Thursday, December 30, 2010

10 Simple Blogging Tricks That Will Jump-Start Traffic To Your Business

1. Install the Onlywire plug-in and submit all your blog posts to social media bookmarks, your readers will be able to use this button as well. 2. Put up a video with you introducing them to your blog and say thanks for visiting, this is what you’re going to get out of my blog. 3. Don’t pitch with every blog post, post content that will actually benefit others. 4. Insert a visible opt-in form that appears on every page. My intro video also invites them to opt-in and tell them what they’ll get if they do. 5. Put the Retweet and Facebook share plug-ins on your posts. The more you create a social buzz with your content, the more Google looks at it. 6. You personally can share your new blog posts on Twitter and Facebook 7. Make a video about your post on Youtube and link it back to your blog. 8. Use an article submitter to blast out your post to hundreds of article directories. The more “hooks” you have out there the more people are going to be “caught.” 9. Make sure you have a keyword in mind and have that keyword in the title, description, tags, body, and anchor text (the text that you click on in a link) 10. Make a Squidoo and a Hubpage with links back to your original post on your blog. --Erin Smith, Discover Attraction Marketing

God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

UMCGiving.org

United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When I lived in Mexico, one of my favorite Christmas traditions to participate in were Las Posadas (translated literally: the lodgings). Las Posadas consists of nine processions that take place every night before Christmas from December 16th to the 24th. These processions represent Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search to find a place to stay. Each night the journey is reenacted. People representing Mary and Joseph and rest of the procession of people go door to door asking for a place to stay until one family finally lets them. When the family lets Mary and Joseph and the procession of people into their house, they all celebrate, worship, eat, and fellowship together. The next night, a different family has the honor of hosting the celebration at their house.

When the procession goes from door to door they sing a song. The song goes along with the reenactment. When the procession arrives at the first house, they sing the first verse and the people inside the house respond to them that there is no room and so the procession goes to the next house and the next house until they arrive at the last house where they are finally let in to the house.

Outside the first house the people sing:

“In the blessed name of heav’n, I beg you, sir, let us in for the night, for my beloved Mary is with child, and is unable to go any further tonight.”

Inside the first house the people sing:

“I don’t have a room for you; please do not stop here, just move on your way. The doors are closed, I’m settled for the night. I will not open for fear that you might be some knave.”

Outside the last house the people sing:

“Please have pity my good friend, she is so weary, so worn and so cold. Her time is near, and soon she will give birth to a dear Child who will be the true Light of the world.”

Inside the last house the people sing:

“You are Joseph of Nazareth? With your beloved about to give birth? Enter, my friends, I failed to recognize One who will bring love and peace and good will to the earth.”

Then the people in the inside of the house welcome in Joseph and Mary and the possession of people by singing:

“Welcome, pilgrims to this shelter, let it peace to you impart. Though a poor and lowly dwelling, it is offered from the heart!”

And together everyone sings in great joy:

“Let us sing with rejoicing, Let our songs our joy convey, for the blessed Holy Family chose to honor us this day!”

This tradition helps us to reflect on how we respond to knocks at our door. How do we respond? How do our churches respond? Do we say that there is no room or do we make room?

As the Hispanic-Latino Missionary working in the Detroit Conference, I have seen the joy, the celebration, and the transformation that can happen when churches make room for pilgrims, for immigrants who are looking for a place of shelter and hospitality, for people who are looking for a loving Christian family because they are far away from their families.

Welcoming new people into our churches and making room for them might mean metaphorically and/or literally that we will have to rearrange the furniture, use some of our fancy plates and silverware, put out more food and coffee, and learn some new recipes and ways of eating, but in the end we will rejoice because we will be blessed with the love of God and the presence of HIS SON our Savior Jesus Christ.

I have created a guide for developing Hispanic/Latino Ministries called Making Room at the Table, which can be found at http://www.detroitconference.org/forms/detail/514. If you would like me to come and speak to your church about Hispanic/Latino Ministries please contact me at sluna@detroitconference.org .

--Sonya Luna, Latino-Hispanic Missionary, Detroit Ann Conf

Sonya Luna is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving through the National Plan for Hispanic and Latino Ministries (NPHLM) in the Detroit Annual Conference.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Friday, December 17, 2010

Walter and the joy of Christmas

There are unforgettable people in everyone’s life. Walter is one of them for me.

Walter was a 12 year-old boy when I met him in the small town where I went to college. He lived with his mother, aunt and two younger siblings. His father was in prison. Their old ramshackle house was behind the grocery store where I worked.

Walter would come into the store almost daily so he and I became friends over a period of time. His family was poor and he lacked self confidence. All you had to do was listen to the way his mother and aunt spoke to him and you understood why he felt that way. Their manner of speech was almost always demeaning.

In spite of the way he was treated by others, Walter demonstrated a sense of self pride. When he was in the store at my break time I would try to buy him a Coke or a snack but he would not accept. He refused to take a handout. He earned spending money by sweeping the sidewalks in front of downtown merchants’ stores or collecting bottles and returning them for the deposits. Anything to make a nickel or two.

One cold, rainy December day Walter came into the store and was obviously excited about something so I followed him outside as he beckoned me. This was uncharacteristic of him and I wondered what could be so important.

Walter ran ahead of me. As I walked around the corner of the building I saw the source of his delight. His old raggedy winter coat was soaking wet as he held up a pitiful looking Christmas tree. It would have made Charlie Brown’s look exquisite.

“Walter,” I asked. “Where did you get that?” He answered that he had bought it from the Optimist Club tree lot on Main Street. “They let me have it for 50 cents,” he said. I thought to myself that they should be ashamed of themselves for charging him anything.

“Ain’t it pretty?” Walter asked. I probably lied in response because this was the worst excuse of a Christmas tree I had ever seen but he was so proud of it.

I asked, “Why did you buy it?” and he replied, “Well, I just didn’t think it was right for my little brother and sister not to have a Christmas tree.” With that he reached his hand into his pocket, counted his change, and asked me, “How many decorations do you think I can get for $1.83?” Before I could answer he picked up his tree and ran toward his house.

As Walter ran away I stood in the downpour and felt like crying.

Compared to Walter I had plenty but I was “down in the dumps” because Lena and I couldn’t afford to buy each other gifts that Christmas. I was reminded that my pity party was so irrational and selfish. Walter exhibited the joy of Christmas through his generous spirit, although he had very little to give.

It doesn’t take a Walter to help us have the Christmas Spirit. Let us remember that although Jesus had all the privileges and rightful dignity of God, He took on the status of a servant, was born a human being, and lived a selfless life. That is the Gift of Christmas. Glory to God in the Highest!

--Jamie Jenkins, NGA Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CHANGE BRINGS HOPE!

Grace and peace to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel! ("God-With-Us")

During Advent we remember that in Jesus' time, the faithful lived with the expectation that God's promise of salvation would be fulfilled and that their lives would find new meaning and hope. As the incarnation of God's love in the world, Jesus ushered in that new era of hope.

