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8-Week Program: With God's Permission

Here's a complete resource for a congregation to begin using an asset-based approach to financial stewardship. "This simple program can help your congregation fund God’s mission in a fresh and exciting manner." Available for free PDF downloadFrom ELCA  Stewardship.
Resources: Articles

Preaching Past TiVo'
Here's a brilliant article -- a candid conversation with pastor/theolgians on how to preach Gospel values to a consumer culture. Lots of wisdom. For instance, from John Ortberg: "One of the things we battle at the core is the assumption that the satisfaction of desire is the key to fulfillment in life. And any time people feel they lack something, the more they focus on that desire. It becomes a cycle, a treadmill." Click here for "Preaching Past TiVo," from the LeadershipJournal.net.

Empty Plates, Empty Hearts?
Subtitled, "Practical ways to help your congregation discover the joy of giving," this eye-opening essay helps you understand the reasons why money is such a big problem at many churches today. Click here for "Empty plates, Empty Hearts," from Your Church

Fund Accounting: Making sense of church finances
With multiple sources of revenue and numerous types of funds to juggle, church finances are more complicated than ever. That’s why it’s wise that church accountants and treasurers adopt commercial accounting procedures, as well as computer software,  to help keep everything straight. Here’s an article that will help you get started.  Click here for “Making sense of church finances,” from Your Church magazine.

Dangerous Blessings:
A theology of God's abundance and our hunger for more.
The Bible tells us that money is both wonderful and deadly. It is one way God blesses people, and, perhaps more surprising, it can actually enhance our relationship with God. However, equating prosperity with godliness is a scriptural no-no. Click here for “Dangerous Blessings,” from Leadership Journal. (01/15/07)

Jonathan Edwards: 70 Effective Resolutions
Church leaders who make resolutions for the New Year are in good company. Jonathan Edwards, the leading theologian of the First Great Awakening, conducted his life and ministry by 70 resolutions. Click here for “70 Effective Resolutions,” from Leadership Journal.

Kids and consumerism
The Episcopal Church ventured to the Mall of America to explore how children use money and how the church can teach them the value of material possessions. “Our country now faces a crisis because children are growing up without balanced financial values or a well-thought approach to how they use money,” said Nathan Duncan, president of Share Save Spend. Click here for “Kids and consumerism,” from Episcopal Life magazine.

Talking with your donors ... not speaking to them
People are being bombarded with requests for money, but some smart planning can help keep your church's needs from getting lost in the mix. "We hear more and more donors complaining about how tired they are of being 'sold to.'  We forecast this level of ennui will only increase, and it will take our collective imaginations to shape messages that will work in an environment that is cluttered."  Click here for "Talking with donors," from OnPhilanthropy.com.

Vision Fulfillment.  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. Click here for "Vision Fulfillment," from Your Church magazine.

Let's talk money: Advice from the pros on stewardship training.  "If your church charged an admission fee to cover its expenses, how much would it cost each person on a Sunday morning? A dollar? As much as $10? In 1994, the actual amount needed to operate most Protestant churches was $16-$21 per person." Click here for "Let's talk money," from  Your Church magazine. (9/11/06)

Life on the Edge: A Small Congregation Redefines Its Mission. "If North America is now a mission field, this fact has tremendous implications for small congregations. Being on the margins can provide fresh opportunities for offering bold witness. It is often a better position for discovering mission than is the center. In scripture, faithfulness seldom comes from, or results in, large numbers or success. God often elects the small for extraordinary missionary service." Click here for "Life on the Edge." By the Rev. Richard S. Bliese in The Christian Century

The Art and Science of Major Gift Fundraising.  "Major gift fundraising is as much an art as a science. Support by individuals makes up the majority of giving to philanthropic organizations, and major gifts from individuals can account for up to 90% of annual donations to non-profit organizations--often from as little as 5% of annual donors." How can you better reach willing donors?  Click here for "The Art and Science," from   OnPhilanthropy.com.

