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For those that think a church budget is a "money-grabber", they should realize that a church budget is not simply another "Ask for Money"; it's an "Opportunity for Ministry" and thus, a means by which we can answer God's call. I would encourage all churches to adopt a narrative budget format so that those opportunities are easier for congregants to understand and support.

"What we receive in life is God's gift to us.  What we do with it is our gift back."

I spent many years as a lawyer dealing with Wills & Estates and have been a "planned giving" consultant for many Canadian charities over the past dozen years.  I often use the quote "Those without Wills have included lawyers amongst their heirs".   I remind people that Wills used to be called "Last Will & TESTAMENT!!!"  Unfortunately, too many folks have not considered what testament they will leave for their children and charities. 

The best draft Will I ever read was written by a senior couple who spent the first 10 pages relaying the blessings God had bestowed upon them during their lives and providing the "instructions" they wished to pass on to their children.  The couple indicated their reason for this testimony was that it would be the last time they'd be able to "talk to their kids" and they knew the kids would be listening since the kids would want to know what was on page 11.

The decision as to whether or not to admit one to partake in the Lord's Supper used to be a lot simpler...

As per the minutes of the meeting of Classis Holland in April 25, 1849:

Admission to Communion - Whether any shall be admitted to the Lord's Supper who are unknown to the minister and consistory.

Answer - Yes, and even if they are known to be wicked and yet approach the communion table.  Such a person is to be asked what induces him to come.  If he confesses his sin and his faith in Jesus, and expresses a purpose to serve the Lord, he is to be admitted.

It can be a great medium....but....

Many insurance companies are requesting that churches (who wish to have "Safe Church" coverage) create a protocol c/w guidelines for "Using Social Networking with Young People".  As "lifted" from a sample policy I've viewed...

"All social networking sites have the potential to allow leaders to communicate with young people on a one-to-one basis.  However, we would strongly advise that any one-to-one communication made via a social networking site is kept in the public eye so as to safeguard both young people and youth leaders. On Facebook, this communication can be  made using the “wall function” and it is recommended that this method is used for communicating with young people individually on Facebook and for replying to private messages which young people may have sent to youth leaders."

Later, the policy recommends:

"The use of instant chat on Facebook, Myspace and Bebo is to be avoided since such communication method provides no log of conversations and could potentially leave a worker open to unsubstantiated allegations."

Users of services such as Facebook should be made aware of how to avoid the thin ice BEFORE they're out walking on it.  I recommend that our CRCNA Safe Church ministry communicate sample guidelines...

"A tithe is a very good place to start".   But any couple's current life situation will affect their ability to give back to God.  A young couple with 4 kids vs. an "empty-nest" working couple vs. retired seniors...  In some cases, the person's ministry work is the gift to God and that choice of ministry may mean that they are already giving 50% to ministry work (assuming they could make twice the pay in the secular world).

God's ministries should, however, receive "first fruits", not left-overs.  I've actually heard people complain that the increase in a church or school budget will affect their ability to vacation in Hawaii (and I've quietly reminded them that camping at the lake was their parents' idea of a good vacation... while they paid Christian school tuition and supported the church faithfully)

I've read that Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" has mentioned that, with the financial rewards of his publication success, he and his wife have been able to move to a "reverse tithe".... giving 90% and living quite comfortably on the remaining 10%

I met one person who had what he called a "tithe tax".  He contributed to church budgets as required but, every time he bought something extravagant, he would forward a gift to Kingdom Work equivalent to 10% of that purchase price.  He told me that if I ever saw him in a Ferrari, I'd know that some ministry also received a great gift.

If you do believe in a tithe, a good question is to figure out what percentage that actually is.  For my wife & I (living in Alberta and paying annual income taxes), we receive a 50% tax credit for every dollar we give annually to charity (after we've given at least $200 in the year).  So, at that point, a tithe (for tax-paying Albertans) is 20%.  If our income was $100,000, our tithe would be $20,000 since we'd get a tax credit of nearly $10,000 tax refund.  If we were retired, without taxable income, that tax credit would be useless and our tithe calculation would require adjustment.