Our Annual Conference is experiencing a time of hopefulness too! Acting on our desire to reverse decline, Oregon-Idaho United Methodists have made a commitment to make changes that will help us grow healthy vital congregations. Now, six months into our journey, we are experiencing some of the uncertainty and fear that result when things are done differently. For some, the change in how we conduct annual fall meetings has been difficult. Others believe that nothing has really changed other than the titles of some of our leaders and processes.

But, if I am hearing about uncertainty and fears, I also see encouraging signs of hope! The Assistants to the Bishop report that at the all church meetings discussions are rich and inspiring when focused on discovering a vision for ministry in their local congregation. Hearing the results of these discussions helps all of us in learning about and understanding the serious challenges local congregations are facing; as well as the many and varied gifts present in your ministry settings. This process enables the Ministry Leadership Team, the Assistants to the Bishop and me to learn how to better assist you to engage in vital and relevant ministry.

I deeply appreciate the Assistants to the Bishop who work tirelessly building and maintaining relationships with congregations. In order to promote growth of mission and ministry in the future and to continue offering support to our congregations, we will continue to maintain five districts in our Annual Conference.

We are also blessed by the Ministry Leadership Team and its commitment to focus our expertise on assisting congregations to thrive. We are prayerfully discerning how to best nurture and support congregations and clergy in trying bold new ways of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and of practicing what we preach. Our efforts coalesce around the commitment to lead us out of decline and into dynamic growth.

I also count as a sign of hope the many congregations that understand how critical it is for our future to look outwardly at the community and world beyond the four walls of the church building. United Methodists are making a difference and becoming more relevant to our calling as we embrace changes in our society and the world. Laity and clergy are demonstrating a willingness to open themselves to new ideas, new challenges, and new opportunities.

As we navigate through the challenging times these are some of the signs of hope that I see during this time of change. There will be many more! We give thanks for God's presence with us, guiding us and equipping us to grow healthy vital congregations in our Annual Conference. In God's presence is our hope!
--In Christ's shalom, Bishop Robert T. Hoshibat

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gifts of Great Gratitude

“…life with God is an exchange of gifts. The world, which is charged with the grandeur of God, is God’s benevolent gift to each of us. And we appropriately express our gratitude for all that God has given to us by giving . . . for the benefit of that very world.”
-- Rev. Dr. John H. Westerhoff
Gifts of gratitude, rather than gifts of stuff
Over ten years ago, a United Methodist couple from Eastern Washington decided to invite their family and friends into a very special gift exchange.

It turns out that a lifetime of birthdays and anniversaries had provided the couple with more than enough neckties, bathrobes, and knickknacks to last well beyond their golden years. Given the abundance of God’s blessings in their lives, the couple felt moved to invite their loved ones into a different kind of gift giving – gift giving that would help the couple to express their deep gratitude to God and their care for God’s children. Specifically, the couple decided to set up an endowment fund – through the United Methodist Foundation of the Northwest – to receive the financial gifts that others ordinarily would spend to honor their birthdays and other life celebrations. The income from this endowment would bless the children of a United Methodist mission school very dear to the couple.

In honor of this couple, gifts of $20-$200 continue to trickle in to the endowment they established. Today, this endowment holds over $20,000 and its income blesses the mission school’s children year after year. The couple takes great joy in knowing that the endowment will continue to grow and bear fruit for the children long after their lifetimes. They take joy in knowing that this fruit grows from the love and care of so many.

Would you like to invite your loved ones to join you in giving gifts of gratitude?
It’s easy to set up an endowment that will help others to express their love and care for you on those special occasions in your life. If you’d like to establish an endowment that blesses our church in your honor, please contact a member of our church’s endowment committee. If you’d like to set up an endowment that blesses our church and/or another United Methodist ministry (local, national, or global) please contact the United Methodist Foundation of the Northwest using the information below.

We thank God for the gift of your life!

--Tom Wilson, NW Ann Conf


God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010 Advent Offering

Welcome one another as God in Christ has welcomed you -- Romans 14

Through Nothing But Nets and now Imagine No Malaria, we welcome into our Advent life little ones who sleep in danger of malaria. Your gifts insure that mosquito nets are given to children and that public health initiatives make villages safer in Africa.

The Council of Bishops met in Panama in November, a place once malaria-ridden but now malaria-free. A canal was greatly desired as a path between the oceans, and malaria was eradicated in the process of building the canal. We focus efforts to eradicate malaria in Africa for even better reasons. We do so in faithfulness to Christ, the Great Physician and Good Shepherd.

In 2009, the Mississippi Conference led the United Methodist connection in giving through The Advance, the distinctive United Methodist channel of giving. The Mission Shares, or apportionments, of each local church establishes The Advance. Through the Advance, 100 percent of every gift goes to the ministry designated by the giver. Other charities and organizations are compelled to use some percentage of every gift for delivery of the gift to the ministry. When you give through The Advance, you maximize your gift.

Our goal is simple: every United Methodist Church in Mississippi participating in The Advance each year. Thank you for advancing hope through in 2009 and for Advent generosity to Imagine No Malaria in December.

With gratitude for your partnership in ministry,

--Bishop Hope Morgan Ward

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, December 6, 2010

Can We Learn To Celebrate Giving?

I had the great joy of returning to one of my former pastorates recently. When the pastor said, “It’s time for the offering,” people started cheering. “Yea! Great! All right!” THAT was a surprise.

I leaned over to my neighbor and said, “Are they cheering for the offering? I don’t think I have ever seen that. I’m SURE I never saw that when I was the pastor here.” That is exactly what was happening!

I grew up in a traditional worship style where a shouted “Amen!” would have required performing CPR on a traditional soul. My first congregation taught me the joy of engaging in worship. However, never had I heard anyone cheer when the preacher said it was time for the offering.

I liked it. The offering is the true high point of worship – the time when we have the great privilege of showing our gratitude and dedication to God. While I am sure some people think it may be irreverent to cheer at the announcement of the offering, I believe it is the right response.
What would it be like if cheering for the offering spread across our denomination? If churches – even for just one Sunday – would let out a respectful cheer when the pastor said, “It’s now time to share our tithes and offerings”? Somehow, we have to find a way to communicate to our people that, as beneficiaries of Christ’s gifts, we must be grateful, generous and joyful givers. When it is time for the offering, let’s find a way to celebrate.

One of our connectional giving opportunities—the General Administration Fund—may not have the catchiest name. However, it enables amazing things—financial accountability for our church, the quadrennial General Conference where key decisions are made and much, much more. Let’s celebrate and give generously.

--adapted from an article by the Rev. Dr. Mary John Dye, Western NC Conference

For more information on the General Administration Fund, click here.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving a Little Extra


I almost brought this up a year ago, but I chose the cowardly act of silence. Now I am gathering up my courage, and I will dare to ask the question: "Is it possible for a district in the Missouri Conference to pay 100% of its conference apportionments?" Perhaps I should be bolder. Is it possible that Pony Express District churches could pay their conference apportionments in full in 2010?

