Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why can’t every day be Christmas?

I’ll be showing my age if I talk about a Christmas movie from my childhood, “There Once Was A Christmas That Almost Wasn’t” (1966). The movie contained a song that has stuck in my brain all these years, crowding out things my wife and boss might think are important. Imagine that…

Why can’t everyday be Christmas?

The practical answer, of course, is that if everyday were Christmas, it wouldn’t be special anymore. Wouldn’t make our hearts beat faster, wouldn’t keep us up at night with the excitement of how someone was going to react to that very special gift. There wouldn’t be a season of preparing for Christ’s coming, anticipating, and the joy of that birth and the exclamation point in the story of our salvation.

I think about that song, though, when I see the spirit in a person that is so prevalent this time of year. We give generously. We don’t pass the kettle without putting in a buck. We give food baskets. We volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters. We visit the sick, infirm, elderly, those in prison. We give of ourselves so generously.

That’s the part that would do well to last all year round. Those folks who are shut in or locked up will still be there in January; and the food pantry shelves will be pretty empty in February and March. The soup kitchen will need a few extra hands come April, and so on…

So while I believe it honors Jesus’ birth to celebrate it once a year (it isn’t one day, by the way, but a 12 day season) I think it honors Jesus life and ministry when we carry that spirit of compassion and generosity through the whole season. Why not? Why can’t every day be Christmas?

--Ken Sloane, Director of Communications Ministry Team, United Methodist Communications

Friday, December 12, 2008

Do we really need another "thing"?

How many boxes of chocolate covered cherries will be bought this year for Christmas?

What about another coffee mug or tie tack?

Do you ever find yourself buying things for people because you can’t think of anything else?

What about making a donation to a worthwhile cause in their name? This saves the recipient yet another mug to clutter up their cabinet and it allows the giver to do something to better the world. That is exactly what a family in Temple, Texas did. Instead of buying presents for one another, they put that money toward a charity.

Imagine the number of bed nets that is eradicating malaria that could be bought. Or imagine the number of scholarships that could be awarded through the United Methodist Student Day Offering.

This year, rethink church and rethink giving. Think more about the impact of your gift rather than the material value. Personally, I don’t need yet another pair of fuzzy slippers. I’d rather my family purchase a bed net.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Face the sun and Son!

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. - Maori proverb

The Maori people are native to New Zealand. I thought this proverb was very interesting. Too often, I think we find ourselves in a state of disarray with our back to the sun so that the shadows are projected in front of us. You can also think about this in a different sense – when we have our backs to the Son. Isn’t that what usually happens? When we turn our back on God, doom and gloom begin to appear in front of us. However, when we turn around and face the Son, that doom and gloom turns away and behind us and we can look to a bright future. Much like when we turn and face the sun – the shadows fall behind you.

What does this have to do with Connectional Giving you ask? Part of being facing the Son is giving of our time, prayer and offerings. Doing this is abiding by God’s mandate to give back a portion of what he has given us.

Do you find that when things aren’t going your way that you fall behind on your giving and fall out of the shining light of the Son? By giving generously through the hard times, we can continue to see the bright future – a future with hope. I’m not saying that it will only be sunshine and roses with the Son, but it’s so much more worth it than the doom and gloom of turning your back to the Son.

It is my prayer for you that you will always turn your face to the Son and sun and let the doom and gloom be forgotten.

--Tracy Wood, Web Content Coordinator, United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just Imagine...

I was listening to "I Can Only Imagine" by Mercy Me and it got me thinking about imagining what we could do if we all gave or if we all took just enough.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and people across the United States will go without food because they can’t afford food. Other people will waste plates and plates of food because “their eyes are bigger than their stomach.” Imagine the number of people we could feed if we just too what we needed from the table. Or, imagine what we could do if we took the money from the left overs and gave that to someone who could truly benefit from the money.

I don’t mean the man begging for alcohol on the street – rather the family scraping to make the rent that doesn’t have extra money for bread and milk each week. Or the single father of 3 children who can’t provide clothes that fit. Or the woman in the battered women’s shelter who is trying to start her life over – free from abuse.

Just imagine what we could do if we all gave.

Just imagine.

