors-- and everybody who sees him pedal down the street. He rides his sturdy bicycle almost everywhere he needs to go. The pastor is making a statement and also setting excellent examples of good stewardship on a number of points."
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Giving hilariously: No-nonsense stewardship. “For God loves a cheerful giver,” St. Paul writes in Cor. 9:6-7. When greed is in charge, we cling to money and possessions as if they were permanently ours. When we rise above greed, we give to God's work 'hilariously.' The Greek word we translate 'cheerful' is 'hilarious.' Paul challenges us to give 'hilariously.' That means giving spontaneously and giving joyfully. The Macedonians rose above greed by giving hilariously. So can we!” Click here for "Giving hilariously," from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

June 26, 2006
Madison Church is Solar Powered. How's your church's electricity bill? Well, a church in Madison, Wis., spent some money upfront but is now getting about 25 percent of its power from the sun. An inspiring story of innovation.  Click here for "Madison Church is Solar Powered" From Lutheran Earthkeeping Network of the Synods.

Relish, Embrace, Use Silence. The silence between activity gives meaning to all of it. Think about it for a minute. Every new and creative thought comes out of the silence and not out of the constant stream of commentary in your brain. God breaks into the silence to talk to us." Click here for this column from the archives of Pastor Dana Reardon, who is on vacation this week. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Biblical and Theological Foundations of Stewardship. "Stewardship begins with knowledge of the character of God. Knowing who God is and what God has done.  Faithful stewards know the story of God inside and out.  And then they give thanks."  This is an insightful and lively talk from Dr. Diane Jacobson, professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary. 
Click here for "Biblical and Theological Foundations." From Luther Seminary's Stewardship for the 21st Century program.

The Bedrock of Stewardship. "A colleague in ministry attended a conference on evangelism and came away rolling his eyes. All the programs and earnest ideas seemed like gimmicks, he said, compared to the simple evangelism strategy he read in the above passage from Acts. I’ve been mulling it over and think it may apply to the fund-raising and budget making aspects of stewardship as well."
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from a 2005 edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

The Bible and Money. Pastors, start your stewardship sermons! Generous Giving has a handy index of Bible stories and passages related to stewardship. For sermon illustrations, look up some fund-raisers in the Bible (such as Ezra and King Josiah) or generous givers, false givers, money advisors, etc.  Click here for "The Bible and Money." From Generous Giving. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

June 19, 2006
'It Blows My Mind:' Six Points on Stewardship. In this sermon, master preacher Edward F. Markquart talks about tithing. "It always amazes me that those who tithe rarely complain about money and they always seem to have enough money to do what they need to do. Those who complain the most, seem to give the least. I truly believe that God cares for us in all our needs." Click here for "It Blows My Mind" From Sermons from Seattle.

God is always creating and re-creating.
 "If we conceive of creation as something that happened in the past when God created the heavens and the earth, then getting back to the original state would be good. But when we understand creation as the ongoing work of the  Trinity, then we look forward to something new and better." Click here for this column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Making Christ Known 2006. Congregations of the ELCA can use this free magazine and downloadable resource to help educate their members about how they fit into the larger scheme of God's church. In feature articles and photographs, Making Christ Known describes ministries on the Synod, Churchwide and agency levels funded by their benevolence dollars. 
Click here for "Making Christ Known." From the ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Don't forget the Dads! "Is your church doing something special to honor the Dads this Sunday? It should, In fact, congregations should be doing everything they can to get Dads and other men deeply into the life of faith. Why? Because fathers who are active in church are much more likely to raise children to be churchgoers than mothers who are active in church. It's true."
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from a 2005 edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Who do you believe owns it all?"My hunch is most Christians would agree with this statement: God owns it all. But will your estate plan reveal you believed it? Most of us approach estate planning with fear and trepidation, or we treat it as a necessary chore. But estate planning is nothing more than intentionally giving away whatever assets we have come to possess." Click here for "Who do you believe owns it all?" Good reading from www.MoneyandFaith.net.

June 12, 2006
Ten functions of an effective stewardship committee. Now and then an impartial "reality check" helps any committee stay on target and focused. It's especially true for congregational stewardship committees, who often have to juggle multiple tasks. This helpful paper offers clear and concise goals.  Click here for "Ten Functions." From the Stewardship pages of the Central States Synod.

The stewardship of prayer. Here's a great resource for teaching stewardship to children from the United Methodist Church. This one deals with prayer, but it's just one of continuing series of activities and ideas for exploring stewardship.  Click herefor "The Stewardship of Prayer." Check out the others in the series, entitled Stewardship Nuggets for Families and Children -- all from the Center for Christian Stewardship of the United Methodist Church.

Stewards must pay close attention. "It's amazing how quickly we adapt to a changing reality that we fail to notice even profound changes, so long as they happen slowly enough. Such has been a problem convincing many people that environmental problems are real. "
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

June 4, 2006
Henri Nouwen: The spirituality of fundraising.  "You don’t say, 'Please we have a nice little project going here, and wouldn’t you like to help us out a bit?' No! You say, 'Aren’t you glad that we, who give our time and our lives to a holistic, ecologic fertility and health care, invite you in and aren’t you delighted that you are allowed to make your resources available for this great work?' Click here for "The spirituality of fundraising," a transcript of a conversation with Henri Nouwen made available by Generous Giving.

Mom was right: We must clean up after ourselves.  "We think that we can continue to pollute until we run out of fossil fuels or until a cleaner source of energy comes along, and then we can clean it all up and everything will be fine. Christians do not have a great track record when it comes to taking care of the environment." Click here for this column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Great stewardship website! New Jersey Synod. A  great website for congregational stewardship got a lot better recently with a redesign. Resources are all extremely useful for  leaders in Mainline congregations. Moreover, they are organized into neat categories and accessible via handy pull-down menus.  Click here for the Stewardship Page of the New Jersey Synod.

Is your church contributor-friendly?  "A smaller percentage of church donations comes via the traditional check-in-the-collection-plate. In fact, a growing number of people (I am one) do their banking electronically and simply loathe writing checks. Others would rather give their via credit card. Does your church give them guidance?"
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Where your treasure is, your heart will be also. "In our lives we want to desperately hold on to what we have -- people, relationships, material possessions, power, prestige, and even money. And we don't want anyone else to tell us what to do with any of them. We tend to think they are ours to have and to hold from this time forth and forever more. But these are only temporary." Click here for "Where your treasure is." Inspirational reading from the Rev. Kristi Beebe in The Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

May 29, 2006
Great weblink: Stewardship Sermon Starters.  Here's a site to bookmark in your "stewardship" folder in Favorites. (You DO have a Favorites folder for Stewardship, right?) This one gives a stewardship take on the weekly lectionary offering. It helps pastors weave stewardship into their messages, so stewardship becomes more than just one sermon in October. Click here for Stewardship Sermon Starters, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Managing God's bounty. There is no better bargain to be had in this world than fact that God lets you keep 90 percent of what is really God's. Even if we rightly turn over our life to God and let God run it.  if we see God as our manager, then it is still a bargain, because any other manager would want 15 percent." Click here for this column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Is our church ready for a capital campaign?  "That’s a far more important question than most church leaders might think. Conducting a capital campaign is a rare occurrence in the overall lifecycle of the church and it must be successful or the failure may take years for the church to overcome." This article lists signs your church is ready. Click here for "Is our church ready for a capital campaign?" from ChurchCentral.com.

The happiness factor. "OK, Pastor. You preach the gospel in its purity and administer the sacraments with fidelity to the Scriptures. You see evidence that the Word of God is working in your congregation. Good job! So now what else can you do to help your congregation members live better, more fulfilled lives? Help them to be happy. "
Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Planned giving awareness in the local church.  "It would appear that God and the IRS agree on one thing -- we can't take it with us," says this compelling article that explains why churches are frequently overlooked in their members' wills -- and how pastors and stewardship leaders can change things. Click here for "Planned giving awareness." Good reading from Planned Giving Today -- a newsletter for philanthropic professionals. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

May 22, 2006
Thomas Berry: Ethics and Ecology. In this address, theologian Thomas Berry frames the issues of environmental stewardship. "The natural world surrounding us is simply the context in which human affairs take place. Our relations with this more encompassing community are completely different from our relations to the human world. In the presence of the human, the natural world has no rights."  Click here for "Ethics and Ecology." From the Environmental Ethics and Public Policy Program.

The Practice of Stewardship: A Spiritual Discipline in Response to God's Grace. "The practice of stewardship begins with hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament that changes our hearts and wills so that we become the generous children of God. ... Stewardship is everything that we do after we say, 'I believe.'" A good essay from Gary Hedding, assistant to the bishop of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin.  Click here for "The Practice of Stewardship," from the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers.

Personal fulfillment versus fulfilling God's purposes  "I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be stewards of the mysteries of God. We talk a lot in stewardship circles about using our gifts. And each of us has great gifts that can be used for the glory of God. But the Gospel is a greater gift and all the others are in service to it." Click here for this column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

Go in Peace! Serve the Lord! Thanks be to God! "The words above, familiar to millions of Lutherans as the sending prayer to conclude weekly worship, shine brilliantly in their simplicity and power. The prayer captures the essence of our discipleship response to the Gospel:" Click here for this archive column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

For Youth! 10-10-80: Empowering Steward Leaders. It's a problem facing many a parent and congregation: How to teach youth to handle money responsibly. This program inspires young people to give 10 percent, save 10 percent and spend 80 percent. Good lessons for people of all ages. Includes free online materials and a DVD available for a nominal cost of $5. Click here to learn more about 10-10-80, produced by three Lutheran Synods in Wisconsin, the ELCA Department for Communication and Augsburg Fortress Publishers, with funding from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

May 15, 2006
Stewardship: Managing the Christian Life. Here is an interesting take on Christian stewardship in the most prosperous nation the world has ever from Gary Moore, author of a number of books, including Faithful Finances 101. "I’d like to tell you that studies say the more we make and have, the more we give and save. And I’d like to tell you that the same studies say we’re growing happier. Unfortunately, that’s not the case."  Click here for "Managing the Christian Life." Check out Moore's website, Financial Seminary.

The Debt Slayers: Christian Financial Advisors.
Pastors, do members of your flock struggle with credit cards? They're not alone. Americans are blessed with record wealth, but paradoxically are accumulating record amounts of debt as well. This article looks at the growing boom of Christian financial advisors, including the guy in the previous resource. Click here for "The Debt Slayers." Good reading from ChristianityToday.com.

Jesus' subversive message.   "One week the Sunday school lesson was on Jesus saying, "If someone asks for your coat, give him your cloak also."  The teacher clearly understood the subversive message of Jesus but it made her uncomfortable. She said, "Jesus didn't really mean for you to do that." Really? Then just what did Jesus mean?" Click here for this column from the archives of pastor Dana Reardon.

Stewardship lessons from $3-a-gallon gasoline.
"Pastors and finance committee chairs have long known that when it comes to giving to their congregations, many members look at their contributions the way they look at their gasoline bills: What's the least I have to pay?" Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Stewardship: A handbook. Here's a resource available for free PDF download - a sort of "stewardship 101" guide for congregational leaders. It covers a variety of topics, from Scripture references to programs to nurturing stewardship. It's prepared by the Episcopal Church of Scotland, and the principles apply just as well this side of the Atlantic. Click here for "Stewardship: A handbook," from The Episcopal Network for Stewardship. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

May 8, 2006
Advice from the pros on stewardship training. This article discusses the common mistakes churches make when looking at stewardship -- and suggests steps for turning things around. "To cultivate a generous spirit, churches must disciple people in stewardship, fundraising experts say."  Click here for "Advice from the pros." From ChristianityToday.com

Developing a vision for God's Kingdom.  "Every community need can be seen as an opportunity to share God's love.  We should be getting up every morning and wondering how we can share God's love and spending our days looking for resources and opportunities to further the kingdom." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns from her archives.

Stop the bleeding!
"There are always more calls for help in turning problems around in the early spring. ... The best advice for congregations in a 'funk' that they can’t seem to get out of is to step back from the table and look at their congregation through a different set of glasses." Click here for this column by ELCA Stewardship Columnist Tuck Aaker, from ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Stewardship lessons from poets and prophets. "More than us ordinary people, poets and prophets recognize that beauty and divinity are all around us all the time. In some ways, the principal work of the Almighty is to open the eyes of God's people. Jesus, God incarnate, came and dwelled with us that we, too, would see that we are loved by God, and free to open our eyes to the beauty and wonder of our lives as it unfolds moment by moment. Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Bible Study: Stewardship as a lifestyle. This brilliant and insightful resource by former Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson helps bring church members into a fuller understanding of holistic stewardship. "Stewardship is like a magnet passing over the jumbled pins and needles of our life, organizing them into a meaningful pattern. Stewardship is the Christian lifestyle." Click here for "Stewardship as a lifestyle."   This week's Treasure Chest item.

May 1, 2006
Year-Round Stewardship Crusaders. Here's an interesting, thoughtful and concise resource that could be used for a Bible study, sermon starter or stewardship workshop in your congregation. Using an image from the Crusades as a point of departure, the resource explores holistic stewardship from several angles. From those creative folks at the New Jersey Synod of the ELCA. Click here for "Year-Round Stewardship Crusaders. Available also in PDF.

A lifetime of servanthood is built day by day. "Our church secretary retired this week.  It will be a loss for us, but I pray that it will be a blessing to her.  I believe she has retired a few times before.  She used her gifts in the corporate world for many years and then worked in another church before here." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns from her archives.

How to motivate generosity. Subtitled "Re-teaching six principles of Christian giving," this article provides a handy, concise framework on which to base discussion in your congregation -- or a sermon series. "While our wealth has increased, most Christian leaders of the last few generations have ignored teaching the biblical imperatives of giving." Click here for "How to motivate generosity," from ChurchBusiness.com.

Has Earth Day's time arrived at last? "Maybe it's the mounting evidence of global warming -- the melting ice caps, the ferocious storms and tornadoes, the lengthening growing season, the migration of tropical insects into temperate zones, etc. -- that is causing people of faith to take the environment seriously. But then, maybe it's gas at $3 a gallon." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Bible Study: Kingdom, Mission and Money. Here is an insightful two-week study is to help us better understand what the Kingdom of God is, and how all Christians are called to the mission of seeing God's Kingdom come 'on earth as it is in heaven'. Includes participant and leader guides available for free PDF download. Click here for "Kingdom, mission and money." From Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader: Click here for a free download. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

April 24, 2006

Plan to celebrate Rogation Sunday on May 21. The sixth Sunday of Easter, this year May 21, is the traditional Rogation Sunday, when Christians ask God's blessing on the fields and farms. We need it because our culture has become more insulated than ever from the earth's seasons and cycles of life. A pastor from Canada called Rogation Sunday  "a Christian Earth Day," a traditional time honoring God's creation. Here are some resources you can use May 21 -- or any Sunday you want to remember God's handiwork:
Click here for a service from the Resource Center, Northwest Synod of Wisconsin.
Click here for a service from the Center for Theology and Land, run by Wartburg Theological Seminary and the University of Dubuque Seminary.
Click here for a service from the Stewardship of Life Institute (that's us!).
Click here  for Rogation FAQ and resources from the ELCA.
Click here for liturgical resources from Web of Creation.

Unwrap and use your God-given talents. "If watching American Idol inspires you to find out what you are made of and what you are capable of, then God bless it.  If it just keeps you from exploring who you are and what gifts God has given you to use in this world, then turn it off and get out there. Who are you and who is this God who has made you? Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns from her archives.

Starting somewhere: 5 views on giving  "Both the anecdotal evidence and the research point to the fact that biblical stewardship has been Christianity's silent subject for 40 to 50 years. Today, there is a whole generation of church leaders who have not had biblical stewardship principles taught or modeled to them in any effective way.!"  Click here for "5 Views" from ChurchCentral.com.

Easter: Now that was a Sabbath! "Our oh-so Christian nation reveres the Ten Commandments, and yet it turns a blind eye to the widespread sin of not keeping the Sabbath Day holy. The full text of the commandment spells out clearly that cessation from work is how God wants us to keep it holy." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

The church's call to environmental stewardship. The biblical call to stewardship will lead us to foster quality of life. The quality of life that is measured only by material goods and economic factors is incomplete. Total quality of life must include the health and stability of the natural world, relative justice and peace for people, and the free and true worship of God Almighty. It is on this basis, on this biblical vision, that Christians are motivated to respond to ecological crises." Click here for "The church's call to environmental stewardship," by Gilson A.C. Waldkoenig in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

April 17, 2006
Leaders Notes to Biblical Stewardship Principles. This guide is designed to help workshop or study-session leaders to present to a lay congregational audience another resource, Biblical Stewardship Principles (which we have featured previously on this page). The two pieces go together very well and make great additions to you church stewardship library. Click here for "Leaders Notes." Click here for the Biblical Stewardship Principles. Both from Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Stewardship Ministry.

The cross powers our teaching on stewardship. "Often people will point to someone really generous that they admire and say, 'I would like to be like that.'  They think if the feelings of generosity ever comes then they will be able to give like that person and live like that person.  But in the meantime, they sit where they are and nothing changes" Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns from her archives.

The 7 myths of volunteerism. "Debunk these myths to help your volunteers reach their full potential," reads the subtitle of this insightful article by Bill Hybels, pastor of the famed Willow Creek Church.  When you recognize the laypeople in the congregation ready and willing to pull behind your ministries, imagine the things your church can do. Good reading!  Click here for "The 7 myths," from Building Church Leaders magazine.

Stewardship Lessons for Holy Week. "It comes down to this: We are the inheritors and stewards of God's movement to intervene decisively in worldly affairs, to reconcile and save humanity and all of creation. We are stewards of the bold message that through the unlikely person of Jesus of Nazareth, a ragamuffin rabbi from a no account backwater of the Ancient Near East, God has come and announced the Good News for all people until the end of the Age." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Time and Money: When either one runs low, you've got a problem. "Most pastors are not formally trained in financial management. Yet in many churches, it is the pastor who assumes responsibility for properly managing church finances. Is the pastor aware of the monetary risks that can threaten a ministry?" Click here for "Time and Money," from Your Church magazine. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

April 10, 2006
Environmental stewardship: Eco congregation. This is another gem of a program put together by our visionary Christian brothers and sisters from the United Kingdom. In this case, Churches Together collaborated on a comprehensive 12-module program for congregations to educate their parishioners about environmental stewardship AND to implement policies in their local church that would support it. Tons of good stuff! Click here for the main page. To view the modules, look on the navigation bar and click on "free resources."

The physics of financial giving. "Often people will point to someone really generous that they admire and say, 'I would like to be like that.'  They think if the feelings of generosity ever comes then they will be able to give like that person and live like that person.  But in the meantime, they sit where they are and nothing changes" Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns from her archives.

The stewardship of prayer. Here's a great resource for teaching stewardship to children from the United Methodist Church. This one deals with prayer, but it's just one of continuing series of activities and ideas for exploring stewardship.  Click here for "The Stewardship of Prayer." Check out the others in the series, entitled Stewardship Nuggets for Families and Children -- all from the Center for Christian Stewardship of the United Methodist Church.

In giving, our values become abundantly clear. "We are saved by grace and not by works -- thank God! -- but the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 or Luke 19:12-27) certainly implies that God is not indifferent to how we use the abundance with which we are blessed. Yet statistics show that Christians do not give very much to support their churches financially." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Down-to-Earth Theology. One of the most prophetic voices in American Christian thought, Sojourners magazine devotes its entire March 2004 issue to the environment. Every article is rich, provocative, passionate and faithful. Free access requires registration. Highlights:
Consider the Turtles of the Field - Many evangelicals find themselves in an emerging theological habitat, where care of creation is central to mission.
Rockfish, Redfish, Stockfish, Foodfish - Seven biblical principles for the care of creation.
To Serve and Preserve - The Bible calls us to dominion over creation. Or does it? 
Sins of Emission  - No politician seriously believes that Americans are willing to deal with global warming. Is it too late to prove them wrong?  By Bill McKibben. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

April 3, 2006
Comprehensive program! Giving in Grace If you're looking for a long-term overhaul of your congregational stewardship program, here's the mother lode! This is a wonderful resource that touches all the bases you could imagine. It was put together by the Church of England's Diocese of Liverpool to energize the giving in its congregations, and it's extremely adaptable! You'll find checklists, workshop explorations, PowerPoint presentations and other detailed resources. Tons of good stuff! Spend time with this website!  Click here for the main page. Here are the highlights:
Timetable - Plan your program, program your plan!
Leadership - Get your people on board. Here's how, and WHY!
Prayer and liturgical resources
- The worship connection.
Preaching - Three suggested preaching series, with planning help.
Communication - Brochures, letters, a strategy, and more.
Interaction - Ideas for visitation, meetings, etc.

Wholly enjoy your holy abundance. "When we really understand that it is a giving and generous God who has created us and all that exists and desire to give it all to us, then we can indeed enjoy every moment and savor every mouthful and recognize the abundance of truly being given the Kingdom." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Paul's brilliant stewardship appeal. "St. Paul was a genius who possessed multiple gifts. An enthusiastic evangelist, he was also a brilliant thinker, a great writer and -- surprise surprise -- a superb motivator. All these things are apparent in the 9th Chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians. The chapter could stand alone as a stewardship appeal letter, and it ought to be studied by every congregational finance and stewardship committee." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Capital Fund Drives & Capital Debt Reduction Programs: What to Ask and What to Expect. Looking for some solid answers to your questions about a congregational capital campaign? Philip Reitz, deployed DCM stewardship specialist, provides some essential answers. Posted on  ELCA Region 1 website.   Click here for "Capital Fund Drives & Capital Debt Reduction Programs."  This week's Treasure Chest offering.

March 27, 2006
Earth Day Resources: Through the eye of a hurricane. Looking for something relevant and challenging for Earth Day? Here is a full set of free materials focusing on the issues raised by Hurricane Katrina. You'll find sermon helps, a liturgy for worship, Sunday school ideas and bulletin inserts. Nice package from the Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches in Christ.  Requires free registration and Adobe Reader to download PDF documents. Click here for "Through the eye of a hurricane."

Faith focuses us on the mission. "People who received or witnessed miracles came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that God was truly at work in the world.  That was the point of the miracles then, and that is still the point of the miracles today." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Forget attendance, Barna calls for tracking holiness. Research by the respected Barna Institute show that pastors may overestimate their parishioner's depth of faith. "Barna says the average congregant gives only 2-3 percent, not a 10 percent tithe. How could this giver then report his faith in God is his No. 1 priority? Money talks."  Click here for "Forget attendance," by Rebecca Barnes, editor of ChurchCentral.com.

Getting rid of 'all the crap'.
"I have friends who only half joke that they need a bigger house to hold all their crap. Funny thing is, after a while, we don’t even see how much stuff we have. Relatives who are selling their home of 35 years were advised by the real estate broker to get rid of a lot of their accumulated junk. They were shocked." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Sermon: Why tithe?
"For many people, tithing falls into the same category as bungee-jumping and sky-diving: something that may show courage but seems pretty extreme and is something they would never, ever want to try! Biblically speaking, a good case could be made that tithing really falls into quite a different category. It falls into the same category as moral purity, financial honesty, personal integrity" Click here for "Why Tithe."  By the Rev. William Martens, pastor of Richland Lutheran Church, Richland, Wash. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

March 20, 2006
A Bible study for church leaders who hate to ask for money. Here is a wonderful Bible study that explores the problems that result when leaders are afraid to ask for money. "We need a new attitude. Stewardship is an essential part of the gospel. Scripture calls Christians to be responsible for the mission and ministry of the church." Click here for this study, from the " Living in Abundance" series at Luther Seminary.

A miracle for 'Miracle Sunday.' " Yearly deficit budgets can rob us of hope long before the money runs out.  That is what the miracle was about.  We have hope.  We see that God has blessed us with all that we need to do the work that God has given us." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

'School for Stewardship' Manual. "Converted Lives, Transforming Congregations" was the topic of a stewardship seminar held by Province I of the Episcopal Church. The good news for all of us who did not attend is that the Episcopal Church is making the resource materials available online for PDF download. Papers range from such topics as "year Round Stewardship" to "Gospel-based Discipleship."  Click here for an index of these resources. From the Episcopal Church Stewardship Page.

Take a day off - that's an order! "Our economy thrives on teaching people to focus on what they do not have. Unhappiness motivates people to work harder and consume more. When they still are not happy, they do not challenge the false premise that consumption can bring happiness. Instead, they believe they simply have not consumed enough." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Our Charge: To Do God's Work. "We must provide a way for each member of the body of Christ to exercise his or her gifts, including the gift of financial support to the church. We believe it is essential to ask for regular commitments which address the basic needs of the church. The early church took care of the basics by the people sharing everything they had, something that is probably not practical with today's lifestyle, but the concept provides the foundation for the commitments we make today." Click here for "Our Charge."  By Lt. Col. David Penman, USMC, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

March 13, 2006
What is your personal mission statement? "Shouldn't every Christian see what God intended in this world even when it is not yet much in evidence and then work to make it happen? Begin by re-examining who you are.  Maybe look at your birth certificate, but more likely your baptismal certificate." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Gratitude and gaining your life.  "Our economy thrives on teaching people to focus on what they do not have. Unhappiness motivates people to work harder and consume more. When they still are not happy, they do not challenge the false premise that consumption can bring happiness. Instead, they believe they simply have not consumed enough." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

The positives of pledging.  Whether we call it a pledge, a commitment, an intent, or something else, it all comes down to the same thing: a statement that a proportionate share of our monetary resources is to be given for the proclamation of the Gospel. It says that our Christian giving is not only on a par with everything else in our household budget, but indeed is at the top of the list! We want to give the first fruits for the Lord’s work!" Click here for "The positives of pledging," from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

March 6, 2006

First Steps to Personal Budget Plans. When churches help their members to get their finances in order, their members can better contribute to the church. How we handle our money bears witness to our Christian maturity and commitment. Studies show that eighty percent of a church's budget is contributed by only twenty percent of its membership. Other studies show that differences over money constitute one of the greatest stresses in a marriage. Click here for "First Steps to Personal Budget Plans," from United Methodist Church's Center for Christian Stewardship.

Where is your time and money going? Really. "Lent is starting, and it is a good time to rethink so many things and to do more deliberately what we would like to do with our time, ourselves and our possessions -- or more appropriately, what God would like us to do with them." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Generosity down, creativity up in church funding. "The bad news about church funding is that the overall increase in American wages over the past several decades is ironically slowing down the generosity of churchgoers."  Click here for "Generosity down," from Church Central.

Lenten sacrifice for grown-ups. "Doing without a favorite food provides a Christian the opportunity for reflection, discipline and strength. But although foregoing treats is a great way to introduce Lent to the kids, I wonder whether giving up ice cream is a sacrifice worthy of a mature walk of faith." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Top 5 Reasons Why People Give. This article sheds a lot of light on a subject that's often mysterious to many church leaders. "Of course, there is no greater cause than the cause of Christ. However, that is not enough to motivate people to give to your ministry, especially when others can claim that they exist for the same cause.  Churches that strategically assimilate people into the life of their fellowship, and then present to them a compelling vision for the ministry, are more likely to stimulate sacrificial giving of the kind that goes well beyond the normal 1 percent or 2 percent of a person's income." Click here for "Top 5 Reasons," from Church Executive magazine. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Feb. 27, 2006
Stewardship for small churches. If you're looking for some ideas to freshen up the stewardship campaign for your church, this resource may be for you. "Remember: Stewardship is more than financial giving. It is a sense of thanksgiving for all that God has given us, including care giving for the world around us! Click here for "Stewardship for small churches" from Building Church Leaders.

The money we spend wisely does good, too. "There are so many small decision about our money and our stewardship that we struggle with when perhaps we don't have to.  Some of us spend more on our houses or cars or vacations." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Lenten Energy Fast Here's a Lenten devotional/discipline guide with a "green stewardship" emphasis. It lists 40 simple environmentally friendly things you can do -- one for each day of Lent. Great family resource to help educate children on environmental stewardship.   Click here for "Lenten Energy Fast, from Maine Interfaith Power and Light.

Ash Wednesday: When stewards take stock. "The words and gesture express our lowly condition as human beings: Time will and destroy us, despite the defensive ramparts and barricades we construct with our money, our fame, our beauty, our power, and so on. So if death and dust are inevitable, Ash Wednesday asks us, why do we human beings build our silly defenses as if, as if they will protect us?" Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Give with pure joy  "The number one danger is that what you are giving to is to a church or an organization, not giving it to God. There is a difference." Good observations in a sermon by the Rev. Ronald Burcham, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, LCMS, Urbandale, IA. Click here for "Give with pure joy. This week's Treasure Chest offering.
 
Faith in a positive future. In this Stewardship Now! column, Tuck Aacker observes that few pastors seem interested in growth-oriented ministries. "It’s hard to understand why young pastors would prefer to 'keep things the way they are,' when they look at the tremendous numbers of people in this country that profess to be Christians, but don’t attend a church worship service." Click here for "Faith in a positive future," from ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Feb. 20, 2006

Stewardship as a Lenten discipline. Take on a different discipline this lent -- stewardship! "Our theology of stewardship suggests that being good stewards is another way to describe how we act as disciples or followers of Jesus' way of being. In relating stewardship to discipleship, then, perhaps we might learn ways to become better stewards through a Lenten discipline" Click here for "Stewardship as a Lenten discipline" from United Church of Canada.

Good stewardship means letting go. "We profess that it all belongs to God and we are just the caretakers.  And yet instead of seeing what the best use is for what we have and how it can benefit the most people, we hang on as if it really belongs to us, as if only we could best utilize it, while in truth no one is benefiting and none of it is being used for any good purpose." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

7 Ways to Increase Giving in Your Congregation. Here's a handy, concise guide for pastors and congregational leaders looking for fresh wrinkles on an old problem. "Work smarter instead of harder at stewardship. Here are seven things you should be doing if you're serious about increasing giving from your members." Click here for "7 Ways," from The United Church of Christ Stewardship Resources.

Obesity is a symptom, not a disease. "As a culture, we Americans medicate and pacify ourselves with consumption. And not just food. Because it’s not only America’s waistlines that are getting bigger, but also the mini-mansion houses we’re building, the overstuffed cars and light trucks we’re putting on the road, the increasingly ostentatious wedding receptions we’re throwing, and on and on." Click here for this archive column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

40 Days of Generosity: Free online Lenten devotions. Here is a wonderful resource  for disciples and congregations alike -- daily Lenten devotions exploring generosity. Online resources also provide prayers, activities and more. Click here to go to the index for 40 Days of Generosity. It's a 2005 calendar, but can easily be adapted for this year. From the ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Feb. 13, 2006

The spiritual riches of prayer life This is a free study guide for congregations from the president of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. "Do you feel you need perspective on your prayers or on how prayer may transform you in the process? The writings of Martin Luther say much about the promise of prayer, which is a gift from God. Not only is prayer a gift from God, but it is also a command." Click here for ""The Riches of Prayer Life." from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Gospel, not guilt, best motivates givers." Do what my seminary Professor  Tim Wengert told me every time I e-mailed from my first parish with a problem. 'Preach the Gospel, Dana.'  Or as it says on his business card that I carry in my wallet and should look at more often, 'Preach the damn Gospel.'" Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Martin E. Marty: Bonhoeffer Now. In honor of this month's 100th anniversary of the birth of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, here is another essay looking at the martyr's life and impact. In this, noted theologian Martin Marty wrestles with the great paradox of Bonhoeffer's witness: He was a pacifist who participated in a plot to kill hitler.  Click here for "Bonhoeffer Now," from The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago.

The lessons of 'financial fasting.' "By doing without I learned how little of what I consume I actually need for nutrition. I saw the degree to which my incessant nibbling and snacking arose out of pure habit, and not real hunger. As an experiment, I expanded this to my consumer life, setting aside “financial fasting” days when I would simply buy nothing." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Faith-raising, not fund-raising. "Saddleback Community Church's 'next step' strategy of helping even the most disconnected individual take a step of faith in God’s direction, allows us to help guide anyone’s growth towards God’s intentions. Even in the difficult area of becoming a financially fit and faithful steward."  Insights from Saddleback Community Church, founded by Rick Warren. Click here for "Faith-raising, not fund-raising," from Building Church Leaders magazine. This week's Treasure Chest offering. 

Feb. 6, 2006
Best stewardship practices. The Lutheran church asked 85 experts around the nation about what works best for congregational stewardship. Their wisdom is distilled in this handy, concise guide. A good "reality check" for finance and stewardship leaders. Click here for "Best stewardship practices." from ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Yes, it's about money, too! "Often people will say to me that stewardship is not all about money. Whenever someone gives me that line, I get a little suspicious that they are looking for some kind of absolution for their guilty feelings of not giving enough." Click here for this archived classic column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Four big reasons for churches to teach giving. "I often like to say that 'no church has a money problem, they have a faithfulness problem.' God has generously given financial blessings, resources, and provisions to his people, but they need to be taught, encouraged, and instructed to faithfully share the best of what God has given them." Click here for "Four big reasons," from ChurchCentral.com.

