New Christians and Money

Bill Easum’s Advice about New Christians and Money

 

The Effective Church Group recently shared an article by Bill Easum regarding new believers and money. (www.effectivechurch.com)  Easum believes that moving new Christians to generosity does not begin with sermons but small group experiences. Easum states that a method of weaning people off of the culture of consumerism is necessary. The need is to teach folks how to live within their means. And this happens in small groups of new Christians and seasoned generous givers. It becomes a place to share and to learn.

 

The next step is concrete action by participants reducing debt and avoiding more debt. Then comes the time to share about Jesus and money. This will lead to a “standard of giving creating a standard of living” according to Easum.

 

I have witnessed giving going up, when credit cards and debt go down through “Financial Peace University.” We can preach about giving all we want, but it will not work without our folks learning new money habits.


Children and Giving

Children and Tithing

 

A recent Leading Ideas article from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership shared about teaching children to tithe. Dan Pezet writes that giving to God is a core value of our faith. I agree with him. Giving is at the heart of who we are as Christians. God lives out of generosity and invites us to live out of generosity as well. Our children will never learn this concept unless we teach it.

 

I remember our children making it very clear that toys belonged to them with a shouted, “Mine!” Only through encouragement and stern words would they freely offer to share a toy with brother, sister, or friend. We are not naturally generous. If we are not taught about generosity, we will never learn to be generous. As Christians we believe that the church and the home are to form us in faith and generosity.

 

Encouraging children to give to God a portion of their allowance is an excellent way to build generosity. It also requires parents to model generosity through their own behavior. It is not enough to tell our children to do something. It requires our children seeing us do the same. This also includes the rest of the congregation.

 

What is your congregation doing to model generosity? Do children have an opportunity to participate in the offering? Is the church providing teaching materials for the home related to generosity?


Reasons People Do Not Give

Some Reasons People Are Not Giving

 

Horizons Stewardship shared some of the following information written by Dustin Cooper. He suggests that there are four reasons why active church families fail to give. The first is personal debt. People just cannot give because they owe too much on student loans, mortgages and car payments. We need to begin offering personal financial resources such as Freed-Up Financial Living by goodsensemovement.org.

 

The second reason Cooper offers for persons failing to give is the power of the consumerist culture in which we live. We are convinced that stuff will bring joy and happiness. He suggests an answer is get persons involved in direct mission work. This adds balance to life.

 

Cooper suggests that a third reason people fail to give is fear. People worry about the future and its financial needs. Cooper calls upon pastors to preach a message of hope through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Finally, people fail to give because they have flawed perceptions. The non-givers believe that any sermon about money is about paying the church’s bills. And most believe finances are personal. These folks often see generosity sermons and plans as “beg-a-thons.” We need to shape the conversation around money at times, when we are not asking for money.

 

For more information go to: www.horizonsstewardship.com.

 


Looking at Your Church as an Outsider

Looking at Your Church as an Outsider

 

My work at the Foundation takes me to many different churches of various sizes across the Annual Conference. Few churches make it easy to find the right door to the office, the sanctuary or to restrooms in the building. Granted, in a small church the sanctuary entrance is easy to find, but finding the office door can be a challenge. In larger church buildings one can wander and wander trying to find the right door. Many do not even have a sign outside stating the correct time of worship each Sunday. Some still have old signs with incorrect worship information. And we really expect new people to feel welcome?

 

I usually check for a church website or Facebook page before visiting. Some have a presence and others do not. The United Methodist Church and the Annual Conference provide information about each congregation in Mississippi. It at least lists the pastor and location. Though, I have discovered that some addresses are not correct. Many churches have not taken the time to enter their worship times. Then there are churches that have not updated websites in months or years. It is better to have nothing than an outdated electronic presence, because this is usually the first place a first time visitor will check.

 

Once inside your building think about directional signs, cleanliness and timely materials. Bulletin boards featuring events from 2011 and 2012 do not inspire new persons. Again, displaying nothing is better than outdated information. Another issue is outdated door signs in the building. Do not leave a sign saying, “Nursery,” that is now a storage room. I think you get the idea.

 

Why not invite one or two key leaders to approach the church as an outsider?


Simplicity

Simplicity

 

Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline writes, “Christian simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.” He goes on to say that without an inward reality simplicity will lead only to legalism. Foster pens, “because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things.” So we end up celebrating the lives of the rich and famous, while we ignore those who choose to live more simply for the sake of others.

 

Foster warns that simplicity is not to be confused with asceticism, which believes that the world and things of the world are evil. God created a good world for us. God intends for us to enjoy his abundant provision without making stuff into our god. Simplicity reminds us that seeking the kingdom of God first is where life is found. Anytime we seek stuff first it becomes idolatry.

