March 9 - 16, 2009
The Only Option
By Tuck Aaker
As some of you may know, my background and experience for the first thirty years of my career was in business, mainly the food and packaging of food products for large corporations as well as Mom and Pop companies. I did business in every state in the Union from Jimmy Dole’s pineapples in Hawaii to Long Island Kosher in New York and several companies in Europe as well. Then in the mid 1990’s I switched my focus to working with congregations for the ELCA and have been doing some coaching/ writing ever since.
In all that time I have never coached or worked with any company or organization that was growing and reaching their goals --- that was not in a constant state of change. Their mission seldom changed as they all focused on providing the finest quality to as many people as possible, but the way they attempted to reach their potential customers and motivate them to buy their products was in perpetual change.
In the case of the world of business, the #1 reason for companies failing is their inability to "keep up" with the rapid changes in the marketplace and their inability to react and adapt. Over fifty per cent of the products on the market today, didn’t exist twenty years ago. The old brand names of that era are seldom to be found. Twenty years ago there were no gas cards, phone cards, cell phones, personal computers or CD’s --- things that are considered necessities today!
What’s that have to do with our congregations? We make a point to go out of our way to tell everyone that we aren’t a business, we are a church! And in saying that we are giving ourselves a "free pass" in not having to try to imitate what is working or not working in the business community? My friends, let’s remember that the people in our churches on Sunday are the same people that are driving the business community the other six days of the week. If quality is what they look for in their purchases --- quality is what they will look for in their churches as well. If good music is important in putting them in the right mood during the "quiet times" of their lives, good music will be just as important in their worship experience. The bottom line is that whether it’s a business or a church, they both have to provide the quality, the ambiance and the message that move people’s hearts and motivate them to become committed.
We as the church have something that no other organization could every duplicate, we have the living savior, Jesus Christ as our leader. Jesus is offering us the most important gift we can ever receive in salvation and complete happiness! But Jesus was also very cognizant of what it took to change hearts and minds and used parables that would make people think and understand his message. He was the master marketer of God’s words.
Our congregations are standing today at the crossroads of a completely new era in reaching this society. One path leads to vibrant new growth, increased involvement and expending ministries and the other path leads to a slow decline in our ability to minister to others and to help their change lives. It’s up to us if we have the faith and courage to step forward into the future --- or take a step backwards and become a part of the past.
The road to growth requires change --- but the other path is not an option! And that’s just good stewardship!
Tuck Aaker is a retired businessman who now consults and specializes on stewardship issues for the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the ELCA. He shares his expertise in Stewardship Now, a column he writes for ELCA Stewardship Resources.
New This Week:
World Water Day Resources: ‘For I Was Thirsty’
Our planet’s supply of fresh water is under increasing pressure from exploding consumption, shifting weather and pollution, creating crises in many parts of the world. Why not speak about the problem on “World Water Day” March 22? Click here for “For I Was Thirsty” on the home page of the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches. (Check out the other wonderful resources while you’re there! So you know: You need to create a username and password to access these materials. There is no cost!)
Eight Steps to Getting Out of Debt
Many of the people in the pews of your church are struggling with debt. The church can help by providing guidance, education and support. This piece by Rick Warren gives eight commonsense tips that can help your parishioners get back in the black. Click here for “Eight Steps to Getting Out of Debt,” from Warren’s website, www.pastors.com.
5 Ways to Inspire Generosity and Church Giving in a Struggling Economy
The title says it all. Good, practical advice you can put to good use right away. Click here for “5 Ways to Inspire Generosity,” from stewardship guru Brian Kluth on www.kluth.org.
Lectionary Reflection: Words for Living
Our prayers, scripture and hymns are full of lofty intentions. “The problem comes along when somehow, against all our good wishes and hopes and dreams, life gets in the way. We try to do what we humans do worst—that is, run the show.” Sound familiar? Click here f or “Words for Living,” this week’s lectionary reflection from Pastor Sharron Reissinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.
Ministry in Hard Times
“In seminary, most of us learned little enough about managing a congregation in good times. … The future, at least in the short term, may require us to relearn concepts of stewardship and planning that stress thrift, the clever use of resources, and the courage to say no to low priorities.” Good reading! Click here for “Ministry in Hard Times,” from the Alban Institute.