Cleaning Out for the New Year

Things You Need to Get Rid of in 2018

 

Alexia Dellner in Pure Wow recently listed 30 things we need to dump as we begin 2018. I have reduced her list for our use.

 

  1. Clean out and donate old clothes that have not been worn in years.
  2. Dump old pens that no longer work.
  3. Recycle all your old chargers and cords for devices you no longer use.
  4. Jettison all of the questionable leftovers in the freezer and fridge.
  5. Put old greeting cards in the recycle bin, unless they have glitter. No one wants it.
  6. The collection of plastic bags needs to go.
  7. Move threadbare towels to the rag bin.
  8. Drop off old eyeglasses in one of those Lion’s Club boxes for re-use in the world.
  9. Purge that junk drawer of old batteries, etc.
  10. Cut the hidden clutter under beds and in closet corners.

 

This works for our homes, but many of these suggestions are good for our church offices and closets. A fresher environment encourages our desire for a new beginning in the New Year.


The End of the Year

The End Is Near

 

Yes, the end of the current fiscal year for churches is near. What are you doing to end strong? Did you plan a special offering? Have you mailed out giving statements updated through October, so that folks are reminded about where they are in their giving? Have you reminded your members that they may give appreciated securities to the church and avoid paying capital gains? Or they may wish to direct their mandatory IRA withdrawals to the church. This avoids taxes, but you cannot use your IRA withdrawal to pay your pledge, nor can you get a charitable deduction.

 

If your church does not have their own brokerage account, the Foundation provides the service at cost for you.  If you need some “End of the Year” themes to use in bulletins, letters, etc., you may find them on our web site: www.ms-umf.org. Simply click on services and then on resources to find the materials.

 

Do not delay, because the end is near.


Use the Map

Use the Map

 

My wife and I were recently at a meeting in Philadelphia, PA. Our hotel was right across the street from the Philadelphia City Hall with a statue of William Penn on top. But without a map I did not know where city hall was in relation to the rest of the city, and I certainly had no idea how to find the Liberty Bell. The problem was solved with a simple map of the city. Once we knew where we were in the city, we could plot a course to the Liberty Bell and other sites. The same approach works for church financial planning.

 

Three quarters of the year has come and gone, so now is a good time to see where you are financially. Look over the receipts to date in light of the past two to three years. Then look at expenditures to date in light of the past two to three years. This will give you a good sense of where you are. The next step is to find where you want to be financially.

 

Does year end need to see an increase in giving or spending? Does the end of the year look like familiar compared to past years? Maybe it is time to find a totally new destination. This might be the year to finally break through to a new level of giving. What route will you need to plan to get there? You may wish to look beyond the close of this fiscal year to next year’s destination.

 

The current numbers within the context of recent years will give you a good sense of where you are. Now, the question is, “Where do you want to be and how will you plan to get there?”

 


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?


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.


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.


Hard Economic News for Mississippi Counties

Hard Economic News for Mississippi Counties

The Wall Street Journal published an electronic story on counties in this country where the American Dream is dead. It began by stating that the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents is down from 90% of children born in 1940 to 50% of children born in the 1980’s. The article went on to say that neighborhood environments have substantial effects on children’s economic outcomes. I imagine this is not shocking news for most of us.

The article went on to say that the chance of earning an average income of more than $26,090, which is the lowest national income quartile, goes down for every year of childhood spent in economically challenged counties. Put another way, the poorest counties have a toxic effect on the income chances of its children. The article went on to list the top 50 counties where the average incomes lost are greatest.

A standard to keep in mind will be helpful. The national poverty rate is 15/5%. Quitman County, MS is number 32 of the 50 counties listed with an average income loss of $214 for every year a child lives there. The poverty rate is 33.1%. Grenada County is just behind with an income loss of $215 per year and a poverty rate of 20.9%. Washington County is number 28, followed by Oktibbeha County at number 26 and Bolivar County at number 25. Sunflower County is number 24 with an income loss of $228 per year and a poverty rate of 30%. Unfortunately, there are more.

Tallahatchie County is number 22 and Leflore County with a drop of $236 per year and a poverty rate of 34.8% is number 16. Then comes Claiborne County with a drop of $242 per year and a poverty rate of 32.4% at number 13. Tunica County stands at number 10 with a rate of $249 in lost income each year and a poverty rate of 33.1%. Finally, we have Humphreys County with an income loss of $253 per year and a poverty rate of 38.2% at number 9 and Coahoma County at number 7 with an income loss of $273 per year and a poverty rate of 35.9%.

I feel these numbers may be a call for churches to expand generosity and stewardship education beyond the need to give and into the area of personal financial management. Bad money


Do It Now!

Do It Now!

 

Now is the time to begin to address the issue of generosity in your church. Tomorrow will be too late. One-third of 2017 has come and gone. If you have all the resources you will ever need for effective ministry, you need not pay attention to my message today. But if you are struggling to make ends meet or still waiting for more resources to accomplish the church’s vision, now is the time to get serious about generosity.

Generosity does not just happen. Generosity is learned through observation, teaching and experience. Trusting that folks are learning about generosity, when the offering plate is passed, is naïve. Building generosity takes time and effort on the part of the pastor and leaders of the congregation. So today is the day to begin the journey.

What are some of the questions that need to be addressed? Do we have young people, who do not know how to properly manage their resources? Are folks just ignorant of the connection between financial giving and the ability of the church to do effective ministry? What vision and/or mission are we communicating to our members and the community around us? Do behaviors need to change among the leadership in order to develop generosity? Why are we afraid to talk about money beyond paying the bills? Is our world view one of scarcity or generosity?

I hope that this will get you started today in developing generosity for the sake of growing disciples and impacting lives for the sake of Jesus.