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer at 100. "Feb. 4 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the remarkable German Lutheran pastor and theologian who opposed Adolph Hitler. For stewards, Bonhoeffer offers insightful teachings about commitment expressed in action, as well as an example of a God-given life well-used. " Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Jim Wallis: When I first met Bonhoeffer. On the occasion of Dietrich's 100th birthday this month, we continue with essays about his life and impact. This is from Jim Wallis, a founder of Sojourners - Christians for Justice and Peace, and editor of Sojourners magazine. "Bonhoeffer will appeal today to all who are drawn to Jesus Christ, because at the heart of everything Bonhoeffer believed and did was the centrality of Christ. The liberal habit of diminishing the divinity of Christ or dismissing his incarnation, cross, and resurrection had no appeal for Bonhoeffer." Click here for "When I first met Bonhoeffer," from SojoMail, Soujourners' weekly e-zine.

The Spirituality of Stewardship. "Stewardship is undeniably fruitful. Where, over time, more and more parishioners become engaged in committing their time, talent and treasure to the work of the Gospel, the Church flourishes. Parishes report an upsurge in volunteer engagement, a greater fervor in the prayer life of the community, a more effective outreach to those in need, an increase in religious and priestly vocations, and so on." Click here for "The Spirituality of Stewardship," by Thomas Collins, Archbishop of the Edmonton, Ontario, Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Jan. 30, 2006
Rick Warren: How big is your vision?  From the "Purpose-Driven Pastor" comes great advice on growing your ministry. "The issue is not who do you think you are, but whodo you think God is? In your dreams for your ministry, don't limit yourself by saying, 'What can I do?' Instead ask, 'What can God do in this place?' "  Click here for "How big is your vision?" from Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free weekly newsletter for pastors.

Mission and money: How to bring entrepreneurship into your organization. "Mission plays a central role in nonprofits, defining the organization's reason for being, and answering why the organization is in operation. But to exploit all the opportunities open to them, nonprofit organizations must understand more than mission, customers, and the organization's programs—they must also understand its revenue model." Click here for a "Mission and money," from onPhilanthropy.com.

Do we trust God with our souls, but not our wallets? "The reasons that people give are pretty simple, but the reasons that people withhold their giving are much more complicated. If you talk to someone who tithes they will say something like, 'God has done so much for me,'  or, 'It is all about gratitude,' or 'It all belongs to God anyway.'  They are all variations on a theme that puts God at the center of their lives." Click here for this week's column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Give your congregation the 'Malachi challenge' "Preaching one week on Malachi 3:10, the pastor simply dared his congregation to do what God asks -- to put God to the test by giving a tenth of their income to the church and see whether God would not 'open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.' The pastor challenged the congregation to try it for just a month and see if their lives would not be blessed." Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Digging Deeper: Money and Your Heart "Money can make it hard for an independently minded person to admit his need and dependently trust Christ for eternal salvation. Luke 18:18-30 [the story of the wealthy young man] does not teach that giving to the poor will merit one’s salvation. Other New Testament passages make it clear that salvation is not the result of good works. Luke simply illustrates how riches can hinder a relationship with God."  Click here for "Digging Deeper," by Mark L. Bailey of  Dallas Theological Seminary, in Moody Magazine. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Jan. 23, 2006
Will Our Children Be Stewards? "If we are not careful, we will soon have a generation of gospel consumers who have not been formed to contribute something of their own substance to the proclamation of that gospel to the world," proclaims a compelling resource about teaching stewardship to children. The author goes on to suggest ways congregations can do just that.  Click here for a "Will Our Children Be Stewards," from The Episcopal Church - Stewardship.

Expect a 'Miracle Sunday'. "To erase our congregation's $26,000 deficit, we need hope and faith in each other. We start to think, 'I really could afford to give another $500 a year, or maybe a $1,000, but if I give more and no one else does then there will still be a $25,000 deficit and I might as well have bought a new couch with the money.' " Click here for this week's column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.

Walter Brueggemann: Enough is enough. "Today, the fundamental human condition continues to be anxiety, fueled by a market ideology that keeps pounding on us to take more, to not think about our neighbor, to be fearful, shortsighted, grudging." A searing critique by the late, great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, who also suggests ways people of faith can cope.  Click here for "Enough is enough," from the archives of The Other Side magazine.

The next stage of King's 'Dream'. "In recent years, wages for working people have barely kept up with inflation, while income for CEOs has skyrocketed. The Christian Science Monitor reports: 'From 1990 through 2004, CEO pay at the top 365 firms increased 319 percent, the S&P 500 238 percent, and profits 87 percent, while average worker pay rose 4.5 percent.' " Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Avoiding the connection between faith and money. quot;Especially from the pulpit, money may be the most taboo subject in America, and yet the pastor who refuses to talk about money misses a great opportunity to teach the congregation the real meaning of stewardship." A very inspiring, thoughtful essay from the Rev. William O. Avery. Click here for "Avoiding the connection," from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Jan. 16, 2006
Martin Luther King: Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool In this 1967 sermon, King talked about the economic struggle that sustained injustice. "The preacher must be concerned about the whole man. Not merely his soul, but his body. It’s all right to talk about heaven. I talk about it because I believe firmly in immortality. But you’ve got to talk about the earth. It’s all right to talk about long white robes over yonder, but I want a suit and some shoes to wear down here."  Click here for a "Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool," from The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Group at Stanford University.

