April 13-19, 2009
By Tuck Aaker
Almost 20 years ago I was offered a three-year contract to become the president of a small plastics company in rural Minnesota. I accepted, knowing that it was a company on the verge of bankruptcy and my job was to "turn it around." My wife and I moved to St. Paul, and at the end of 12 months we were making a profit. At the end of the second year we had "taken" the company public on the Twin Cities "Over The Counter" market. To some onlookers, particularly those folks in that small town where the plant was located, it was a financial miracle as they saw the number of employees and the plant buildings expand.
As I look back on those days, I recall that the reason for this company’s success had little to do with their finances or sales. It had everything to do with the company’s mission and the employee’s confidence they could achieve it. When I first came, none of the employees knew why they were there or what they were supposed to do, other than show up. They would receive a check at the end of the week – and they weren’t too sure about that. Pessimism prevailed, and their vision for the future was consumed by the fear of the plant closing and them losing their jobs.
The first week on the job I called a meeting in the lunchroom and told them that from that day forward I wanted them to be concerned with just one thing: quality. Quality in the products they produced, quality in their appearance, their attitude and in the way they talked about the company outside of the plant. If they followed that mission of quality, I guaranteed they would each receive bonuses at the end of the year.
The foreman came up to me right after they had left and said, "You really believe that don’t you?" The next week we made business cards for each employee with their names, address and position on one side and the words "Working together as a team to produce quality products." And they started to believe it!
Many of our congregations are in that same "funk" of negative attitude. They need to know why they are here. They need to believe that with everyone pulling together, God will answer their prayers and start them back on the road to growth again. They must know the mission, why they come to church each Sunday. They need to "keep their eyes on the road" ahead and forget the rear-view mirror that’s focused on the past. Certainly it takes involvement, participation and increased giving, and those things will happen when they understand the mission!
Create an atmosphere of positive achievement. Help your people buy into the mission and have faith. And then when people ask you next year how you accomplished that miracle, just smile. You will know it’s all about your mission, 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.
Earth Sunday Resources
Because Earth Day is April 22, many churches celebrate God’s creation on a Sunday in April or May. Here are some resources to help your congregation plan:
Festival of God’s Creation
Here is a page with a brand new resource for 2009, with the theme “Celebrating and Caring for God’s Creation.” Produced in conjunction with the National Council of Churches in Christ Eco-Justice Working Group, the resource is very informative and well done. You’ll also find useful links to helpful resources from previous years. Click here for “Festival of God’s Creation,” from the General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church.
This website offers liturgical resources for all sorts of services focusing on creation and the environment. You’ll find suggestions for prayers, liturgies, sermons, hymns, Scripture. Click here for the EARTHCARE page of the United Church of Christ.
Earth Ministry: Worship Aids
Here you can find worship services, prayers, hymns, sermons – everything you need for you congregational celebration. Still need more? You’ll find links to other resources certain to fill the bill. Click here for Worship Aids, from Earth Ministry.
Acts: From Maintenance to Mission
Here is a small group study that looks at Acts for insight into how Christian communities can live out their call to be stewards of God’s generous abundance. The free study can be downloaded in booklet form. Click here for “From Maintenance to Mission,” from The Episcopal Network for Stewardship.
Lectionary Reflection: The Peace of Christ
Jesus preached peace time and again, and nobody disagrees that Christians should work for peace. “How is it, then, that we seem to have so little peace in our lives and in our world? Why can’t we all just get along?” Click here for “The Peace of Christ, this week’s lectionary reflection from Pastor Sharron Reissinger Lucas. Click here to read her archived columns.
A Surefire Investment
From popular Christian writer Philip Yancy, an essay looking at how to pray in the midst of a financial catastrophe. “A time of crisis presents a good opportunity to identify the foundation on which I construct my life,” he writes. Click here for “A Surefire Investment,” from ChristianityToday.