 

Foster goes on to list ten outward expressions of simplicity:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness.
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
  7. Look with skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
  8. Use plain, honest speech.
  9. Reject that which breeds the oppression of others.
  10. Shun whatever would distract you from the goal of the Kingdom of God.

The Second Half

The Second Half

 

Yes, it really is the second half of 2017. Six months have come and gone. Now is the time to look at the numbers for the first six months of this year. Is giving trending up, down or about the same? What are the underlying reasons for the trend? And please be sure to work on these numbers within the context of the previous two to three years for the same time period. This will help in responding to the numbers.

 

There is a great resource to look at all kinds of statistics related to your own congregation at www.umdata.org. You can create graphs related to membership, attendance, professions of faith and other helpful information. You can even look at the numbers of similar congregations across the country or in the conference. This may help in interpreting financial numbers.

 

The one thing you cannot afford to do is to do nothing. The finance committee does not need to take the summer off and then look at numbers in September. July is an important time to look at the data for the previous six months. Generosity does not just happen.


Do We Believe in Abundance?

Do We Believe in Abundance?

 

Richard Rohr in one of his daily meditations states that we often live within a worldview of scarcity. We are worried that there is never enough to go around. He writes, “The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the human mind is actually incapable of imagining anything infinite or eternal.” We struggle to understand the fullness of grace and the abundance of God.

 

We sometimes are not certain that God has enough grace to really forgive all the stuff we have done. We worry that we will not have enough money, enough members to keep the church doors open, or enough energy to get it all done. All the while the world of consumerism hammers home the message that we can never have enough stuff. The result is that we hold tight to what we have and embrace scarcity.

 

The only answer is a transformed heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. Abundance and generosity will not come in our own power. It is only through the mighty power of Jesus set loose through the Holy Spirit. And that all begins with an encounter with Jesus. Salvation is the beginning point of abundance and generosity.

 


Financial Reality

Financial Reality

 

A recent article by Maurie Backman of The Motley Fool appeared on MSN. The article stated that almost half of Americans die nearly broke. A recent study by GoBankingRates discovered that 59% of American adults admitted to having less than $1,000 in savings. Another study found that 46% of retirees die with savings of less than $10,000. When other assets, such as a home, is taken into account, the number gets a little better.

 

The issue is that if senior adults are dying with little savings, it means they are vulnerable to unexpected expenses. This is why adults over 65 carry over $6,300 in credit card debt. They do not have much in the way of liquid assets. Younger people have years to work in order to offset debt, but older adults often have no way to earn additional income.

 

Now is the time to address the issue. Make a decision today to begin to save an emergency fund, even if it means a change in lifestyle. This applies to younger folks as well as senior adults. I believe the church needs to be addressing the financial issues confronting members. We cannot afford to be silent, when so many are making bad financial decisions.


Time to Let Go

Time to Let Go

A recent article in the Journal of Accountancy was titled, “The Importance of Killing Projects.” The article insisted that all organizations must be willing to look at their initiatives with as critical eye. This means that ownership and ego needs must be set aside for the good of the organization. The article went on to say that the best organizations are the ones most willing to kill a project sooner than later.

This made me think of the church’s reluctance to let anything go, even if everyone knows that it is not working. We tend to focus on the positive and spend valuable resources trying to save a project. We are also reluctant to let something go because of the resources we have already invested. But the best decision we can make many times is to let it go.

The article also stated that every organization needs to have a clear exit plan for everything that they undertake. And there needs to be someone on the team focusing on reality. This person is the one asking if this project or idea is really going to work.

What might happen in the church, if we began to ignore egos and ownership for the sake of the future?


Financial Literacy Resources

Resource Materials for Churches Providing Financial Literacy

Last week I wrote about counties struggling with high poverty rates and the downward financial earnings pressure on children in those settings. I began to research materials that might help churches begin to teach financial literacy with modest income participants. The first discovery was the National Endowment for Financial Education.

The NEFE has many products that target a broad area of topics. They have one for adult learners, which targets adults seeking to return to school. They offer a workshop kit for limited literacy families. Then there are some for students, persons released from prison, and those in debt. The materials are free. You simply provide your name and email address to access the materials. Go to: www.nefe.org.

I also discovered the Chalmers Center, whose vision is for local churches to declare and demonstrate to people who are poor that Jesus Christ is making all things new. The desire of the Chalmers Center is to equip churches to walk alongside people who are poor. It is a much more involved process than simply offering a workshop. For more information go to: www.chalmers.org.

I also discovered materials from the University of Illinois Extension. The material is called, All My Money. It is written for persons working with limited-resource audiences. It is designed for various groups, including churches, to teach financial literacy even if they do not have expertise in financial management. Go to http://web.extension.illinois.edu/allmymoney/index.cfm  for more information.

I have ordered the leaders kit for All My Money to see how it looks and might work in a church setting. I will let you know in the future what I discover.