Monday, March 30, 2009

Ministry Musing: The Cost

Have you ever heard the expression, “You’re going to have to pay for it one way or another?” It holds true for most of life, even ministry. As we talk about our hopes and dreams for ministry we need to keep in mind the other part of that expression, “Nothing in life is free.” Generally speaking, I believe we have to pay for ministry in one of three ways.

The first way we pay for ministry is the obvious money. We need to pay for staff, both those leading the program and the ones supporting the program. Depending on the ministry we may need to pay for supplies and/or space to carry out the ministry. We will need to pay for them either through the church budget or generous donations, either way they will need to be paid for, which leads us to…

The second way we pay for ministry is through our time. If we don’t pay to hire a youth minister then we need people to volunteer their time to lead the youth. If we don’t hire a children’s minister to work with our youngest of children then we need people to volunteer their time to teach the children. Even when we add paid staff to run programs we need to people to volunteer and work with people. We all have our limits of the number of people we connect with and as the ol’ saying goes, “Jesus had a youth group of twelve and apparently that was one too many.” The paid ministry, then, largely becomes the resident expert who can help the volunteers stay up with the latest, most effective ways of doing ministry in their specific areas.

The final way we pay for ministry is the one we pray we might never have to use, it just simply doesn’t happen. If we desire to send a group on a mission trip and we don’t pay for a leader through one of the first two ways then it won’t happen and we pay by not having that experience. If we want to see our youth ministry grow and we don’t hire a youth minister and nobody comes forward to lead then we pay price of not nurturing the faith of our youth.

The choice, really, is ours to make. We want ministry to happen. We want ministry to grow. How will we choose to pay for it?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quick Update

OK, so I haven't died or anything, I've just gotten swept up in the chaos of Lent. For the sake of my sanity I need to return to a regular practice of updating this Blog. I don't know what others think, but for my sake and for the sake of clearing my head I need to spend a little more time here each day. So I hope, in the days and weeks ahead to be more regular once again with my updates... and hopefully that will make everyone happy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Natural Highs

I got the following e-mail listing natural highs. I thought there were some good ones. What are your favorites? What might you add to the list?

Falling in love.

2. Laughing so hard your face hurts.

3. A hot shower.

4. No lines at the supermarket.

5. A special glance.

6. Getting mail.

7. Taking a drive on a pretty road.

8. Hearing your favorite song on the radio.

9. Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.

10. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.

11. Chocolate milkshake (vanilla or strawberry).

12. A bubble bath.

13. Giggling.

15. The beach.

16. Finding a 20 dollar bill in your coat from last winter.

17. Laughing at yourself.

18. Looking into their eyes and knowing they Love you

19. Midnight phone calls that last for hours.

20. Running through sprinklers.

21. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.

22. Having someone tell you that you're beautiful.

23. Laughing at an inside joke with FRIENDS

24. Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.

25. Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.

26. Your first kiss (either the very first or with a new partner).

27. Making new friends or spending time with old ones.

28. Playing with a new puppy.

29. Having someone play with your hair.

30. Sweet dreams.

31. Hot chocolate.

32. Road trips with friends.

33. Swinging on swings.

34. Making eye contact with a cute stranger.

35. Making chocolate chip cookies

36. Having your friends send you homemade cookies.

37. Holding hands with someone you care about.

38. Running into an old friend and realizing that some things (good or bad) never change.

39. Watching the expression on someone's face as they open a much desired present from you.

40. Watching the sunrise.

41.. Getting out of bed every morning and being grateful for another beautiful day.

42. Knowing that somebody misses you.

43. Getting a hug from someone you care about deeply.

44. Knowing you ' ve done the right thing, no matter what other people think.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Took My Place

I came across the following story as I was preparing for my sermon this week....

There is a story about a man who visited a church. He parked his car and started toward the front entrance. Another car pulled up nearby, and the irritated driver said to him, "I always park there. You took my place!" The visitor went inside and found that Sunday School was about to begin. He found an adult class, went inside, and sat down. A class member approached him and said, "That's my seat! You took my place!" The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing. After Sunday School, the visitor went into the sanctuary and sat down in an empty pew. Within moments another member walked up to him and said, "That's where I always sit. You took my place!" The visitor was troubled, but said nothing. Later, as the congregation was praying for Christ to be present with them, the visitor stood, and his appearance began to change. Scars became visible on his hands and on his sandaled feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and cried out, "What happened to you?" The visitor replied, "I took your place."

Some things that happen in church are silly. Some things are down right scandalous. Some things may even be sacrilegious. But the Church is still the body of Christ and it was for the Church that Christ died.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ministry Musings: Growth

One of the things that was expressed by a number of people at the cottage meetings was they would like to see the congregation grow to the point of bursting at the seams. Once again I have to ask, why? Is it so that we can feel good about ourselves? Is it because we know people who haven’t heard the promise of the saving Grace of God and we desperately want them to hear this Good News? What if, instead of those who have not heard the good news coming to us, we took this message to them? Would we be accomplishing the spirit of this goal/dream if we were tell every household in Rome about Jesus and our relationship with Him, but saw virtually no increase in our Sunday morning attendance? What is more important? How does that reframe our goals/dreams?

What if, our dream started coming true and we started growing in attendance and participation in leaps and bounds (something I think could very realistically happen)? Do you realize that’s probably going to mean making changes and you needing to make some sacrifices? It might mean a change in the style of how we worship. It might mean needing to sing different hymns/songs than what we’re comfortable with on Sunday morning. It might mean needing to welcome somebody different into your pew, or finding a new one all together. It might mean needing build a whole new facility, which will cost us a lot of money.

It most certainly will mean needing to pay more money to adequately staff the programs and activities a larger amount of people will necessitate. In fact, studies show that if we are going to grow we will need to increase our staff. According to the Alban Institute a congregation needs one full-time program minister (i.e. pastor, youth director, etc.) for every 100 people worshiping on a weekly basis just to maintain their programming. That means we are currently staffed to decrease, to maintain we should have a half time program minister, to grow we would need to add a full-time minister. That doesn’t include the support staff (i.e. secretaries, janitors, etc.) needed to go along with them…Are you ready to grow?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ministry Musing: Membership

One of the things that was expressed by a number of people at the cottage meetings was they would like to see the membership grow. Specifically, a number of people expressed a desire, or need, to reinvolve people who have become inactive.

I guess my first question is to ask, why? I suspect an underlying motivation for some is that if we get more people to join they will give more money. That in turn would free us up to do more ministry, a noble aspiration. Something to keep in mind is that to be considered an “active” member is to contribute financially once every two years, and that can be as little as $1. It is also been shown that it takes about 7 years before somebody starts giving of any significance.

My second question is, what does it mean to be a member? One thing I know membership is not and that is salvation. I fear that sometimes we equate church membership to our salvation, which I do not find any support for in the Bible. In the Lutheran church we talk about being baptized into the body of Christ. What good is it to have an arm, a leg, or an eye if they do nothing? I think there is an expectation with membership that you are contributing in significant ways to the whole. Nobody wants to be the spleen. How are you choosing to contribute?

I know of a congregation, not Lutheran mind you, that requires you sign a covenant agreeing to teach a Sunday school class, be involved in a weekly small group, attend worship 3 out of every 4 Sundays, tithe, and serve on a committee. Now that means something to say you’re a member of that congregation. Of course, we in the Lutheran church believe in Grace so our expectations aren’t nearly that high. To become a member here you need to attend the orientation and then need to partake in communion or give offering once in the course of a two year period. Have we set the bar too low? What should be our expectations for membership?