Six Dollars a Week [Video]

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One of the recent suggestions for a topic on the Network was Ministry Shares. The person suggested that more information was needed by the churches as to what is funded with Ministry Shares. A team of gifted communication leaders has just put together a mailing to more effectively communicate Ministry Shares for six dollars a week. Did your church receive your Council member packets this week? Did you check out the new Ministry Shares website yet? What did you think?

The communications team has a cool video for presentation during the offering, as well as "You Add, God Multiplies" flyers and posters, and “Wheels” of ministry that better communicate the impact of the various ministries supported by Ministry Shares. The Ministry Shares website has information on how to determine the requested Ministry Shares for your church, as well as the allocation of where the money goes. The intention is that Council members spend a few minutes talking about Ministry Shares at their next meeting and together renew their focus on the important way we “do more” together as the Christian Reformed Church.

I think it will help the leadership of our churches get more excited about giving to Ministry Shares. Sometimes we need to take a minute to reflect on the ministry we do together as a larger church family, that we are reaching people in 200 countries and 10 major languages, supporting 200 missionaries in more than 20 countries and equipping our churches to provide more impacting ministry in a multitude of areas.

If you are a leader in your church, are you willing to continue to pull your weight in the vision of “Together Doing More?” I pray that you find these materials helpful in casting the vision for the support of Ministry Shares by your church. Remember, for six dollars a week from each active member, Ministry Shares funds life-changing ministries at home and around the world.

What else would be helpful to your church in casting that vision? The “Church at Work” section of The Banner tells many stories and testimonials of God’s work. Missionary, church planter, chaplain, or other ministry people sharing their stories at your church can also promote the vision. We need to think of ways to keep the Ministry Shares vision fresh to each CRC member. 

Ministry Shares: You Add, God Multiplies

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While ministry shares provide efficiency,  and security, and seem to lead to being able to talk about the 'numbers" statistics(countries, languages, missionaries), the greatest lack often seems to be the personal connection.  

We have a small church.  About 90- 100 attend every week, including small children, and children are about half the church.   Yet we had a collection two weeks ago where we contributed an amount equivalent to about half the ministry shares, in one single collection, to a non-ministry share foreign mission project in Kenya, mostly because we knew the people who were going there, and had seen videos and slides of the work that was progressing there.    Ministry shares may be good, but they often seem to end up in never-never land, being absorbed into the large soup pot of the church collective, and we are never quite sure what difference our particular contribution makes, or who uses it or spends it, or who is affected by it.   

It is not psychologically possible for people in most churches to observe or connect to 200 countries and 200  missionaries.  Small churches can handle one or two, and large churches maybe  four or five.   And somehow they have to connect themselves.   A connection handed down from above (perception) will not work so well, particularly if the connection is to a chaplain when they may be more tuned into foreign missions... or vice versa. 

Ministry share might be important, but not for their own sake.   They are important only for what they accomplish.   If the method of raising funds needs to be adjusted for some things, in order to accomplish more, then perhaps we should not be too reluctant to try something different. 

John,

I understand what you are saying.  It is hard when ministry shares is impersonal and often hard to put specifics on it.  Yet, I think that we too often find the blame in the system or shovel it off to those on the "top".  Really, the problem is all of us.  We don't care as much as we used to about our communal offering.  We look at it more as an economic transaction and so we expect to get a bang for our buck.  Unfortunately, we don't always see that but this is not an excuse for the poor giving of so many churches, mine included.  I get angry when we withhold our money because we don't trust each other or we have a problem with one person or one part of the denomination so we use money as a weapon.  What if we stopped blaming others and looked at our own desire or lack of desire to give?  What if we gave with the expectation that we won't know the wonderful and amazing ways in which God will use it?  What if we gave so joyfully that we gave to the point of hurting?  What if we stopped being so "me-centered" and too focused on our own impact and started realizing how God has stretched our little denomination around the world and allowed each one of us to be a part of that by our ministry shares?  These, in my humble opinion, are the more important questions.

Perhaps it is poor giving leading to lack of ministry shares....   but maybe it is good giving, sacrificial giving, but not necessarily to ministry shares.   We maybe have to be careful not to assume that not giving to "service"  shares is the same thing as poor giving.  There may be other avenues of service.  We all make choices about what we donate to.   So for example, if I have two universities and two colleges asking me for donations, I may decide to donate more to a Christian college than to a secular university, and also more to a Christian college that follows scripture than a college that appears to be only nominally christian or one that is less closely aligned to my view of christian committment and witness.   Or if  several organizations are asking for funds to support children in third world countries, how does one make a choice about which ones to support or use.   Or  if several missionaries or mission fields (foreign and local) come to my attention, how do I decide to support one or more, or do I decide to abdicate that choice to someone else?  

Giving money is one thing, and perhaps relatively easy.   But tying in personal committment and action to the giving of money is much more difficult (it can hurt sometimes).   So getting involved in local missions and relief is often a lot less fun (and sometimes more rewarding and more fun), and involves a whole lot more work and sacrifice than just writing a cheque.  

I am not at all saying that it is wrong to have ministry shares.   But there is a danger that a few actions by one or two agencies might hurt the entire panorama of ministry shares.   A parallel example is where many people do not donate at all to United Way campaigns simply because Planned Parenthood is in the mix, and they support abortion.  The other organizations in the mix kind of lose out because of it.   But perhaps they still benefit as well, due to the efficiencies of collection of money by one organization. 

We ought not to get angry about how other people donate or contribute financially.  They should be encouraged to give back some of what God gave them financially, and perhaps about 10% is a good guideline for most people.  But ultimately it is part of their relationship to God.   Giving uncheerfully or grudgingly or is not what God desires.   He doesn't need nor want our sacrifices, as the prophets clearly indicate.   He wants our hearts.  Then the thank offerings will come. 

Let me share with you what is happening in our congregation.  And from talking with others we are far from the only congregations dealing with this.  We have begun giving to less organizations and more of our offerings are now for the local budget.  Nearly every week we have an offering for the local budget.  Our budget hasn't even increased at the rate of inflation.  Yet, we are not receiving as much in offerings as we have in the past.  This means that we barely give anything to our denomination.  For some it is because they disagree with something at Calvin College or another part of the ministry shares.  For others, I'm not sure.

Right now the hot word is economy.  We blame it for the lack of giving.  Yet, our community hasn't really felt the pinch.  As a matter of fact, those I've talked to, including accountants and financial planners, agree that the incomes of our families have not been hurt.

What I feel, although I have no actual proof, is that we are not as interested and concerned about our communal involvement in the world.  If we can't see it and it doesn't impact us then we are less interested in participating in it.  Many from our community haven't been outside of the community so for them the world is within a short drive.

There was a time, not so long ago when we gave 100% to denomination, classis, and the local budget.  Now, with less organizations we are giving a measly 15% to the denomination.  I don't see how the way in which ministry shares are promoted or the information that we receive leads us to giving less.  It seems to me that the reason is ourselves and not the system or the information.

We are struggling with this issue in our church and have had many conversations within council.  No one really has an answer to why we have this problem.  Is it because we aren't willing to sacrifice as much as our ancestors?  Is it because we no longer feel a connection to the rest of the denomination?  Is it because we are concerned about our local community at the expense of the wider ministry?  Is it because we have become more selfish?  These are hard if not impossible questions to answer when you are dealing with a whole congregation but they are questions that need to be asked.

So far I haven't preached a message on this because I'm still trying to figure it out.  May God give us all grace, wisdom, and gratitude so that we are cheerful and abundant givers!

Does your local church have a missions program?  local missions?  that requires money to support it?  Local ministry is the first line of the wider ministry.   Every wider ministry has a local ministry aspect, local for them, wider for us.   Or local for us, wider for them.   Local ministry is very valid, and can be the most effective, if the effort is there and the spirit is right. 

 Is the amount allocated for facilities disproportionate to everything else?  Perhaps too much building for too few people?   Would you estimate that people are donating 10% of their income to church or kingdom causes?   or other charitable causes that fall into the category of caring for the widows and orphans (sick and needy).  or is it dramatically below that 10%?  

It may be that giving is low for spiritual reasons.   Perhaps we must be careful not to look at the amount given to the denomination as a potential mark of pride, nor as meeting some kind of criteria that we can meet the approval of God in it.  

God has given each church many talents, many minas.   Some of those talents and minas are money.   What are we doing with it?