Tithing and giving are family decisions. "So what happens in a more pluralistic society when we marry outside our faith -- or more: someone who has no religious background? I have had many parishioners who have struggled with their giving or pledge because their spouse didn't have a similar commitment to church.  I know women who sneak onto the collection plate  money their husbands don't know about." Click here for "Tithing and giving are family decisions," The Rev. Dana Reardon's weekly column.

Peace with God the Creator, Peace with Creation. In this classic essay, the late Pope John Paul II discusses the looming  ecological crisis. "The most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life. ... Often, the interests of production prevail over concern for the dignity of workers, while economic interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples."  Click here for "Peace with God the Creator," posted by the Catholic Conservation Center.

A lesson in being left out. "The 10:45 Sunday service at the big Lutheran church where I belong generally draws a couple hundred worshipers, but two baptisms this past week brought lots of extra folks. By the time I arrived, a few minutes late, there were no bulletins left and little choice of seating. I wondered if I was getting a taste, just a taste, of what it was like to be disenfranchised."  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

The Practice of Stewardship: A Spiritual Discipline in Response to God's Grace. "The practice of stewardship begins with hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament that changes our hearts and wills so that we become the generous children of God." This and other insights from Gary Hedding, Assistant to the Bishop, Northwest Synod of Wisconsin and made available through the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers. Click here for "The Practice of Stewardship." This week's Treasure Chest offering.

The Path to Excellence.  Congregations frequently have difficulty putting together effective stewardship committees, and Tuck Aaker says one common reason is lack of training. In this column he suggests five key points to training stewardship leaders.  Click here for this "Stewardship Now" column by Aaker, columnist for ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Jan. 9, 2006
Treasurers on Earth: The Gospel of Prosperity. For two millennia Christian tradition has led followers of Jesus to approach personal wealth with extreme caution, but a new strain of false teaching encourages their followers to embrace wealth. This feature unmasks the so-called prosperity Gospel."  Click here for a "Treasurers on Earth," from the United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Missions.

God's radical financial advice. "I can't help thinking about the foolishness of God being wiser than human wisdom. God's wisdom about money is much more radical than anything that we even want our kids to hear. Jesus didn't tell us to share 10 percent.  He said, 'Sell all your possessions and give alms.' " Click here for "God's radical financial advice," The Rev. Dana Reardon's weekly column.

Faith-Based Stewardship. Subtitled, "A Fresh Perspective on Congregational Giving," this resource provides a contrast to "fund-raising stewardship," which is the usual way congregations think about money. Thoughtful, Biblical, faithful, this is good reading for pastors and lay leaders alike.  Click here for "Faith-Based Stewardship," listed by The Episcopal Network for Stewardship.

This year, pray for your own Epiphany. "The Magi looked at the stars and determined that a new king had appeared on the earth. Following the star, they arrived at Bethlehem and were the first to acknowledge Jesus as King, thus giving the world a great Epiphany. Now as we remember that first Epiphany 2,000 years ago, what lessons can we take from those wise men?"  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Martin E. Marty: Generosity.  How are the values of generosity we cherish and promote for ourselves and our congregations reflected in our nation's policies?  "Since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville, Americans see theirs as a religious, moral, generous nation -- a nation whose people have been looking into the mirror and making this appraisal.  ... How are we doing?" Click herefor "Generosity," from Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School. This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Jan. 2, 2006
More than Money: Capital Fund Drives and Congregations. Looking for inspiration and direction on a capital campaign? Here are stories of four congregations. "While meeting financial goals is itself a rewarding accomplishment, these congregations found additional blessings in the process: a renewed sense of community, an enthusiasm for ministry, and the discovery of gifts and abilities." Click here for a "More than Money," from the Alban Institute's Center for Congregations.

A Lifetime Guarantee. "At a meeting with a stewardship team recently, one of the team members asked me how much I could guarantee that they would achieve in their stewardship appeal. ... One thing I could guarantee I told them, was that they would increase the awareness and understanding of the members of what stewardship was all about." Click here for "A Lifetime Guarantee," from ELCA Stewardship Resources.

Stewardship foundations.  A New Year is a good time to reaffirm the basics, and this document starts at the beginning: "Stewardship is an answer to Jesus' call to 'follow me.' At the heart of stewardship is the belief that everything we have -- our talents, time and treasures -- and all that we accumulate during our lifetime, are gifts on loan to us from a generous and abundant God."  Click here for "Stewardship foundations," from the New Jersey Synod's Stewardship Resources.

The good but 'compassion fatigued' Samaritan.  "The columnists and commentators are calling 2005 the "Year of Disasters," beginning with the cleanup from one of the worst Tsunamis on record and continuing on with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and then the earthquake around Pakistan. And relief agencies from big international charities to local food banks are talking about "compassion fatigue" and "donor fatigue" as their usual benefactors and supporters say they are overwhelmed and overextended in the charity department. "  Click here for this column by SOLI webmaster Rob Blezard, from last week's edition of SOLI/Update, our free email newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Resolutions Worth Keeping. How are you doing on those New Year's resolutions? So far so good? Here's an article that explores the surprising Pagan origins of this yearly custom, as well as how Christians through the ages have approached it. (Guess what the Puritans did!) "Many of us may have taken New Years Eve and New Years Day as God-given opportunities. We have taken at least a few minutes to reflect, pray, and dedicate ourselves anew to our Lord." Click here for "Resolutions Worth Keeping," from ChristianityToday.com. This week's Treasure Chest offering.