This Thanksgiving, I hope and pray that you’ll see the need and give to a charity, shelter, church or the United Methodist Student Day offering. Giving the gift of education to persons who would otherwise be unable is giving the gift of hope and future. They will be forever thankful.

--Tracy Wood, Web Content Coordinator, United Methodist Communications

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Too Much Stuff?

For those of us living in the United States, we’re entering into what is often called “the holiday season.” Like there is a season for holidays, or holy days. As if each day wasn’t holy in its own way.

These days that encompass Thanksgiving and Christmas (and on to New Year’s Day) get lumped together because one launches the shopping season and the others mark it’s conclusion. If you have any money left by the time you reach the end of November, prepare to see it vanish by the time the calendar year comes to a close.

Maybe this was obvious to everyone else, but this year I am struck by the contrast of a day where we celebrate the multitude of blessings we have, giving thanks to God for gracious love and goodness, and before the turkey and pie have been digested and before we have concocted our first configuration of leftovers, we launch into a frenzied attempt to acquire, consume and collect more stuff. At anytime, the sanity of this could be questioned, but the timing here leaves me amazed.

Have you ever heard Eric Bibb’s song, “Too Much Stuff”? It’s a good listen as we get ready for this season of consumption.

Is there any way out of this insanity? Actually there is. On the day after Thanksgiving, stay home, make yourself a sandwich, sit by your computer, and visit the website for The Advance. Have your Christmas list by your side – most of those folks are people who already have too much stuff. Then make donations in their name to United Methodist missions.

· 100% of your gift goes to people in need.
· All of the Advance’s operating expense comes from World Service Fund apportionments.
· Your gift can be acknowledged with an email or you can print out a beautiful card.

You will have done something extremely appropriate for the season that falls between the remembrance of our blessings and the birth of the Savior!

-- Rev. Dr. Ken Sloane, Director of Communications Ministry, United Methodist Communications

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's a call, not a choice

As I was having a conversation with a colleague of mine, Nancy, she was expressing that her vocation of ministry was a call, it wasn't a choice like going into law or medicine or information technology.

And I have to agree with her.

To go into ministry, you have to be called into the field. It's not a vocation that someone goes into for the money or fame. There's a high level of personal satisfaction that has to drive this call, as well as the call from God.

But what if you don't have the call? Is all lost?

Heaven's no. By giving to your church, you're enabling those who have gotten the call to minister with those who are lost. You can help missionaries in Africa spread the news of Christ through an AIDS seminar. Or help in the resconstruction of hope from those who lost everything from Hurricane Katrina.

You can even give online to Special Sundays - including One Great Hour of Sharing, Peace with Justice Sunday and United Methodist Student Day. United Methodist Student Day is November 30, 2008. Your gift truly makes a difference in the lives of students!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More than a drop in a bucket!

What if a five-gallon bucket could provide the help someone needed? What if you could provide that five-gallon bucket? Would you?

The United Methodist Committee on Relief’s (UMCOR) level of flood buckets has fallen dangerously low following the 2008 hurricane season. These buckets are a part of the Sager Brown Depot through the General Board of Global Ministries. The buckets contain supplies such as bleach, sponges and trash bags – all vital to the cleaning up process from a hurricane.

These buckets are vital to those in need and who are trying to recover from the disaster. You can send completed buckets, bulk materials or a monetary donation to purchase supplies.

If you can’t provide a flood buckets, UMCOR also provides other buckets/kits that are in need.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Running on Empty

Just a few weeks ago the Nashville area ran out of gas.

There was lots of talk about whether there really was an interruption of supply due to the hurricanes south of us, or if there was just rumors that were flying. Rumors that there wasn’t going to be enough, so that everyone took every car and every container to the gas station on the same day to hedge their bets. Whichever reason was correct (probably a combination of both) the results were the same. Long lines, frayed nerves, curtailed travel plans, and some panic.

When that scarcity mentality grabs a hold of us, there is no telling what we might do. We had some police officers stationed at gas stations by me. I didn’t see anyone act up. In fact, when a young driver ran out of gas while waiting on line, some of the other drivers got out and were helping him inch his car up in the line until he got his turn at the pump.

Now all we hear about is the economy, stocks in the toilet, banks going under or getting bought out, Congress bailing out financial institutions. It’s not hard to get alarmed, to be frightened, to pull our heads into our shell and say, “it’s time for me to worry about me and mine.”

That’s not what the church does. We follow that guiding principle that when things get tough, you stick closer together. There is a whole world that is being rocked by the unstable nature of the financial realities. And there are more opportunities for ministry now than ever. There are more reasons for United Methodists to pull together, to let our strength and our numbers empower our ministry, than in any time in recent memory. The challenges are great, but the potential for life changing ministry is even greater.

I think of Jesus on that hillside along the Sea of Galilee. The crowd has pressed in on him, and the disciples want Jesus to send the crowd away because they don’t have any food to share. Scarcity mentality has set in big time. One boy has offered up what he has: some loaves and a few fish. In Jesus’ hands, it is an abundance.

So, lets use our resources wisely, but lets see clearly our abundance and boldly share it. We are not running on empty, not in regard to compassion, or hunger for justice, or enthusiasm for evangelism, or concern for the poor. Let generosity – extravagant generosity – still be the rule that claims us. Let us put what we have into Jesus hands and let Jesus show us the abundance!

--Rev. Dr. Ken Sloane, Communications Ministry Group, United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stewardship and the mandate

I was reading an article on The United Methodist Church website titled "United Methodists call for stewardship over greed" by Kathy Gilbert and found an excerpt of interest.

...Corporate greed must be replaced by the biblical mandate of stewardship," the statement said.

The "statement" is referring to an article published by the General Board of Church and Society in response to the bailout bill.

Sometimes I think we forget that stewardship is indeed a mandate of the bible, and not a suggestion from the church. I don't remember reading the verse 'If you have money left over,' sayeth the Lord, 'give some to the church. If you don't, it's OK - I'll catch you next time.'

Instead, the God instructs us to give a tithe of all that he has given us. A tithe is known as a tenth part - or 10%. But, it doesn't stop with a tithe. Jesus spoke about bringing your tithes and offerings - an offering of sacrifice above the tithe. Many times people give their 10% title and think they have done their part, but there are many other opportunities to give!

The United Methodist Church, in my opinion, follows Jesus' thoughts about giving tithes and offerings. The church has seven apportioned funds which serve as the "tithe" and then have six churchwide Special Sundays and The Advance which are the "offerings."

Let us heed the mandate of the bible and remember that stewardship isn't optional - even in difficult economic times. Remember, God only asks a small portion of what He has blessed us.

--Tracy Wood, Web Coordinator, Connectional Giving Team

Thursday, October 2, 2008


As I was reflecting on what to write this blog entry (and I promise they will be more frequent), I continued to think about motivation. What motivates people to give? And I don't just mean money, but also time, talents and possessions.

What motivates people to give? Is it for the tax benefit? Is it for positive publicity? Is it because people inherently want to give back? Is it to emulate a good example to others? Is it a conviction of duty? Is it expected?

So, then I reflected on myself. What motivates me to give?

I consistently think the same thing: I give because I never know when I might be the one in need.

For example, I donated to Light the Night because God forbid one of my children should be diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma.

I give to my church because I'm financially able to and there may come a day where I need to rely on others generosity for food or clothing.

I consistently give to Goodwill because I want to give others a job and there may come a time when I may rely on Goodwill for clothing.

I give my time and talent to the handbell choir at church so that others can hear God's love through beautiful music.

I offer possessions on my local Freecycle group because it's not important to resell everything for a profit - if I'm able to give it away for free to someone who needs it, then I'm helping others.

I give money to V-Day because I believe that we have to stop violence against women.

And I give to Nothing But Nets because global health is every one's responsibility. I can skip two Frapuccino's and give a bed net to a family in Africa.

No matter what the motivation, giving is a good thing. Giving money, time, talents and possessions makes this world a better place. But most importantly, "its better to give than to receive." And that's the truth. I LOVE seeing someones face when they open a gift or know that someone has changed their lives. (And it's even more amazing when you can do it anonymously!)

So, what motivates you to give?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Would you without hesitation say, “Yes, I will do as You say?”

