Sept. 4 - 10, 2006


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.

The latest U.S. Census Bureau Report in Income and Poverty continues to show a slide for just about everybody except the wealthiest 20 percent of households in America. Although total median income gained about 1 percent between 2004 and 2005, nearly all the gain was in that top  fifth of households.. This trend has been sustained.

Looking at  the 10 year statistics, the federal report notes that since 1995 overall median income has risen by 6.9 percent, but very unequally. "While income at the 90th percentile has increased 13 percent [in that 10-year span], income at the 10th percentile has increased 2.3 percent," the report says on page 17.

The number of people in poverty stayed constant at 37 million, but in that period the number of people without health insurance rose by 1.3 million, to 46.6 million. The figure represents 15.9 percent, up from 14.2 percent in 2000, the report says on page 27.

The Census report is just one of many sources mentioned in this week's assortment of Gleanings from the popular press. In North Carolina, The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that unlike in previous decades, increases in worker productivity are not resulting in corresponding increases in worker paychecks.Though productivity rose by 16 percent from 2000-2005, worker pay rose by 7 percent, the Citizen-times said.

Taken together with unprecedented cutbacks or cancellation of pension accounts, curtailment of benefits, the exodus of good jobs overseas and continued exploitation of illegal aliens, things are not boding well for the American wage-earner. We are working harder and still losing ground.

All of this points to essentially a stewardship problem when it comes to our national economy. When dollars trickle only up the economic ladder, it runs counter to fairness and common sense. When the economic pie gets larger, shouldn't everybody get a bigger slice?

The economy does not rise and fall purely according to unseen and unstoppable natural forces, as do the tides of the ocean. Rather economics is like a system of locks and canals that create then channel monetery flow according to policies and rules created by people and their governments. Right now, economic policies appear to be impoverishing millions of American workers. These people are our neighbors and our friends, and when they join the ranks of  "the least among us," Matthew 25 says that as Christians are obligated to feed them, clothe them, provide medical care for them.

So churches, plan now. They'll soon be at our doors. 

--Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster
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New This Week:

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.

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.  This week's Treasure Chest offering.

Joke of the Week!

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