Before answering, here are some facts. Our district completed 2009 with contributions equaling 95.1% of what we were apportioned as a group. Seventy-nine of our 92 churches paid 100%. Thanks to the commitment of our churches, we came very close to hitting that 100% mark last year!

Of the 13 that did not contribute all that was asked of them, only two gave nothing. (Both of those either have or will soon have given something in 2010). Nine of those who did not make 100% have allowed it to become habitual. Those nine have missed on anywhere from 4 to 18 consecutive years. Quite honestly, though, almost all of them have extenuating circumstances that tend to impoverish them as congregations.

Read more of Giving a Little Extra


--Steve Cox
_______________________________________________________________
They Laughed

"They laughed at him. They knew she was dead." (Luke 8:53-The Message)

We were in the middle of a conversation about the difficulties of being the Church in today's society. I asked those who were gathered for this annual review of church life to discuss the barriers that stand in the way of effectively leading members to a deeper and richer relationship with Christ. As usual, their answers included lack of commitment, too many other priorities, too many things to do and too little time to do them, people whose lives are going so well that they don't feel they need God, and other similar ideas. I then invited them to think about what one spiritual practice (prayer and worship, fasting, study, participating in Holy Communion, generous giving, Christian service, etc.) would have the greatest power to transform their members if their congregation practiced it with great consistency and intentionality.

After some small group conversations, I asked who had chosen prayer. A few hands went up.

I asked who had chosen fasting. No hands…then laughter…then a few side comments about how ridiculous it would be for Methodists, lovers of the fellowship meal, to consider fasting.


--Steve Cox

God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications

Monday, November 22, 2010

Keeping On Keeping On

Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? -- Luke 18: 8

Jesus told a parable about the need to pray and not lose heart. A widow was relentless in pleading before a callous judge. Although he heeded neither God nor people, he gave her what she requested so that he would not have to listen to her pleading any longer.

And the Lord said, "How much more will God grant the petitions of those who pray night and day? Will God delay in helping them?"

And the Lord asks the probing question, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Faith is evident as we pray without ceasing, as we persevere in our ministries, as we give generously. This is the beautiful season of harvest, of generosity. "10-Fold" and "O For a Thousand" and local church stewardship campaigns and thank offerings. As God watches, does God find faith on earth in us?

In Beyond Katrina, Natasha Trethewey offers this meditation, a poem, "Believer."

The house is in need of repair, but is --
for now, she says -- still hers. After the storm,
she laid hands on what she could reclaim:
the iron table and chairs etched with rust,
the dresser laced with mold. Four years gone,
she's still rebuilding the shed out back
and sorting through boxes in the kitchen --
a lifetime of bills and receipts, deeds
and warranties, notices spread on the table,
a barrage of red ink: PAST DUE. Now,
the house is a museum of everything
she can't let go: a pile of photographs --
fused and peeling -- water stains blurring
the handwritten names of people she can't recall;
a drawer crowded with funeral programs
and church fans, rubber bands and paper sleeves
for pennies, nickels, and dimes. What stops me
is the stack of tithing envelopes. Reading my face,
she must know I can't see why -- even now --
she titles, why she keeps giving to the church.
First seek the kingdom of God, she tells me,
and the rest will follow -- says it twice
as if to make a talisman of her words.

With gratitude for your ministry,

--adapted from an e-newsletter by Bishop Ward

God Is Stil lIn Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tithing

Tithing used to be emphasized a lot more in the past as necessary to lead a good Christian life but has fallen out of favor.

I recently taught my students about stewardship which included a lesson on tithing. I thought it was an important lesson to teach because my experience is that people don’t think that it is important to give money to the Church. Some people get extremely offended when they are told that the Church needs money. They don’t think it is the Church’s business what they do with their money and how dare the Church tell them that they have to give what they have worked so hard for and deserve. Some have actually walked out of the church when the priest has to give his once-a-year homily on the finances of the church.

In the Gospels, Jesus teaches so many lessons about money. Why? Because it is so hard to detach ourselves from money. It is so easy to justify keeping and using money.

Well, I could pledge to help this high school student go on a mission trip but we need to keep saving up for Suzy’s college fund.



I could give money but I really need to save money for Christmas presents.

And so on.

I have to admit, we haven’t tithed since Olivia was born. When we got married, we started off really good. 10% of every paycheck automatically deposited into an account which we then distributed to the places we wanted to give money to. It was a really good system and we didn’t miss the money because it was never part of our spending money to begin with. Then Olivia was born. Hospital bills started pouring in. Brandon got a new job based on commission. And we cancelled the 10% deposit and have not done it since.

__________________________________________________
One word unique and basic to United Methodism is “connectionalism.” That means simply that all United Methodist leaders and congregations are connected by certain loyalties and commitments that call us to live in covenantal accountability and empower us to be in ministry around the world.

What is connectional giving? It’s as simple as people coming together, combining their money to accomplish something bigger than themselves. United Methodists support apportioned and designated funds through their connectional gifts.

By combining several smaller gifts into a larger amount, we can effect change across the world. Individual churches can minister to a small area; however, as a connectional church, we can do big things, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stewardship Signposts (East Ohio AC)

Once your financial secretary has recorded all of your pledges for the coming year, it’s time to do some dissection of those results.

Let’s start with the obvious. What was the total? And how did it compare to last year? What was the average pledge? What was the mean pledge? How do those compare with the previous year or two? How do your averages compare with similar United Methodist churches near you?

How do they compare with other denominations in your zip code?
Look at your top ten or 20 giving units. Is anyone new on this list? If there is, what happened to those who fell off this top tier? Do we know why this change occurred?

What are ages of your top 20 donors? This will typically be older than the average age of your congregation, but if all of them are 75 or older, this may suggest real challenges for your church finances in the coming years. It takes, on average, seven new members to make up the giving of one saint of the church who has passed away. Few of our churches have seven times as many professions of faith as they do deaths. How will that lost income be made up?


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tithing

Tithing used to be emphasized a lot more in the past as necessary to lead a good Christian life but has fallen out of favor.

I recently taught my students about stewardship which included a lesson on tithing. I thought it was an important lesson to teach because my experience is that people don’t think that it is important to give money to the Church. Some people get extremely offended when they are told that the Church needs money. They don’t think it is the Church’s business what they do with their money and how dare the Church tell them that they have to give what they have worked so hard for and deserve. Some have actually walked out of the church when the priest has to give his once-a-year homily on the finances of the church.

In the Gospels, Jesus teaches so many lessons about money. Why? Because it is so hard to detach ourselves from money. It is so easy to justify keeping and using money.



God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
UMCGiving.org

Monday, November 1, 2010

Generosity is giving freely

Some give freely, yet grow all the richer;
others withhold what is due,
and only suffer want. (Proverbs 11:24 – NRSV)

What would our church do if we were given a gift of $250,000 - $500,000 or more?