As I was listening to “The Best from Rebecca St. James,” I reflected on the song Here I Am. An excerpt from the song:

God asks the question, “Whom shall I send?”
Now what will we answer?
Will we go and do as He says?
All that He wants is a heart, ready,
willing and waiting.

It’s easy to say “Yes, I will go and do as you say” if we don’t have to take immediate action. In theory, we would absolutely say yes.

But what if God asked you to sell your possessions and move your family to Burundi and set up a free health clinic? Would you without hesitation say, “Yes, I will go and do as You say?”

What if God asked you to sponsor an impoverished student to go to college, though it would require you to give up vacations and “extras?” Would you without hesitation say, “Yes, I will do as You say?”

What if God called your child to North Korea to be a missionary? Would you without hesitation say, “Yes, go and do as He says?”

What if God called you to be an ambassador for World Communion Sunday in your congregation? Would you without hesitation say, “Yes, I will do as You say?”

The last scenario is probably the easiest one to say “yes” to. God asks “Whom shall I send?” and He may just be seeking YOU. World Communion Sunday is one of the six churchwide Special Sundays of The United Methodist Church. The offering provides scholarships for U.S. (racial- and ethnic-minority) and international students. Students who receive scholarships study in a wide variety of fields: family pastoral care, Christian-Muslim relations, clinical psychology, peace and governance, crop production, law, health, rural development and more.

When God calls, I hope my heart will be ready, willing and waiting without hesitation to say “yes, I will do as You say” – if that means giving $50 to World Communion Sunday or living without the “extras” so someone else can go to college and have a better future.

Tracy Wood, Web Coordinator, Connectional Giving Team
United Methodist Communications

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Africa University Rises to Zimbabwe Challenges

This week, news outlets reported that Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate rocketed to 11.2 million percent in June, the highest in the world.

This news comes only a few weeks after I visited Zimbabwe to participate in the Africa Central Conference on the campus of Africa University. During that visit, the cost of a soft drink was 250 billion Zimbabwean dollars – or about $1.80 in U.S. currency. The Federal Reserve Bank has since dropped 10 zeroes from the currency, turning 10 billion dollars into a single dollar.

As I arrived in Zimbabwe, the three parties in the country’s political crisis had just signed an agreement to end the political violence and negotiate to find a peaceful resolution to months and months of violence. The violence has ebbed, but the political crisis continues without a full resolution.

Amid the tension, the country is calm and Africa University is open. At one point during the crisis, Africa University was the only university in the entire country to remain open, holding classes, making payroll, and feeding its students and thousands of its neighbors. Our university is an inspiration in this troubled land.

This is not to say things are not difficult at Africa University. They are.

Hyperinflation makes it increasingly difficult to keep up. At this point, the reserves are basically depleted. Africa University has to do a juggling act in order to pay bills and keep up with expenses. University fees—in Zimbabwe dollars—have to be reviewed every month because of the rapidly escalating costs, though fees paid in U.S. dollars remain the same. Monthly salary increases are necessary in order to hold on to the workforce.

Our churches’ help is needed so Africa University can continue to educate future leaders and serve as a shining example for the continent. The best way to assist is to send in your Africa University apportionments for 2008 early—and to pay 100 percent.

While money is important to Africa University, your prayers are the foundation for its success. Please pray without ceasing for Zimbabwe and the university.

--James Salley, Associate Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Advancement, Africa University

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's about TIME

Actually, it’s all about time. We all have only so much of it. The decisions we make about how we use it, what we do with it, to whom we give it. We can waste it, we can kill it, or we can make the most of it.

A friend reminded me of a line from the movie Steel Magnolias, “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Time can be that precious, or it can be something that can’t slip away from us fast enough.

So what does this have to do with Connectional Giving? Well, it is our time we give to the church that makes a difference. How many United Methodists will spend vacation days this summer taking part in mission trips, VIM Work Teams, Volunteering a vacation Bible School? Connectional Giving is not just about the dollars we put in the plate, but the time we put in to make our church – individually and collectively – effective in its ministry.

In fact, those monetary gifts we put in the plate reflect our time as well. The hours we’ve put in at work this week. The years we’ve worked in the past to secure an income in our retired years, and the ability to continue to support the work of the church.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, is quoted as saying “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” It is not a call for us to build big portfolios and stockpile money to buy our security. It is a call to first be a good steward of our time, to make the best use of each minute.

All of us will trade our time, our hours and minutes and seconds for the things that matter to us. For the time you have given to empower both the local and the global ministry of The United Methodist Church, I say a heartfelt “thank you!”

--Rev. Dr. Ken Sloane, Director of Communications Ministry, United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

At what point do we cave in?

If the Power Ball Lottery were $20 million, would you buy a ticket?

What about $70 million?

What if it was $200 million?

At what point are we tempted by material desires and fantasies of living in the lap of luxury that we turn our back on our Biblical principles?

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. 1 Timothy 6, NRSV

Did you know that in the US, 42 states have a state lottery? It seems everywhere you turn; you’re faced with the temptation of gambling. On my 70-mile commute to work in the morning, I pass five billboards advertising casinos and alerting me to which one is closest and who are the upcoming performers.

So, why shouldn’t I go? I have some extra money lying around – maybe I could turn a quick profit!

The United Methodist Church does not support gambling as a church activity or recreational activity. As part of the connectional giving system, there is a World Service Special Gift called the National Anti-Gambling Project.

Gambling is a terrible example of stewardship of the resources God gives us; it creates social costs that are hidden and often do not become apparent until long after lotteries, casinos, betting parlors and game rooms have become entrenched in communities. If we fail to defend our communities now, we will witness a wave of addiction, bankruptcy, crime and corruption.

Our children deserve a better future than one filled with preventable addiction, crime and unrest.

You can help stop gambling. You can contribute to the National Anti-Gambling Fund through your local church. Write World Service Special Gift #05-05-99 on your check.

~ Tracy Wood, Web Coordinator, Connectional Giving Team, United Methodist Communications

Monday, July 7, 2008

YOU can make higher education possible!

Reflecting back to my college graduations, I am thankful that I had the resources available to attend college and obtain a higher education. Having a Master’s in Communication has opened many doors for me – ones that would not have been available if I didn’t have the education.

But for many, resources are not always available. For example, in Niger, Africa, over 80 percent of the population is illiterate. Similarly, in Egypt, Africa, approximately 40 percent of the population is illiterate. This is astounding and heartbreaking.

However, as United Methodists, we have the opportunity to change those illiteracy rates! In June, Africa University graduated 354 students from 16 African countries. Your gifts to the Africa University Fund apportionment make higher education possible for students in Africa. These students are the future of Africa and you are making that future a reality.

“This year's graduating class increased the number of Africa University alumni to more than 2,600. Africa University graduates are at work as agriculturalists, pastors, educators, businesspeople, health workers and other professionals in communities across sub-Saharan Africa.

“Founded by The United Methodist Church in 1992, Africa University was the first private university to open in Zimbabwe. It has an annual full-time student population of 1,300.” – Andra Stevens, Director of Africa University’s Office of Public Information.

Our gifts together are making a monumental impact on the future of Africa. YOU are helping to make waves of change. WE are transforming lives.

Knowing this, how can I say “No, I choose not to give and make a better future for those in Africa?” I know I can’t.

--Tracy Wood, Web Coordinator, Connectional Giving Team, United Methodist Communications

Monday, June 30, 2008

A call to be faithful

I’m on the road a lot and eat many meals by myself, looking for ways to pass the time while waiting for my food to come. Billings, Montana happened to be the place where I was sitting in a Cracker Barrel restaurant looking at stuff on the walls and I noticed some very old copies of the Saturday Evening Post. You may remember that magazine, made famous to many of us through the artwork of Norman Rockwell. Anyway, I was looking at two of the old covers: one was from April 22, 1906 and the other was from March 12, 1938. While I don’t remember much else about the magazines or their covers, I remember that the price: five cents.

Then it struck me. The price had not changed over a 32 year period!

How amazing and alien is that to the world we live in. So dramatic now when the price of gasoline goes up between the time you drive to work in the morning and the time you drive home in the afternoon. When staples at the supermarket have jumped by 1/3 in a matter of months.

Even in days that are not so economically challenging, the expectation that the cost of things this year will be more than they were last year or a few years ago is pretty widely accepted. And of course, most of us expect that our income will be a little better next year than this as well.

This present reality is not always reflected in the way people give to the church. How many folks walk into our churches and are transported back to that alien world where things don’t change and costs don’t go up even over 32 years? How many folks will put a dollar in the offering plate, or put the same amount they put in five years ago? It makes it hard for the church to cope, but it also erodes the spiritual discipline of our giving. The biblical mandate to tithe was important to insure that God’s place in our priorities always came first.

When we don’t teach and call our folks to embrace the concepts of tithing or percentage giving, we say its OK for them to give in a way that doesn’t reflect the realities of the world we live in and which doesn’t honor God in our giving.

The point of Christian stewardship is not to focus on the “holy grail” of 10% giving, but to remind us of the 90% that God leaves in our hands, along with the blessings of life, health, creation, work, and so many other things. It is a call to be faithful in the world we live in today, not an alien world where the price of a magazine doesn’t change over 32 years!

--Rev. Dr. Ken Sloane, Director of Communications Ministry, United Methodist Communications

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What Kind of Day Is It?

“Just then Jesus looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. Jesus said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” {Luke 21:1-4, The Message}

“How can the church survive if people can no longer afford to give in support of its mission and ministry? This question seems to come up in one form or another in almost every church I visit these days. Given our current economic turmoil and uncertainty it’s no wonder both pastors and laity are concerned about the future of the church. The more I pray and contemplate an appropriate response to the above question the more I find myself coming back to the story of the Widow’s Mite.

As our economy groans under the pressure of escalating fuel prices, a slumping housing market, and an increased cost of living our ability to give that “which we will never miss” gets harder and harder. As a read the Widow’s Mite I believe Jesus didn’t heap a lot of praise for those who simply gave out of their abundance anyway. Perhaps the current economic reality will cause each and every person in the church to look deep within and ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to give?”

Maybe the day has come or soon will when we as the followers of Christ will have to decide that the church and its ministries are worth giving to extravagantly even out of our poverty. In other words, maybe the moment is upon us when we will have to decide that participation in the mission and ministry of the church of Jesus Christ is worth a change of lifestyle with our time, talent, and treasure. Maybe the time has arrived when being numbered among United Methodists in the Greater New Jersey annual conference means that we are willing to give sacrificially to God through the mission and ministry of the church.

Senior Pastor Brian Tome of Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Ohio ends every staff meeting with the question, “What kind of a day is it? His staff always responds the same way, “It’s a good day to die!” This cryptic phrase embodies the church’s ethic to be a blessing at all costs instead of clinging to self-preservation. They strive to follow Christ’s example of blessing people by giving everything all the time. Being a blessing is a passion that permeates everything they are, say, and do. May we also be filled with a passion to be a blessing at all costs and may God bless us and others through us as we, like the Widow, offer everything to God.

--Rich Henderson, Coordinator of Stewardship Education and Development, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Monday, June 23, 2008

How one church built excitement in kids

First United Methodist Church in Hopkinsville, KY, held Vacation Bible School June 8-12 with the theme “Beach Party: Surfin’ Through the Scriptures.” For their mission project, the church selected Nothing But Nets, as emphasized by Cokesbury.

To get the children excited about giving, the group leaders showed how buying a bed net helped saved the lives of other children. This is something that the children could understand – when I give, I’m helping another kid!

By the end of VBS, the children along with other Sunday School classes raised over $300 for Nothing But Nets. The children (averaging 80 children per day) were very excited about giving and was evident by their offerings.

--Rev. Matt Seel, Associate Minister, First United Methodist Church, Hopkinsville, KY

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Shortage of Enthusiasm?

The idea of a blog which surrounds United Methodist giving is surely welcome in the electronic age. My hope is that inspiration, information, appreciation and enthusiasm will be shared by all who participate.

There is no shortage of money - just a shortage of enthusiasm for using it to make ministry happen. We United Methodists do things as well as any other group, but we somehow we don't get people involved, because we do not let people know. The more we "tell the story" - the greater the funding of United Methodist Mission efforts. UMCOM and United Methodist giving is a truly wonderful support for educating and inspiring the local church efforts to fund the larger church ministry.

--Rev. Dr. Robert E. Costello, Gateway North District Superintendent, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Could you live on $100 a year?

