May 3 - 9, 2004
What’s behind the dollar drain in Mainline denominations? And will we ever get out of it?
Opinions and predictions depend on whom you ask. The reasons are many – changes in lifestyle, attitudes towards institutions, increase in consumerism, sour economy, etc. – but some see the gloomy financial picture as a gauge of the vitality of our ministries themselves.
Indeed, the best philosophy about mission support may be that if you focus on the mission, the support will follow. But often we look at it the other way around.
"When Jesus is the focus of the church, it's raised to new life. The focus shifts from the power of death to the power of life," said the Rev. Jerry Mayo, author of The Lazarus Church: Resurrecting Passionate Ministry in Mainline Congregations, quoted in an article on the money crunch facing churches..
The financial situation has become so important that the 5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America focused the entire contents of the May issue of The Lutheran magazine* to giving and support. Moreover, the church is spending tens of thousands of dollars to send the magazine to the homes of every active church member, not just the 500,000 who subscribe.
The May issue, available on line, is worth taking a look at because it explores the situation from many perspectives and provides insights aplenty. But David Miller, editor of The Lutheran, hits the nail on the head when he calls the dollar drain “a vision crisis disguised as an economic problem.” Miller’s words:
What's needed is a vision of the great breadth of Christ's love and labor reaching every hill and hamlet, encompassing every human joy and sorrow. At the heart of that vision is Christ's church, intimately connected across boundaries of nation, color, class and theology — loving Christ and trusting each other enough to generously share its resources with places of greatest need
--Rob Blezard, webmaster and editor
* By way of full disclosure, I have worked for The Lutheran for 10 years, currently as study-guide editor and frequent contributor.
New This Week: May 3 - 9
What Good is my Giving?
The entire May issue of The Lutheran magazine is devoted to stewardship and mission support because the ELCA, as all denominations, is facing a budget crunch. The articles cover a wide range of issues on mission support and stewardship. Every ELCA congregation will receive one magazine copy per family, but anybody can read the articles online. Be sure to check out the informative study guide available on-line only. For the next few weeks we'll be highlighting one story, beginning with this one:
Vision Quest: Our church faces a vision crisis disguised as an economic problem. This overview by David Miller, editor of The Lutheran, sums up the obstacles many mainline denominations face: Consumerism, scarcity thinking and a "crisis of vision."
Stories of Isaiah and Pepe
What do Israel's greatest prophet and a present-day advocate for Mexico's poorest have in common? Plenty, and the implications for stewardship are profound. "By hearing their stories, you and I also can be transformed in our sense of call, because we cannot hear these stories without examining how God calls us to serve the people among whom we live." By the Rev. Dr. William Avery, stewardship professor at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.
2004: Are We On
Track To End Hunger?
A slow economy and even slower political will has put our nation and the rest of the world greatly behind goals set in at the 1996 World Food Summit to reduce world hunger. That is one of the many findings in Bread for the World Institute's 2004 report on hunger. “Far too many children go to bed hungry each night, be they in Malawi or Milwaukee," said Rev. David Beckmann, president. "The problem is not the lack of food. Hunger is a political problem and people need to demand change from their elected officials.” Bread for the World is an ecumenical Christian movement supported by 45 denominations. Check out the report:
Read the Press Release
Read the Executive Summary
Download the report in PDF
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.
Than Balancing the Books
"If the stewardship team does a good job then people will begin to realize that God is the source of everything in their lives and the reason for everything in their lives. So yes, they will probably give more money to the church. That is the part that the finance people are hoping for. But members will also bring their hopes and dreams to the church." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.