A) Laugh, and say, “It can’t be true!”
B) Keep it quiet so that we always have the money “just in case.”
C) Spend it almost as quickly as it came in. After all, we need a new roof, new carpet, new drapes, and handicap accessible rest rooms.
D) Dream of new ways God is calling us to be in ministry.
E) All of the above.

Believe it or not, we’ve recently received news of a number of gifts of this size made through wills and bequests from people who are faithful members and friends of churches of all sizes. In an effort to be true to the intentions of their generous donors, these congregations have not given in to the temptation to spend these large gifts outright. In some cases, the donor has requested that the gift be placed in an ENDOWMENT account. In other cases, the gift was totally undesignated, and the church decided to give a tithe to missions, another percentage to the church council to determine how best to use, and to invest the remaining amount (70-80%) in an endowment fund.

An endowment is a forever gift. It is an investment account which preserves the original principal of the gift, and uses all or a portion of the income and growth earned on the investment for mission and ministry. Scholarships, mission funds, youth ministry funds, capital improvement funds, and pastoral education funds are just a few of the needs that are met through the many endowment funds invested here at the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation.

Some people prefer to see how their gifts are being used right now. Others prefer to have their gifts invested and used over the course of time. Both are wonderful acts of generosity. If giving wholeheartedly in 2010 means you feel called to establish an Endowment Fund to benefit the ministry of a specific church or ministry in perpetuity, give us a call. We’ll be happy to help.

--adapted from the WI Ann Conf newsletter

God Is Still In Control!


Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, October 25, 2010

“‘When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder’
My affairs will be in order”

“George was only 47 on the afternoon he carefully pulled his car off the road, dialed home on his cell phone, and died before initiating the call. It was a severe heart attack. When I, George’s family pastor, sat down with his loved-ones that afternoon, I heard an all-too familiar story. George had never said a word to anyone about his wishes after death. No thoughts of a funeral or financial information of any kind. They had no idea where to start.”
– Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Gallen, family pastor

Helping to Prepare Our Loved-Ones

Certainly, most of us cannot anticipate our deaths. But, we certainly can and should share important end-of-life wishes and financial information with our loved-ones. The fact of the matter is that when we don’t do so, upon our deaths we risk throwing our loved-ones into chaos – when they really need comfort. The Information Checklist on the back of this insert can help you start putting your wishes – including supporting those church ministries that matter most to you – and resources in order. Those who love you will be very grateful when you do.

Information Checklist
To help my loved-ones prepare for my death

MY BASIC INFORMATION:
· Date and place of birth
· Birth certificate location, number and locale of filing
· Social Security Number or Citizenship papers, and location
· Parents’ names, dates and places of birth, death, and burial
· Passport number, issue date, and location
· Marriage/divorce papers and location
· Names, addresses, and birthdates of children
· Primary care physician’s name and address
· Durable power of attorney for health considerations, and location

MY FUNERAL WISHES:
· Funeral or memorial service, including any prepaid arrangements
· Church or funeral home
· Cremation or burial
· The service: people to participate; my favorite Scripture and/or other readings; my favorite hymns, songs, and/or other music
· Names and contact information of persons to notify
· Designations for memorial giving, including designee’s address

MY ESTATE:
· Attorney, accountant, and insurance agent contact information
· LOCATION OF WILL and personal representative(s) named therein
· Accident and life insurance policies and carriers
· Pension plans, IRA contracts, or other plans “of value”
· Investment portfolio(s) and broker(s); annuities, CDs, savings bonds, and other cash instruments locations
· Employer benefits coordinator and contact information
· Military service number (if any), discharge date, and benefits
· Location of state and federal income tax filings
· Bank accounts and safe deposit box keys and location; safe combinations; location of vehicle and property titles, property deeds, and mortgage/loan documents; other items of value (e.g., jewelry and artwork), location and disposition
· Trusts and estates created by my will

--adapted from bulletin insert by Dr. Gallen,
Exec. Dir. of Preachers Aid Society

God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org

Monday, October 18, 2010

To give is to Respond Gratefully

My dad would sit down at the kitchen table on Saturday evenings. Write a check. Put it in the envelope. Set it on the corner of the kitchen counter next to his car keys. That’s it. He never said anything to my brother and me about stewardship, about giving to God, about the importance of sharing. He just did it. He never missed. He still does it, every Saturday night. It’s a powerful memory, and it goes on.

I did not inherit my dad’s organizational skills nor, more honestly, his faithfulness. I have been known to search my purse for a pen while the ushers were coming down the aisle, or to fill out my check for the offering while the pastor was recapping the Gospel lesson. If by some chance the plate went by before I finished – more times than I care to admit – that week’s offering never made it anywhere.

But I still remember that envelope sitting by the car keys. And some weeks, I lay my own witness on the kitchen counter for my kids to see. I might even write a bigger check to “catch up.” It’s not a have-to. It’s a want-to – something from my past that allows me to be faithful.

- excerpt by Barbara DeGrote, Wisconsin AC

God is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCgiving.org

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To give is to Respond Gratefully
A Stewardship Message for your Church

“…they gave themselves first to the Lord.” 2 Cor 8:5b (NRSV)

It’s been over six months since I took the brave step of signing up to have my tithe automatically deposited from my bank account into the church’s account twice a month. We’ve been tithing for years and my husband has had his offerings electronically transferred for a while. But I still liked having control. And I must confess, I liked being able to “flex” my spending especially in the summer.

For several years, our dinner table was crowded with 3, 4, 5 or more of our college-aged kids and their friends, which meant extra groceries. In addition, 75% of the family birthdays fall in the third quarter of the year. I’m not particularly proud of it; but the reality is that I was often “catching up” on my pledge in October and November following the back-to-school crunch. Yet I promote automatic deposit as a means of giving our first fruits! I believe the first check I write should be to give thanks to God for the blessings I’ve received. I preach this too!

So I took the plunge. And that’s how it felt the first time I saw the transaction online mid-January. I don’t know why. But I felt like someone had just flung me out in the middle of a polar bear swim! Months later, instead of gasping for air twice a month, I now take a deep breath and give thanks to God for the blessings I have and the blessings I’m able to share. I see those blessings as children return from church camp this summer with grins from ear to ear. And I see those blessings as the UMCOR reaches out to children in need every time an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or flood turns their world upside-down.

Are you ready to join me in taking the plunge of automatically saying “thank you” as the first gift you make every month or every pay period? Whether your church has a program or not, I now know I can do it through my online banking or by EFT through the church. God promises to automatically love and care for us winter, summer, spring and fall. Let’s find ways to give our thanks by offering our prayers, presence, GIFTS, service and witness consistently too.


--Rev. Jean Ehnert Nicholas, Wisconsin Ann Conf

God is Still in Control

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, October 4, 2010

Planning Your Estate Is a Spiritual Act

We are all called to be “followers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). You’ve strived to live as a Christian disciple and steward. You’ve used the time, talents, and treasures that God has entrusted to you to help to reveal God’s Kingdom on earth.

As you make financial and estate plans, you can continue to faithfully follow Christ and steward God’s mysteries. Indeed, you can look at planning your estate as a spiritual act – as a time to prayerfully consider how your material gifts should be used (now and after your death) so that they continue to reflect your faith. As you begin to plan your estate, you may wish to use the following steps:

(1) Reflect on the people God has placed in your life. Make a list of family, special friends, and others who have been a blessing to you. Thank God for them!

(2) Reflect upon the organizations God has placed in your life. Make a list of the churches and other organizations that have contributed to a better life for you and others. Thank God for them!

(3) Reflect upon the material gifts that God has entrusted to you. Make a list of the things you own: real estate, stocks and other securities, life insurance, retirement assets, as well as other cherished items. Thank God for them!

(4) Consider the ways in which you would like to match the people and organizations in your life with these material gifts. Who might need continued care? Who might appreciate items of great sentimental value? How might your chosen organizations and ministries use the gifts from your estate to perpetuate your values and hopes?

(5) Consider the people you should consult on the above items. List family members, your pastor, staff of charitable organizations, your financial advisor, and/or your attorney. Discuss with them your desires and intentions. Make sure that your estate plans meet your financial needs while they reflect your spiritual values.
God Bless Your Discernments

--from the Pacific NW AC
God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org

Monday, September 27, 2010

#267 Be faithful. “…fix your attention on God.
You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
(Romans 12:2 The Message)


Cindy and Steve were making final plans for their summer vacation. They had considered some trips close to home, yet their dream trip to Yellowstone kept bouncing back into the discussion. They thought about the uncertain gas prices this year, the fact that their oldest child will start high school in the fall and wouldn’t be available for family vacations much longer, and the fact that they usually traveled home to Michigan to see family. Finally they decided to “go for it” and head west to Yellowstone.

The next Sunday, Steve started writing the check for their offering. He found Cindy and asked, “What do you think about giving less to the church this summer to make sure we have enough money for our vacation?” She said, “I guess it’s okay…I don’t know,” as she ran off to comb little Lily’s hair.

When it came time for the offering, their 10 year old son took his turn at putting the envelope in the plate. Steve noticed that he was studying it pretty closely. When they got out to the car, Tyler asked, “How come you gave less to the church today, Dad?” Steve looked at Cindy, who stared straight ahead at the road. He replied, “Well, your mother and I were thinking about taking a special vacation this summer. You know that Kristy’s going to high school next year and…” Kristy interrupted, “Mom said you were thinking about taking us to Yellowstone instead of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s this year. Why would we want to do that? It doesn’t seem very faithful to me for us to give less to the church just so we can take a trip to see Old Faithful!”


After the kids were in bed, Cindy brought Steve the checkbook and said, “I just went online and signed up to have our regular tithe sent to the church every week through online banking. Do you want to write a check to make up the difference this week or should I?” “I will,” he said. “And I’ll call my folks to make sure we can come during our usual week in August. Maybe we can take the ferry or do something special while we’re in Michigan this year and start a new tradition.”


--Wisconsin UMC Stewardship Message

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGivin.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Car without a Battery?
The importance of your financial gifts to our church

Picture this: with great diligence you’ve worked and saved up money for a brand new car. It has all of the bells and whistles you’ve been hoping for – a well-built body, the best engine available, a very comfortable interior, great fuel efficiency, and the latest in navigation and entertainment gadgets. But, on the day you go to pick it up, you discover that it doesn’t have a battery. This one omission means that you won’t be able to drive your dream car off the lot.

The “car” in this scenario represents all of those life-giving organizations and institutions we know to be a blessing to God’s world. These efforts are definitely worthy recipients of the financial fruits of our labors and good stewardship.

Recently, following an endowment workshop in one of our local churches, a generous United Methodist commented that he didn’t know he could leave money to his church through his will. He went on to share how he and his wife had included Deaconess Family Services, the University of Puget Sound, and Heifer Project (three great examples of the “car”) in their estate plans, but not their church. Following his comment someone else in the group raised a hand to ask, would any of these great institutions exist without the church?

In the previous car analogy, local churches are the “battery.” After all, it was local churches who generated the vast majority of educational, health, and other beneficial institutions in existence today. If the church ceases to exist, who will power these crucial institutions and generate new ones? Indeed the local church remains the heart and soul of countless charitable efforts that the world desperately needs.

If the solution for our car dilemma is to invest in a battery, then the solution to our charitable institution dilemma is to give effectively to our local church. It doesn’t take a lot of money from any one individual – but it does take all of us investing in our generative “church” together.

Here are some of the simple things that we can all do to keep our ministries running for generations to come:
  • If you’re creating or revising your will, consider naming our church as a beneficiary.
  • Consider giving a gift, of any amount, to help birth or grow an endowment fund for our church.
  • If you’re 65 or older, and in need of an annual income, please consider the benefits of a Charitable Gift Annuity (with our church as the named “charity”).
  • Consider donating stock and/or assets (e.g., life-insurance) that you no longer need to our church.
  • Seek out members of our church’s Board of Trustees or Endowment Committee for more information and ideas.

--adapted from the Pacific Northwest Ann Conf website

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, September 13, 2010

Faithful, Effective Giving
In Hard Financial Times


While it might make sense to “hunker down” when money is tight, our faith continues to call us to practice radical generosity. John Wesley (the founder of the United Methodist tradition) passionately urged his followers – rich and poor – to “Give all you can” and “‘Render unto God,’ not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God’s, be it more or less.”* And, it’s not our faith tradition alone – take for example the witness of our poorer sisters and brothers who model radical generosity in the midst of grave financial hardship. (“The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of U.S. households contributed an average of 4.3% of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1%.”**)

In difficult financial times, it seems that the issue isn’t whether or not to be generous, it’s how to be most effective in our giving. On the back of this bulletin insert, you’ll find a few ideas for making the most of your financial gifts to our church and the ministries and organizations that help to express your care for God’s world.




Ideas for Making the Most of Your Financial Gifts

The power of pooling
  • In the face of many pressing ministerial needs, one $20 gift may seem insignificant. But, combined with similar gifts from others in our church, it can become a micro-loan (see www.kiva.org), grant (see www.givingcircles.org), or endowment that directly benefits our most valued ministries. For example, one United Methodist (UM) couple decided to set up an endowment fund – through the Northwest UM Foundation – to receive the financial gifts ($5 –$100) that others ordinarily would spend on gifts to honor their birthdays and anniversaries. Today, this endowment holds over $20,000 and its income blesses the children of a UM mission school that is very dear to the couple. If one couple can do this, just think what might happen if 50 people added to such a pool!
The little things that build legacy

  • It’s easy to designate our church as a beneficiary in your will – as simple as adding a line like: “I give __% of my estate to_________ [church name], at ___________ [church address].” If you’re over 65, you may also want to consider tools like a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) – an ideal plan for people who want to effectively provide for their financial needs (and those of their loved ones), while simultaneously making a significant gift to the ministries they value. (Potential benefits of a CGA include: guaranteed, partially tax-free annual payments of 5% and higher; immediate income tax deduction; and capital gain reductions.)
Treasures in the attic

  • If you have a life insurance policy, an IRA, or other assets that you no longer need, you can gift these to our church and/or the ministries that matter most to you.

--The Northwest United Methodist Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCgiving.org
lcarey@umcom.org

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

As a pastor, I have heard many people’s opinion on Connectional Giving (apportionments) within the United Methodist Church. (For those who are not UM, we are a “connectional” church, which means that all of our churches are connected under the banner of the District that the church resides in. The District is part of the Conference and the Conference is part of the General church.) The opinions have ranged from being unfair and to a tax on local churches. I believe that some of these opinions are formed due to not having an understanding about what Connectional giving actually entails.

As a pastor, I believe that ONE of the signs of spiritual maturity is giving of one’s resources (money, time, resources) to God. It is Biblical that as disciples we give at least 10% of our earnings back to God. Is this because God needs our money? NO! It’s because money can so easily become lord of our lives and God’s desire is to be first in our life, not our money. I believe Connectional Giving is one of the signs of spiritual maturity in the life of a church. It’s a way for us to give back to God a portion of the blessings He has given to us. That reason alone should be reason enough for all UM churches to strive for 100% connectional giving. However, I want to (over the next several weeks) share with my readers how what we give is used.

One of the ways that our givings are used is to fund the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF). The MEF is used to help people who are called to go into the pastoral ministry fund their seminary education. In my own career as a minister I can tell you that there would have been no way for me to go to seminary without MEF. Not only was I able to go, I was able to graduate with next to no student loans. Praise God and thanks to all the churches who paid their apportionments. I owe a great deal of my seminary education to them.

--Rev. John Hill, pastor of The Bridge UMC, N AL Ann Conf.

God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org
United Methodist Communications

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Better Script for Small Churches

I have served as pastor of small, mid-size, and large churches. And some of them grew, especially the larger ones. Large churches that grow larger are exciting to serve and provide great stories of success. But 75 percent of churches in the United States and 95 percent in some countries are small and don't grow rapidly if at all. So what do we say about them? Are these small churches the unavoidable casualties of some invisible force at work?

I have looked everywhere for better scripts for small churches. What about a small family business that has no intention of making the Fortune 500 list, but thrives on direct communication, focused product, hands-on leadership, quick adaptability, and loyal workers, while it strives toward the goal of being passed on to the next generation at about the same size?

I use the phrase "dynamic equilibrium" to describe a better script for many small churches. A church in such healthy equilibrium:

  • Is multi-generational because the faith is not just for the present generation
  • Applies the church's own metrics of vitality and faithfulness, such as its capacity to hold diverse persons in a unity of purpose
  • Cherishes its corporate story but wants to write a new chapter
  • Creatively adapts to changes in its environment rather than closing itself off from change
  • Grows in members and stewardship at a pace that offsets losses and increased demands
The drama of a small church is not the drama of growth goals hit or missed, but the drama of endurance — of keeping the faith against incredible odds over extended periods of time.

--Lewis A. Parks

Lewis A. Parks is professor of theology, ministry, and congregational development at Wesley Theological Seminary. He is currently the pastoral leader at Arnold's Church in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. This article is an excerpt from a lecture presented on the occasion of his advancement to full professor.

God Is Still In Control

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCgiving.org
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, August 23, 2010

PEACE

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the laws with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which to put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2: 14-18)

Injustice causes pain, not peace

How fleeting the experience of peace in the midst of perceived and experienced injustice. The injustice of attack, or exclusion, or misrepresentation, or deception, or other forms of violence and destruction.

There is a pain that accompanies injustice that is like an untreated impacted tooth or ulcer that just sits there and hurts. Sooner or later something must be done, or a more serious condition or even death will be the outcome. In the case of a tooth or ulcer, the injury is physical. But when the pain of injustice continues unresolved, the destruction is not of the body, but of the soul. The soul of a person, or a people, or an institution.

The Christians Paul wrote about knew injustice. They lived it daily. Yet, it seems in their effort to get some relief from their shared pain, they turned against one another. They could not see how to reconcile their differences.

But Paul offered them a way. I believe he asked them to consider that God, through Christ, had done inside them and between them what they could not do for themselves.

God brings healing

I believe God, in Christ Jesus, continues to do for us and between us what we cannot do for ourselves, if we are willing to trust God to do so. There is such a thing as healthy boundaries and knowing how to take care of oneself in unhealthy situations with unhealthy or unsafe people. And there is such a thing as discerning the safe people and places where reconciliation and healing are possible.

We can become the peace

I believe we can create places of safety and of healing as we stay so grounded in the peace of God, that we become the peace, and bring the non-anxious love of God with us into all the places we go. Not so things can be quiet or stay the same. Creating places where safety and healing are possible allow changes to occur which are deep and lasting. These changes are born out of a willingness to keep moving forward for the good of the whole, for Christ, for the kingdom of God--in spite of what have been barriers in the past within us and within our community, our congregations, our conferences. May we find the capacity to risk creating safe and sacred places where God can do what we cannot do within or by ourselves. May it be so with this upcoming Conference Session.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14: 27)

May this peace be with you.
--In Christ's Spirit, Bishop Linda Lee
God Is Still In Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org

Monday, August 16, 2010

Planting new congregations is key to U.S. evangelization

On a recent Sunday morning, my wife and I attended worship at one of the newly planted churches in the North Georgia Conference. The church met at a school in the suburbs of Atlanta.

I was overdressed in my coat and tie. When we entered the school cafeteria, converted temporarily into worship space, a young couple enthusiastically greeted us and asked if we wanted earplugs. They said the music was high energy and high volume. We declined (which we later regretted), and soon the service began.

There were more than 200 worshippers in a congregation not yet one year old. I was deeply encouraged that morning:

  • Most of the people in worship were under 40—Children and teenagers were everywhere. Young adults were leading and serving.
  • Many of the people did not look like me. The crowd was culturally and racially diverse and mingled naturally with one another.
  • The preaching was engaging, biblical, thoughtful and Wesleyan. The sermon touched my heart and my head. My heart was warmed and my mind was stretched.
  • The mission outreach of the church was highlighted. Without a building of its own, the church had already organized itself to affect and transform its community.
  • The church was a hospitable place where people could be accepted the way they were, yet challenged to change and grow spiritually.
This experience is being repeated over and over again in new United Methodist churches across America. It is exactly what the Council of Bishops intended when we began to focus on new church development.

“Creating new places for new people” became one of the Four Areas of Focus affirmed by the 2008 General Conference. Reaching out to the more than 195 million unchurched people in the U.S. must be a priority again for us. Many of us believe it is the No. 1 priority.

Path 1 is a collaboration of church planters, directors of congregational development, bishops and general agency staff that seeks to provide leadership and to develop creative partnerships across the church to develop a national plan for training and supporting new church planters.

Its goal: to recruit, train and provide resources for 1,000 new church planters to start 650 churches in partnership with U.S. annual conferences, targeting 50 percent of those churches to be racially and ethnically diverse congregations.

To achieve these goals, we must establish a culture of starting new churches to replace our current culture of maintenance and decline.

We must also invest in leadership. The most important factor in successful church planting is a leader who can mobilize people into a vital, new faith community; a person with a deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ and a passion for evangelism and able to develop a plan for the future of the new congregation.

If we depend on ordained elders alone, we will not be able to plant the number of new churches envisioned. Lay pastors and other lay leaders can also grow new churches.

To reclaim our Methodist heritage and re-evangelize the U.S., we must make a system wide commitment to planting new churches. This is our journey and God’s vision for our future.

If we follow God’s vision and adopt a new missionary spirit, the resources we need will follow.

Bishop Davis leads the Louisville Area and chairs the Path 1 Vision Pathway Team of the Council of Bishops.

--excerpt from article in UMReporter

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
United Methodist Communications

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One of the requirements in the the final year of our ordination process is to complete an ordination project.

It needs to be something we’d be doing anyway and we’ll just need to add some layers — writing a spiritual reflection paper and preparing and giving a 15-minute multimedia presentation to the Board of Ordained Ministry, a division of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, TN.

In that light, here’s the background I wrote for this project …

I arrived at Centre Grove in July 2008 with the initial goals of (1) getting acquainted/acclimated and (2) building a shared vision. To build a shared vision, I began leading Council on a 2-year journey through Bishop Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations in January 2009. As we finish up our engagement of the Five Practices, the next step is to rethink prayer in the life of a disciple-making/transformational church!

Here’s the purpose of this project …

The best way to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is to be a prayer-saturated church. A prayer-saturated church is mission-driven and outward-focused. My goal, as a transformational leader, is to cultivate a place where prayer informs, guides, and empowers mission and ministry!

Here’s the plan for executing this project …

  1. Deepen my own personal prayer life through greater focus on spiritual disciplines (especially prayer, Scripture reading, journaling, and fasting).
  2. Recruit prayer partners to pray for me and the mission/ministry of the church.
  3. Develop a missional prayer guide based on the Lord’s Prayer.
  4. Equip leaders to lead groups/committees in missional prayer.
  5. Engage in missional prayer in Council meetings, particularly as we discuss Risk-Taking Mission and Service and create new ways to engage our community with the good news of Jesus Christ (fall 2010).
  6. Equip people for missional prayer through preaching (fall 2010 series on the Lord’s Prayer, “What Would Jesus Pray?”) and teaching (emphasize missional prayer in new First Steps class, which grew out of our Five Practices discussion; open to all, required for membership).
  7. Provide opportunities to model and/or engage in missional prayer (e.g., make prayer during worship more missional by praying intentionally for mission and ministry, in addition to personal needs) and prayer-walking/driving in our neighborhoods.

The project involves identifying the fruit/results of the project. While shaping the culture of a church is a long term effort, there are some short-term goals I’d like to accomplish in the next few months:
  • Equip people to pray missionally (i.e., to saturate the church’s ministry in prayer).
  • Be more intentional about praying missionally in worship gatherings, ministries, and meetings.
  • Experience greater fruit from our mission/ministry.
  • See more people get involved in the mission and ministry of the church (this one may take longer to see fruit, but it’s an important, if not long term, goal).

While my time is limited, I am hoping to connect with and learn from other prayer-saturated churches (churches that saturate their mission and ministry in prayer).

I would appreciate your prayers for this effort (not just the “ordination project,” but more importantly, the initiative at Centre Grove!).

---by Randy Willis, Centre Grove UMC,
Clearfield, PA; Susquehanna Ann Conf.
God is Still in Control!
Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org

Monday, August 2, 2010

The $100 Challenge

A young man came up to me the other day and led off with the line, “You probably don’t remember me, but…” Having worked for the national church for almost 15 years, I have met an awful lot of people, and I must confess that I don’t remember too many of them, but this young man went back even further to my days in New Jersey. He said, “We only attended your church one time when I was like fifteen, but I still remember you.” I don’t think there is anything a preacher likes hearing more than that he or she said something to a teenager 22 years ago that made a lasting impression. Most of what we say seems to be forgotten before the majority of people exit the sanctuary… Anyway, what he remembered was “the $100 challenge.”

I haven’t thought of this in years. I went to two small churches that had a terrible track record paying their apportionments. (Apportionments being the “fair share” of missional and denominational support each congregation gives through the annual conference to support the work of the church.) The combined apportionment for the two churches was no more than $8,000, but generally each congregation only paid in the hundreds. Leaders in the congregations were fuzzy about what apportionments were and did. Paying apportionments in full was one of my top priorities, but the skeptical leadership didn’t share my commitment. I remember the chair of Trustees telling me, “if you can think of some way to raise the money, we’ll gladly pay them.” I took the dare and came up with the $100 challenge.

I listed out twenty of the missions and causes supported by apportionments in our conference. I asked people for a few weeks if they would be willing to donate just one dime to each of them to see that these ministries could continue. Just $2 per week per person could support not just these twenty, but dozens others as well. I challenged every person — man, woman, and child — to commit to raise and/or give $100 over the year. I also issued the challenge to the UMW, UMYF, UMM, each of our committees, classes, study groups, etc., thinking if we could just get about half the congregation to commit, we would more than cover our apportionments. That year, we ended up paying 121% — our best giving ever.

We never had problems paying our apportionments from that day forward. It simply became part of what we did. Most people waste more than $2 per week, so for the vast majority of people it was no hardship at all. The young man who approached me told me that he never forgot the basic message: it doesn’t take a lot to do good, but it requires that many people are needed to do a little on a regular basis. In a lump sum, an apportionment might seem like a large amount, but when it is broken down to a manageable level, virtually no church can’t rise to the challenge. When we first issued the challenge, most people paid their money right away, or over a very short period of time. UMW held a fund-raiser and paid $1,000 to help cover the challenge for those in our congregation struggling financially. The UMYF had a candy sale and gave $350. Two Sunday school classes dedicated their weekly offering to apportionments once they understood the local missions they helped support. We even had nominally active members send us checks to cover “their share.”

What comes to mind with this challenge was that it was simple, fairly easy for almost everyone, optional — no one was forced to “pay up,” and it was tied into telling the story of what apportionments actually do, instead of approaching them as “church taxes” or “membership fees.” People liked paying their apportionments. People felt good about their simple gifts. People were happy to be doing good. I wonder how often we inadvertently make apportionments — and giving in general — harder than it needs to be?

People want to do good. Most people wish they could give more. It makes great sense to help people feel better about the giving they can actually do, instead of making people feel guilty for what they aren’t doing. In 1988, the per member apportionment was approximately $69. Today it is in the $85-90 range most places. The $100 challenge can still work. It still covers the membership. And almost everyone can find a way to free up a couple bucks a week for good causes. I’m talking movement here. I would love to see churches across the country struggling to meet apportionments to issue the $100 challenge. See what happens. The worst outcome is nothing changes. The best case? We fund our church at a 100% level and take pressure off the system so that we can worry less about money and get our focus back on mission. Help people do a little, and we might just change the world.

---borrowed from United Methodeviations/
Rethinking Church in the 21st Century blogsite
/posted by doroteos2

God is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCgiving.org
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org

Monday, July 26, 2010

God owns everything.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

Did you ever experience the serendipity of cleaning out the attic? Much of the joy of that task occurs as we stumble upon long forgotten treasures, many of which bring back special memories of yesterday.

It is important for each of us to sift and sort through our many possessions from time to time. What we often discover are items which we no longer need but which could be transformed into marvelous “charitable gifts.”

Perhaps you have stocks purchased long ago which have increased in value but don’t provide much current income. Perhaps your family has property or real estate bought long ago but now it just takes energy and money to maintain. Perhaps you discover an old insurance policy which was paid up long ago but is no longer needed for its original purpose.

All of these “treasures” can be transformed into wonderful charitable gifts. With the help and guidance of the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation your church can do many good things right now! Take a look in your attic … and call us if we can help you! That’s what stewardship is all about.

-Rev. William F. Helwig, WI Annual Conference newsletter



P.S. Did you know we can help you liquidate shares of stock or shares of a mutual fund to make a special summer gift to help your church get through the summer months? Call us today for more information and to receive the most recent forms. What’s even better is that we can do this for any United Methodist Church or ministry at no selling fee or commission. Call or email us today.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
http://www.umcgiving.org/
United Methodist Communications
lcarey@umcom.org
To Learn how you can be good stewards in the United Methodsit Church, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

'Face of Generosity'

“If we give ourselves away, we will not be a declining conference.”--- Dr. Elijah Stansell Jr., Texas conference treasurer.

At this year’s Texas Annual Conference, Dr. Tom Long, professor of preaching at Candler School of Theology, examined the Gospel of Matthew, which he called “a veritable textbook” on generosity. The book teaches, Long said, that: “Any generosity that we might claim for ourselves is only that which comes in response to the extravagant generosity of God. It’s when our eyes are open, and our hearts are filled and our wills are in tune with the generosity of God that we become a generous people.”


He describes Jesus Christ as one who sows generously, “even wastefully,” Long said, “because he knows the good soil is not just the fourth kind of soil. The good soil is also the hard ground, the thorny ground, and the rocky ground, when it has been repeatedly sown by the grace of God.”

Extravagant generosity may often have the appearance of being wasteful. “The History of people of God is a history of a people who have not been afraid to waste themselves,” Long said, quoting another writer. “They waste themselves and their love, like God wastes God’s love … God, who repeatedly sows the grace of God in places that seem unpromising.”

And, the people of the church often have tough choices to make when it comes to generosity. Long compared that to Joseph’s dilemma upon learning his bride-to-be is pregnant.

Not surprisingly, the Texas Annual Conference has a history of generosity that has gained momentum over the past five years. While charitable giving is down nationally, according to a report from Barna research group. It is up in the TAC.

Four video presentations captured the spirit of generosity in the TAC and empowered people to cast an even wider vision.

One such video was “The Power of Connectional Giving,” which explained how apportionments dollars travel and extend the reach of the local church. The video featured Natale Negrete, who experienced the gift of connectional giving through ministries serving her home country of Bolivia, and who now leads Hispanic ministries at St. Paul’s UMC Houston. As in Negrete’s case, connectional giving often gives back to the connection.

The treasurer encouraged the assembled leaders to consider what they will do differently to increase the generosity of the church.

“We need leadership restoration that shifts belief systems,” Stansell said. “That commitment comes dressed as a promise. What is the promise I’m willing to make? The price I will pay for the success of my church?

“This is our opportune time under God. Recessions, economic challenges… People are hungry for the gospel.”

--excerpt from the TX Ann Conf website

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giving a Little Extra

I almost brought this up a year ago, but I chose the cowardly act of silence. Now I am gathering up my courage, and I will dare to ask the question: "Is it possible for a district in the Missouri Conference to pay 100% of its conference apportionments?" Perhaps I should be bolder. Is it possible that Pony Express District churches could pay their conference apportionments in full in 2010?

Before answering, here are some facts. Our district completed 2009 with contributions equaling 95.1% of what we were apportioned as a group. Seventy-nine of our 92 churches paid 100%. Thanks to the commitment of our churches, we came very close to hitting that 100% mark last year!

Of the 13 that did not contribute all that was asked of them, only two gave nothing. (Both of those either have or will soon have given something in 2010). Nine of those who did not make 100% have allowed it to become habitual. Those nine have missed on anywhere from 4 to 18 consecutive years. Quite honestly, though, almost all of them have extenuating circumstances that tend to impoverish them as congregations.

So, the first thought would be that we will never pay 100% because we will always have one or more congregations that don't quite make it. The very fact that I am writing this, though, should tell you that I have a second thought.

Our problem may not be that we will always have some churches that cannot pay 100%. Rather, our problem is that we don't have churches who consider paying more than 100%. For some reason, we have tended to believe that 100% is a cap on giving rather than a minimum standard. That is like saying no person should give more than a tithe of their income to God. It misses the Bible's invitation to be extravagantly generous.

The Apostle Paul suggested a similar idea to the people of Corinth. He wrote, "It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance." (2 Corinthians 8: 13-14) In other words, if you are having an extra good year, if you have received an unexpected bequest, or if you just somehow end up with money in the bank because your need was less, then share some on behalf of those who didn't have the same kind of year. Someday, their time will come to help you.

As it turns out, that already happens in a neighboring annual conference. It traditionally pays 100%, I am told, not because every church can do so, but because churches than can pay 105%. There are a few churches here in Missouri that are doing the same—none so far from our district.

Is it worth it for us to go to that effort? I believe so. Our connectional giving lays the groundwork for everything else we do. If there were no apportionments, there would be no church camp, no new churches, no Africa University, no training for pastors, no safe sanctuaries, no communications system for helping us work together, no United Methodist Committee on Relief, no disaster response team, no Volunteer in Mission organization. Each church would simply be on an island picking a pastor from among the flock and teaching whatever theology was most popular at the moment. When we give connectionally, we make each other stronger.

I have mentioned this idea of giving 105% in a couple of places now. So far, I have been met with laughter. Well, Sarah laughed, and she ended up pregnant with hope. Is it possible for our district to be the first to give 100%? Sure. Will it happen? That will require a few pregnant churches!
--Steve Cox, After the Burning Bush website

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Producer
UMCGiving.org