Stewardship: The 'S' word. What do Mainline Christians think about stewardship? This essay explores it from a Presbyterian perspective, which offers common sense and biblical theology. "A poor church is not one without money, but one without a vision. When people have a clear Biblical and theological understanding of the mission of the church, healthy stewardship practices emerge."  Click here for "Stewardship: The "S" word," from Presbyterians Today.

Christian History Corner: Serving God with Mammon. John Wesley's wisdom for hard economic times: earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. Insights from Wesley, the 18th century founder of the Methodist Church, reported in this illuminating article. Click here for "Serving God with Mammon," from ChristainityToday.com.

The Debt Slayers: Christian Financial Advisors. Pastors, do members of your flock struggle with credit cards? They're not alone. Americans are blessed with record wealth, but paradoxically are accumulating record amounts of debt as well. This article looks at the growing boom of Christian financial advisors, including the guy in the previous resource. Click here for "The Debt Slayers." Good reading from ChristianityToday.com.

Faith-raising, not fund-raising. "Saddleback Community Church's 'next step' strategy of helping even the most disconnected individual take a step of faith in God’s direction, allows us to help guide anyone’s growth towards God’s intentions. Even in the difficult area of becoming a financially fit and faithful steward."  Insights from Saddleback Community Church, founded by Rick Warren. Click here for "Faith-raising, not fund-raising," from Building Church Leaders magazine.

Mission and money: How to bring entrepreneurship into your organization. "Mission plays a central role in nonprofits, defining the organization's reason for being, and answering why the organization is in operation. But to exploit all the opportunities open to them, nonprofit organizations must understand more than mission, customers, and the organization's programs—they must also understand its revenue model." Click here for a "Mission and money," from onPhilanthropy.com.

Resolutions Worth Keeping. How are you doing on those New Year's resolutions? So far so good? Here's an article that explores the surprising Pagan origins of this yearly custom, as well as how Christians through the ages have approached it. (Guess what the Puritans did!) "Many of us may have taken New Years Eve and New Years Day as God-given opportunities. We have taken at least a few minutes to reflect, pray, and dedicate ourselves anew to our Lord." Click here for "Resolutions Worth Keeping," from ChristianityToday.com.

Down-to-Earth Theology. One of the most prophetic voices in American Christian thought, Sojourners devotes its entire March 2004 issue to the environment. Every article is rich, provocative, passionate and faithful. Highlights:
Consider the Turtles of the Field - Many evangelicals find themselves in an emerging theological habitat, where care of creation is central to mission.
Rockfish, Redfish, Stockfish, Foodfish - Seven biblical principles for the care of creation.
To Serve and Preserve - The Bible calls us to dominion over creation. Or does it? 
Sins of Emission  - No politician seriously believes that Americans are willing to deal with global warming. Is it too late to prove them wrong?  By Bill McKibben

Jürgen Moltmann: Reconciliation with Nature. This fine essay by one of our era's pre-eminent Protestant theologians is just one in a classic edition of Word & Word, published by Luther Seminary, St. Paul. The issue provides in-depth scholarly treatment to the environment issues, including:
The Responsibility of Royalty: Genesis 1-11 and the Care of the Earth - James Limburg
The Weeping Mask: Ecological Crisis and the View of Nature - Vitor Westhelle
Environmental Concern and Economic Justice - Peri Rasolondraibe
Ecology, Feminism and Theology - Mary Ann Hinsdale
The Church's Role in Environmental Action - Calvin DeWitt (4/26/04)

Environment as Creation. Looking for some good reading on religion, the environment and public policy? Walter Bruggemann, the New Testament scholar from Columbia Theological Seminary, weighs in with reviews of three new books. "Thoughtful women and men of faith do well to think again and again about land as God's gift and about the environment as the habitat of the creator's will for creation—especially because at the present time, the tilt in public posture and policy is all toward economics at the expense of the environment." In Books&Culture.com.

