Hard Times, Good Ideas

Nicole Seiferth, Trinity Wall Street (New York, New York) news, writes:

Just as everyone in America is affected by the economic crisis, so, too, are their parishes. Here, a few innovative tips – some practical and some pastoral – from parishes and people around the country on how they are handling these difficult times.

Read about these good ideas.

How is your parish handling the economic crisis? What pastoral needs are you responding to? How are you saving money while responding to the growing needs in your community? Share your ideas and challenges here.

Budgeting and the vision thing

From the Alban Institute:

After the board adopts the Vision of Ministry and the Budget Policies, these form the basis for the annual call for budget proposals from the program units. The request is not for a "dream" budget but for a budget that will accomplish the Vision and comply with the Policies. The board, not a finance committee of Green Eyeshades, determines the actual proposed budget.

The annual fund drive, then, communicates the Vision of Ministry over and over again. Contributors are asked for amounts which, if about half of them say "yes," will make the Vision possible. The board, clergy, and staff make it clear that the Vision is not something the congregation plans to shoot for but that it intends to accomplish. Year after year, the people learn that when this congregation asks for gifts, it means it. If they give what is asked, the results promised come to pass. Over time the fund drive becomes easier, more pleasant, and more popular.

One reason for this is that the division between Green Eyeshades and Rose-Colored Glasses, while it never goes away, is addressed in creating the Vision of Ministry. The fund drive comes, not in the middle of the argument, but after it has been resolved.

Read it all here. What do you? Can you see yourself putting this into practice?

Lack of stewardship tackled during Church of England Synod

The Church Times wins this Friday's award for "Best Headline of the Week" with a report on the stewardship debate at the recently concluded Church of England Synod. The article headline? "Stewardship: Let's talk about wallets, not willies."

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Ray Suarez talks $ on Wall Street

Back in July, PBS's Newshour correspondent Ray Suarez offered a sermon at the Episcopal Church's General Convention and recently he was the guest preacher at Trinity Wall Street's stewardship campaign, urging the congregation to practice "sacrificial giving."

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Shall we qualify the tithing expectation?

Tom Arthur, pastor of Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church, seeks the advice of elders about the wisdom of telling enquirers classes that tithing is an expectation of members:

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Living as the the holy people of God

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, calls on all Episcopalians to take up their high calling to be stewards of God's mysteries. "Each individual's, family's, congregation's and diocese's giving takes on immeasurable significance in these tough times, calling us anew to unimagined opportunities to live as the holy people of God,"

Being stewards of God's mysteries
by Bonnie Anderson in Episcopal News Service online

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Churches "reeling" from financial shortfalls

While there's good news this week that the chance of a double dip recession seems to be decreasing, the news isn't doing much to soften the worry that many congregations are feeling as they emerge from this summer and start planning their fall stewardship and pledge drives.

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The life cycle of the parish budget

As Episcopal congregations prepare for their stewardship campaigns this Fall, the step which generally follows (and occasionally precedes) it is the creation of the congregation's budget for the coming year. But church budgets are a bit different than the typical business' budget and people highly skilled in business may not always be aware of the differences. And clergy and lay professionals who have worked in the church their whole careers may not be aware of the differences either.

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Abundance theology is on the run

Writing for the Alban Institute, Dan Hotchkiss notes that difficult economic times have taken the shine off stewardship appeals rooted in the theology of abundance. He says:

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Declining membership and the either/or decision

More congregations in the US and Canada are reluctantly facing the question posed a physical plant that suited a time when membership was much larger. Why not merge with another congregation in your denomination so that outreach is possible?

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Rethinking the prosperity gospel?

With all the news and commentary this week about the Anglican Covenant or the Ordinariate, it's probably worth reminding ourselves that the bigger conflicts within Christendom have little to do with Historic Episcopate or human sexuality. It has to do with the loss of members of the Anglican churches in the third world to the preachers focusing on what is called the "Prosperity Gospel". (Details of the situation can be found here.)

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Religious people give more generously than secularists. Why?

Susan Jacoby, who counts herself a secularist, has written an incisive essay on charitable giving at Big Questions Online.

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Interfaith group stands up to protect the desert.

Members of the newly formed interfaith group in California called Desert Stewardship Project have taken on a mission to protect the most fragile ecosystem in their state.

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The electronic offering plate

Luther Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Stewardship for the 21st Century Newsletter explores the ramifications of a cashless society among younger generations in Generational Issues and Stewardship, 4/5. Pastor Scott Jacob writes:

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Religious denominations face a looming financial crisis

Lovett H. Weems, director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership sounds the alarm:

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The Church Pension Fund & the College for Bishops: questions that need answers

The news last week that the College for Bishops was launching a $15 million capital campaign to assure its future was greeted by an unusually large number of negative comments here on the Café, as well as on our Facebook page. More of that negativity was directed at the bishops than seemed fair to me. I am returning to the issue not to suggest that the bishops are blameless, but to because I think it provides a useful opportunity to examine how decisions get made, money gets spent, and interests get met in our church.

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1/3 of U.S. giving goes to religious groups

Giving to charity has increased though it is still behind the level of giving before the recession according to a report in Reuters. More than 1/3 of giving is to religious groups:

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Counting the tithe

An important question to consider as many churches begin to enter stewardship season: Does the tithe count if some of the 10% does not go to the church? The Rev. Canon Frank Logue of the Diocese of Georgia reflects on this important question in his "Loose Canon" blog. What say you, good Episcopal Cafe readers? How do you "count the tithe" at your church?

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Stewardship requires clarity

It is "stewardship season" in many churches. This piece in "Leadership Matters" reflects on the need for clarity when leading a stewardship campaign:

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Finding your (fundraising) voice

It's stewardship season in many churches these days. Dan Hotchkiss writes a helpful essay in The Alban Weekly about striving to find your fundraising voice:

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New parish stewardship resources posted

TENS (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship) has released a new website providing resources for people working in parish stewardship and looking to create broader involvement within their community.

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When the 'Impulse Buy' Is for Charity

An interesting analysis of "impulse giving" by Megan Garber in The Atlantic on Pew's Internet & American Life Project:

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NYC Cathedral builds new tower for revenue

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City is preparing to lease a part of its property to a developer. The plan is to build a second tower containing residential apartments that will in turn provide a steady revenue stream to the Cathedral. The first tower, finished in 2008, contains 295 apartments with a mix of subsidized and non-subsidized rental agreements.

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The geography of charitable giving

Interesting statistics and patterns of charitable giving are reported by NPR on a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

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Will on-line giving replace the collection plate?

If you think about, the offering plate is at once a ritual and a technology for collecting money. Ron Lieber of the New York Times asks how churches and synagogues are adapting to electronic giving and the decreasing reliance on cash.

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Giving to churches at depression-era levels

Giving by members of Protestant churches in the US reached new lows in 2011 and will probably not recover from the recession, according to a new report by Empty Tomb, a Christian research group.

RNS:

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National Cathedral to charge entry fee

UPDATED with letter from the Cathedral below.

UPDATED: The Rev. Winnie Varghese comments on WNC charging tourists in the Huffington Post:

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Three-quarters of household giving goes to faith-based organizations

Almost three-quarters of U. S. household giving goes to organizations with religious ties, according to a new report by Jumpstart and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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