Thursday, November 5, 2009

Catching Up on Posting

Today, other then this post you are now reading, I have posted two articles: "My Thoughts on Church Membership" and "November Newsletter Article". You will find these articles below. They cover two subjects that can be particularly touchy near the end of the year: stewardship and membership. Please feel free to leave your comments, especially on the issue of membership. Do we just carry everyone including those who have moved away or never participate? What about C&E Christians (only attend on Christmas and Easter)? Are there any alternatives to what I have suggested?

Thank you for reading!

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary

My Thoughts on Church Membership

Who should be members of a church? Is it everyone who attends once or twice a year and gives a nominal amount for offering? What about those who live in other cities and cannot physically attend more than once or twice a year? What about children of members who joined during confirmation and have now finished college and found work in another city?

Author and speaker Doug Anderson thought all members should be attend worship ½ the time they are available to worship. For example, a nurse who works every other Sunday is available to be in worship 26 times a year. Half of that is 13 times in worship or once each month. Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, expects all members to be in worship 100% of the time, and if not there, then somewhere else.
To me half of the available time seems light while every week seems excessive. Perhaps 75% of the available worship time would be appropriate.

So, what do I think about church membership?

First, membership in a church should reflect approximately those who worship regularly, those who are home-bound or in a nursing home, those in college, and those who are on active-duty in the military.

Secondly, those members who are children of members, who have attended and graduated college, and who have found employment in another town or city outside a drivable distance should be strongly encouraged to find a church near their homes and to transfer their memberships or withdraw. Otherwise, they should be removed from the rolls.

Third, in a similar vein, those members who live and work in another city far enough away to prevent regular attendance in worship should also be strongly encouraged to transfer to a local church or withdraw from membership. Otherwise, they should be removed.

Fourth, those members who live locally and don’t attend worship or do not attend worship with any kind of regularity (say, less than 50% of their available time) should be called by members of the church council or membership committee and encouraged to return to worship. If they are attending another church, their membership should be transferred. After several attempts, they should be asked to withdraw. Otherwise, they should be removed.

Finally, once someone has been removed from the membership rolls, a letter stating that they have been removed should NOT be sent. These letters, in my opinion, create a lot of hard feelings and may be the final road block to their returning to worship. We will always be open to serving them in whatever need they may have: weddings, baptisms, funerals, or visits when in the hospital. We will always encourage them to return to worship and if they should return we will reinstate them to the rolls.

One more thing: what about giving to the church and membership? This is always a tricky question but consider this scenario. Two people who never come to worship, they do not participate in faith forming groups, they do not help in any ministry or mission areas of the church and both want to remain members of the church. One gives $100 annually and the other gives $10,000 annually. Should they be treated differently? James 2:1-13 implores us to treat each person equally. Therefore, either they both should be members (even though they do not participate) or they both should be quietly removed from membership. The church can still gratefully accept their gifts and will be there in their needs (see the final point above).

To some these views may seem harsh, but I truly think that the membership rolls should reflect the active participants of the church (see point #1).

Pastor Gary

November Newsletter Article

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The topic I would really like to tackle this month is stewardship. It is a topic that no one likes to hear coming from the pastor. In fact, there are tales which may or may not be true of churches that ran off their pastor because he or she talked about stewardship once each year. It seems that one time a year is one time too many for some people. Why is that?

Jesus understood humanity’s relationship to money and things. The number one topic Jesus spoke on or told parables about is money or our relation to it. To name a few off the top of my head: “No one can serve two masters; . . . You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24); To the rich young ruler, “Sell all you have, give the money to the poor and follow me.” (Mark 10:21); “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23); and “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more that all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”(Luke 21:3-4)

I bring this up because our churches need your financial support here at the end of 2009 and your commitment as we begin 2010. The good news is that both churches are current on our debt and we have been good stewards of what you have given. In fact, in both churches we have spent a little less then what you have given this year.
The bad news is that both churches have one challenge ahead of them. For Grey Eagle, the challenge is the mortgage on the building which is about $60,000. For Peace United, the challenge is the UMC Apportionments and the UCC Our Church’s Wider Mission which totals about $10,700 and is due by the end of the year.

Hopefully, you are asking yourself, “What can I do to help?” One answer that might be achievable for everyone is to increase your giving each week for the rest of 2009. If each adult who comes to church would give $10 or more each week above their current giving it would go a long way to helping out. (If you make some estimates and do the math you will see that the additional giving won’t be a huge amount, but as my dad use to say, “It’s better than a spit in the eye.”)

The other thing you should consider and pray about is tithing. Are you giving 10% to the church? What is your percentage giving? (Divide what you give to the church in a year by your gross income. Anything less than .10 is not a tithe.) If what you give in 2009 is 4% (.04), can you move that up to 5% in 2010, 6% in 2011, etc., until you get to a tithe? In December’s newsletter, I write about tithing and what that has meant in my life. Until then, be a cheerful and generous giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary