Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stewardship Lessons from the Orthodontist

When I was growing up you didn’t get braces until your teeth had all come in. But today the approach is to do braces much younger, often at age 8 or so. That way they come in straight rather than trying to correct them later.

Many churches equate stewardship with dentistry (getting our members to give is like pulling teeth) but maybe that’s because we don’t take our lead from the orthodontist.

But View from the Pew research shows that Christian adults who tithe a full ten percent of their income learned that lesson early. More than one in four (27%) started as a child or teen and and a third (33%) started in their 20s. By age 30, 60% of those who are now tithing had already started to do so. They give generously and sacrificially as adults because they were taught to do so early in life.

But in my stewardship work I have seen that these groups are often given a “free pass” when it comes to stewardship. We don’t want to turn them off. We don’t want to make church all about money. We want them to come to church and feel comfortable, they’ll give when they are ready.
But, according to this study, we have already missed that window with 60% of those who may tithe.

Folks, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

At age 5 your young charges may not be ready to hear about sacrificial giving. But they will understand that a collection is taken every week during Sunday School. Or they may understand that during the children’s sermon money put in the jar is used to buy nets so kids in Africa don’t die from being bitten by a mosquito.

How about your confirmation process? As you talk about church membership is there the expectation that these youngest members of your church will support it financially?

If you look at middle class suburbs you would probably find that the group with the greatest discretionary income is empty nesters. But I bet teenagers aren’t all that far behind.

Do you know who the youngest self-made millionaires are in the history of America? It’s not a teen-aged computer prodigy with a dot com fortune. It’s Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, who starred in Full House as infants and went on to rule the elementary school book and video industry.

OK, so you don’t have the Olsens attending your church but the depth of the pockets in your youth room are deeper than you give them credit for.

In 2004 Magazine Publishers of America’s research showed that by age 16 and 17 teens have nearly $4,500 in discretionary income a year. If they were to tithe, their $450 annual support of the church would exceed many adults in your congregation.

In my stewardship work I talk with many adults who say they truly want to tithe but the combination of family expenses, consumer debt, unsure job situations and other “grown up” issues make it, in their eyes, impossible to do so. But most teens don’t have these kinds of financial issues, so I believe that now really is the time to get them started on tithing.

If we wait until they’re 30, the window has closed for nearly two-thirds of future tithers.

Click here to read the rest of Brian's blog.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Practice of Extravagant Generosity

“Extravagant Generosity describes practices of sharing and giving that exceed all expectations and extend to unexpected measures. It describes lavish sharing, sacrifice, and giving in service to God and neighbor. Vibrant, fruitful, growing congregations thrive because of the extraordinary sharing, willing sacrifice, and joyous giving of their members out of love for God and neighbor. Such churches teach and practice giving that focuses on the abundance of God’s grace and that emphasizes the Christian’s need to give rather than on the church’s need for money. They view giving as a gift from God and are driven to be generous by a high sense of mission and a keen desire to please God by making a positive difference in the world.”

As we look at “extravagant generosity,” we know that Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church has had a long tradition of faithfulness in giving that has allowed us to live into our mission as a community church who cares about the people of the community and the world. That tradition continues to this day, as many of you continue to give faithfully and sacrificially.

There are three fundamental reasons which make a significant difference.

We are incredibly blessed by God. When I count my blessings – family, friends, opportunities, and experiences – my only response is one of gratitude. As a Christian, my response to God’s incredible blessings is to become a blessing to others. It is out of God’s extravagant generosity extended to us that you and I participate in extravagant generosity with our church, our communities, and our world.

We are invited to be in partnership with God. We have been invited, as individuals and as a church, to be in partnership with God in the work of shalom (peace, reconciliation, justice, and wholeness) for all creation. As Christians, our response to God’s invitation is to offer ourselves, our gifts, and our talents in mission and ministry through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.

We trust God. God is our great provider, who never fails to provide for our needs. God is our great sustainer, who sustains us through all of our trials. God is our great comforter, who comforts us in the midst of our fears and doubts. God is worthy of our trust, our love and our devotion.

Because we can trust God, we can respond to God’s generosity in our lives.Because of your response to God’s generosity, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church has made and is making a significant difference in the greater Cincinnati area as well as other parts of the world. It is my prayer that our “extravagant generosity” will lead us to become a vital and thriving congregation in the days and years to come.

Thanks be to God! And thanks to all of you as members and friends of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. God’s extravagant generosity and your faithful response will make all the difference.

I am proud to be counted among your number.

--Bishop Robert Schanse, "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations"

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer


United Methodist Communications

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

God's Word Will Stand Forever

I returned from a four-day visit to Haiti in February. I was there in my capacity as President of the General Board of Global Ministries to review the progress of our disaster recovery work one year after the earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince and left nearly 300,000 dead. This trip also provided an opportunity for further consultation and coordination with the Methodist Church of Haiti. I was accompanied by Mr. Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of GBGM, Rev. Cynthia Harvey, Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR, Bishop Janice Huie, President of UMCOR, and Ms. Melissa Crutchfield, International Disaster Coordinator for UMCOR.

I had last visited Haiti during Holy Week of 2010, just a few weeks after the January 12 earthquake. I was surprised and pleased with the recovery progress I witnessed a year later. Despite the media reports that nothing has been accomplished a year after the quake, there are many signs of hope and resurrection in the midst of what remains a very devastated, chaotic and poverty-stricken country. Most of the rubble has been removed from major streets and highways. Garbage is being picked up. Over half of the 1.5 million people living in tents immediately after the earthquake have returned to their homes, retreated to the country to live with relatives or been removed to temporary housing camps. Many church-related schools are operating in temporary facilities. Micro-lending, work-for-pay and agricultural programs have enabled many people to start supporting themselves and their families. Our United Methodist VIM program is operating extremely well. And, after a slow start, our UMCOR recovery work is engaged in building schools, providing housing, and starting livelihood projects such as agricultural and micro-lending programs.

One of the most sacred experiences of the trip was visiting the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince where Sam Dixon (then Deputy General Secretary for UMCOR) and Clint Rabb (then coordinator of our VIM program) were entombed and eventually died. We were accompanied by Jim Gulley who was trapped with Sam and Clint, but was safely rescued. Jim guided us over the mound of rubble that once was the hotel’s lobby and guest room tower and retold the harrowing experience of the 35 seconds of the earthquake and his 55 hours of being trapped.

Shortly after last year’s earthquake I wrote to the clergy and laity of the West Ohio Conference. In my statement, I quoted Isaiah 40:8:

The grass withers, the flowers fade;

but the word of our God will stand forever.

I have seen with my own eyes the truth of this prophecy. God’s word of love, salvation and new creation is active and eternal. God’s faithfulness is absolute. Even in the midst of massive destruction and a non-functioning government in Haiti, God is speaking a word of resurrection. Even in the midst of chaos and grinding poverty in Haiti, God is speaking a word of hope. Even in the midst of withered grass and faded flowers, God is speaking a word of redemption.I thank you for not forgetting God’s people in Haiti.

I thank you for joining with God to speak and demonstrate the word of mercy. We need a sustained response in Haiti. The recovery will likely take a decade or more. I urge you to continue your prayers, your financial support, your volunteer labor and your relationships with our Haitian brothers and sisters.

--by Bishop Bruce Ough, president, General Board of Global Ministries

God Is Still in Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

United Methodist Communications