I was reading an article about mission outreach of The Advance concerning a missionary in China by Diane Allen. It talked about illegal blood collecting dealers that targeted impoverished farmers that earn less than $100 per year. I can not fathom living on $100 a year.

This prompted me to track my spending over a few days last week to see where I spend my money and how much.

Lunch - $6.73
Vending Machine - $1.25
Fuel - $36.00
Total: $43.98

Breakfast - $3.83
Vending Machine - $1.25
Misc. items from Wal-Mart: $29.84
Starbucks - $4.68
Total: $39.60

Vending Machine - $1.25
Groceries - $24.59
Total: 25.84

In three days, I had spent $109.42. In three days, I had spent more than some farmers make in a year in China. This amazes me. Could I live on $100 a year? Absolutely not. Could I live on $100 a month? Again, I couldn’t. What about $100 a week ($5,200)? I don’t think I could.

Then how can we turn a blind eye to the impoverished in China? The Amity Foundation (TAF) hasn’t. This Advance based mission is making Christian presence more widely known to the Chinese people through programs of health care, education, blindness prevention, integrated rural development, advocacy, emergency relief and rehabilitation partnership with local communities.

Could you live on $100 a year? What about $100 a month? Or even $100 a week?
Think of how much God has blessed you – and I hope you feel led as I was to give back to those who truly need it.

--Tracy Wood, Web Coordinator, Connectional Giving Team, United Methodist Communications

Friday, May 30, 2008

How one Conference took a campaign and made a slam dunk!

Here in the North Texas Conference the Nothing But Nets (NBN) campaign has really captured the interest of our local congregations. For a brand new program, the amount of interest we’ve seen in this initiative is outstanding. I believe this is because of the simplicity of the slogan “Buy A Net. Save A Life.” Everyone can understand that $10 buys a bed net that can save lives and prevent malaria, which kills a child every 30 seconds.

We started promoting this campaign by putting information in our conference newspaper, The Reporter. By August 2007, we had raised $62,935.61. We also had a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that started with the local churches, then went to the district level, then the conference level. Our conference winners then played the Central Texas Conference winners at General Conference in Ft. Worth this past April.

Since our basketball tournaments were spread out over many months, we were able to continually keep the NBN initiative before the congregations. We have now raised $113,801.74. A small church in Aubrey, Texas gave $200. Collectively, a lot of small donations can amount to something truly significant. Together, our conference has bought 11,380 bed nets. That is enough nets to drape all the beds in a small African town.

Imagine a town where no child dies of malaria. In this effort, I have truly seen the hand of God at work.

--Rev. Marji Bishir, Associate Director of Connectional Ministries with the North Texas Annual Conference

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Personal Reflection...

I had the opportunity last week to see a different kind a race. It was a whole series of boat races among rowers. Some just involve single rowers, some a pair of rowers, others a whole team. What really impressed me was to see the teams all working in synchronized movement. Perfectly timed, it produced powerful force to move the boats forward. Most of the rowers had their backs toward the finish line, but one member of the team had to stay focused on where they were going.

This experience happened right after General Conference in Ft. Worth, TX. While the people of The United Methodist Church are not in total agreement on every issue that confronts the church, four areas of focus were lifted before us where it is believe the whole church can pull together. Developing leaders, new churches for new people, Global Health and Ministry in partnership with the poor. Despite late evenings of wrangling with amendments to the substitute motion and all that, it seemed as we left that everyone is willing to pick up their oar and pull in this new direction.

The quadrennial budget for the church, presented on the last day of General Conference, was passed with an affirmative vote of 96%. Another strong indication that we’re focused and all ready to pull on the oars and move ahead. It’s what we hope for when we talk about the connectional giving that will make the shared ministry of this denomination possible. Great things are accomplished by the people of The United Methodists Church when we know where we are going and can clearly articulate how our pulling together can make a difference.

When we are pulling together, we can bring new, young leaders into the church. When we are pulling together, we can start new churches to reach new people. When we are pulling together we can reach out to those who live in the grip of poverty. When we pull together, we can bring an end to diseases like malaria.

--Rev. Dr. Ken Sloane, Director of Communications Ministry, United Methodist Communications

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