Eco-Myths. "Don't believe everything you hear about the church and the environmental crisis," reads the teaser on this report, which takes a very balanced, Biblical approach to an important that has become polarized. "Fueled by misconceptions, misinformation, and even showmanship, the environmental debate rages in the popular media. One side likes to quote Rush Limbaugh, who paints Vice President Al Gore and friends as "tree huggers"; the other charges 'rape of the Earth.'" From ChristianityToday.com.

The Hidden Costs of Too Much Stuff. Why do we have it, where do we get it and why do we keep accumulating more of it? And what is it costing us, not just in dollars, but in storage space and time spent buying and tending to our stuff? I blame it on the Pottery Barn catalog. Whenever I glimpse that evil source of home-decorating temptation, I succumb to the affliction of our age: SDA, the Senseless Desire to Acquire. By M.P. Dunleavy, columnist for MSN.com's Money Central.

'Blessed Are the Greedy:' The Morality of Global Trade. "Rather than being anti-globalization, religious critics of globalization are better described as alter-globalization; that is, they favor a deeply interconnected world in which the needs of people and the environment come before the needs of multinational corporations that benefit the relative few.  In short, they teach an inversion of the current model. It's the difference between pushing for fair trade, rather than settling for so-called free trade, a classic misnomer because of the protectionist nature of the world's economic players, both major and minor."  By Ira Rifkin in Sojourners. (Free registration may be required.)

Carter Decries Growing Income Gap. Former President Jimmy Carter said Americans have "failed miserably" at sharing our wealth with the world. In the keynote address at the 16th Nobel Peace Prize Forum at the ELCA's St. Olaf College, Carter said half the world's people live on less than $2 a day, he said.  "That includes shelter, food, clothing.  And as you can quickly see there is nothing left over for an education, health care or self-respect or for hope." Here is the full text of his speech -- compelling, thoughtful remarks. A good read. 

Martin E. Marty on Habitat for Humanity. "Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat, and his colleagues and volunteers have modeled how one can be motivated by a particular religious 'story' to be hospitable to others. Habitat now builds in numbers of dominantly Muslim nations, has attracted Jewish support, and never asks the creed of those with whom they work, thus proving that 'particular' faith and the 'common good' can intersect." From Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center.

Send Lazarus A hard-hitting look at how Jesus' story of Lazarus and Dives applies to our own thinking about outreach to the poor. "Now, Luke's parable lacks the sort of data that people like  to have when deciding whether and how to help. It doesn't say, for example, if Lazarus was deserving or lazy,"drug-addicted, mentally ill, or a good Joe down on his luck. We don't know whether he cornered Dives with pathetic spiels every time he left the house, or whether he just lay there, annoyingly mute, day after day. All we know is that he was at the gate, sick and hungry. And that, Luke seems to say, is all we need to know to predict the reversal ahead. By J. Mary Luti in the Christian Century.

The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity. A must read by Walter Brueggemann, the respected Hebrew Bible scholar who brings searing insight into American consumerism and religious life. "Christians have a long history of trying to squeeze Jesus out of public life and reduce him to a private little Savior. But to do this is to ignore what the Bible really says. ... When people forget that Jesus is the bread of the world, they start eating junk food -- the food of the Pharisees and of Herod, the bread of moralism and of power. Too often the church forgets the true bread and is tempted by the junk food." From The Christian Century.

Time and Money: When either one runs low, you've got a problem. Are you prepared?  Most pastors are not formally trained in financial management. Yet in many churches, it is the pastor who assumes responsibility for properly managing church finances. Is the pastor aware of the monetary risks that can threaten a ministry? From Your Church magazine.

Preaching Past the Fear Factor: Surprise! People are eager to hear about joyful giving, if you approach it in the right way. Bold insights from LeadershipJournal.net.