June 6 - 12, 2005




A teaching moment for your church
The good news: Never in recent times has there been so much opportunity for churches to educate, equip and lead their members to put into action Jesus's directives of Matthew 25: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the prisoner.
The bad news: All indications show that homelessness and hunger are rising very fast in the richest country the world has ever known.
The annual report on hunger and homelessness of the U.S. Conference of Mayors shows that despite an improving economy, in 2004:
--Requests for food assistance increased an average of 14 percent.
--56 percent of the food requests were from families.
--34 percent of the food requests came from individuals or parents with jobs.
 --Requests for emergency shelter increased an average of 7 percent.
--41 percent of homeless were single men, 40 percent families with children, 14 percent single women, 5 percent unaccompanied children.
--An average of 23 percent of requests for emergency shelter for homeless people went unmet, and 32 percent of the requests by families went unmet.
The mayors cited lack of affordable housing and the shortage of decent, living-wage jobs with benefits as chief concerns. Most ominous, the mayors were pessimistic about the future amid a political climate of budget cuts for social programs. 
"These are real people, many are families with children, who are hungry and homeless in our cities," said Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell. "Unfortunately, the results of this year's survey tells us that we are still far short in meeting the challenges of our neediest citizens."
Mainline churches that serve middle-class and wealthier people now have more opportunities than ever to put their faith into action. Here are some ideas:
--Increase participation in food drives for pantry programs.
--Organize volunteers to serve at pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
--Encourage your youth group to do a service project at a homeless shelter.
--Include study of poverty, homelessness and hunger a part of your church's Christian education program.
--Partner with a nearby distressed church whose members are poor, and make it real with pulpit exchanges, joint social occasions, and regular congregational visitations on both sides.
--Host temple talks with housing and hunger advocates. Invite them to bring clients to tell their stories.
--Starting with Matthew 25, study in a comprehensive manner the Bible's teaching on care for the poor, the widow and the orphan.
--Encourage your members to examine their spending habits.
Good luck!
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
New this week:
Look pastor, no checks!

This helpful article looks at the experiences that four churches have had with electronic giving. From their stories, you can decide whether e-giving is right for your congregation and how to avoid some pitfalls. Click here for "Look pastor, no checks!" Click here for the sidebar, "The pros and cons of e-giving." Both from Church Executive magazine.


Creating a planned-giving program ... without creating a planned giving program
"Nonprofit organizations received over $21 billion in planned gifts in 2003. The amount is only rising, and itís not just gifts from wealthy donors. Everyday more and more people of all income levels are learning about innovative giving options like annuities, charitable remainder trusts, and bequests. How can you be sure your organization is up to speed?"  Click here for this insightful article, from OnPhilanthropy.com.



 What helps people let go?

"Say 'stewardship' in front of a church full of worshipers in October and they will hear, 'Money!' Ö But one prominent found that congregations can influence two major factors that affect giving: members' understanding of stewardship and their involvement in church programs. Hearing stewardship sermons and participating in congregational life led to higher giving." Click here for the article, from The Lutheran magazine. This week's Treasure Chest item.


John Paul II: The ecological conversion

"In our time, man has unhesitatingly devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted the waters, deformed the earthís habitat, made the air unbreathable, upset the hydrogeological and atmospheric systems, blighted green spaces, implemented uncontrolled forms of industrialization, humiliating the earth, that flower-bed that is our dwelling." Click here for this message of the late Pope John Paul II, posted by the Catholic Conservation Center.


Joke of the Week!

Weekly Gleanings, a sampling of articles with stewardship implications from the popular press.