John, there's a great quote "Anyone can write a cheque".  It's the people on the front line of ministry that impress me.  When a teacher works at a Christian school and, by doing so, accepts a salary that is 1/3 less than a public school counterpart, I'm impressed with their gift.  After all, they could work at a public school and simply tithe. When somebody realizes that it's the ministry, not the paycheque, that makes their work precious (whether that's carring for kids or helping in the church, etc.), then I'm impressed and I, as a deacon, wouldn't be hitting on them too hard if they weren't contributing $$ as expected on a "per member" basis.  

There are some great stewardship books out on the market.  I particularly enjoyed the book "Three Simple Rules" by Theo A. Boers which contains the following suggested rules:

1.  Spend less than you earn. 2.  Save now! Buy later. 3.  Know Debt!

I've shared this book with many people and most of us end up wondering why we didn't read it (or truly know its principles) when we were in our twenties.  The rules seem simple but most of us don't really know how much we actually make (what is our net disposable income?) and thus we may be spending more than we earn. When young people figure out that their $12/hour wage nets out at $1.50 per hour (after charity, rent, food, insurance, tax, interest payment on credit card etc.), they may wish to reconsider purchasing the $150 blue jeans (are they really worth 2 1/2 weeks of work?)

Most of us don't really know what our savings are and many of us are relying on anticipated inheritances as part of our retirement plan.

And, most of us don't appreciate how much that debt is really costing us. In Canada, credit card companies must disclose more of the impact.  My last credit card statement indicated that, if all I did was pay the minimum monthly payment, it would take 43 years and 1 month to pay off the $2,300 balance.  We all need to have more lessons on how to KNOW DEBT!  

When I talk with seniors in our community, I often hear about an envelope budget system.  Every month, take your paycheque and divide it amongst several envelopes.  One for church, one for food, one for clothing, one for household repairs/utilities, one for entertainment, etc. .  If an envelope is empty before the end of the month, you'll have to figure out which other envelope to "borrow" from.  Whether these envelopes are actual paper envelopes with cash in them or are columns in an Excel spreadsheet, the system will definitely help you learn how to spend less than you earn.  One senior couple that I know used this system ended up using a mortgage only on their first house, paid Christian school tuition for all their kids (and helped them with college), retired comfortably and supported Kingdom Work throughout that time.  

My personal opinion is that, If possible, musicians should try to choose music that is connected to the pastor's message or the concerns of the congregation.  I realize that, especially for praise teams, practices often happen before the sermon outline has been provided (or determined) by the pastor.  But, at the very least, I think music leaders should, before choosing their music, consider whether or not there is a part of the liturgical calendar that should/could be connected to OR an event in the congregation (or society) that could be addressed.

As an attendee at various churches in various denominations (part of my former employment), I'd often hear a song that was "new" to me. Sometimes, I'd be wondering "What were they thinking?"  And, if I was thinking of suggesting it as a song choice for our own congregation, I'd first read through the lyrics as if it were a spoken message to determine if it was spiritually moving.  Often, I'll come across new songs that have a great tune but the tune appears to be wasted by incorporating extremely redundant and boring lyrics.  It's like reading the lyrics of "Happy Birthday".

Of course, that's an opinion that varies from one listener to another and, if a worship team is involved, members' opinions should be sought.  I've learned lots from the opinions and enthusiasm of others.

Excellent response by Joyce!  As a church musician for over 40 years, I've enjoyed the changes and have been rewarded by the education given to me by the younger musicians involved in our worship. Still, I do rely on 2 major guidelines (contained within Joyce's response).

1 - Does the text of the song fit within and amplify the message of the service?

2 - Does the music inspire congregational participation in the singing?

And, I'll always remember a lesson given to me over 40 years ago by my teacher.  During congregational singing, church musicians are there to accompany in worship, not to perform.  Yes, occasionally we must assist in teaching a new song and that may require more volume but I often find the community of singing can be destroyed by overwhelming musical accompaniment.  Of course, I'll still pull all the stops for at least one verse of "A Mighty Fortress" but I'm also prone to stop playing altogether for a verse and hear beautiful a capella singing and, as a musician at the front of the church, I often have the best seat in the house.

A quote that I've often reminded people of is that "there is no sin in synergism".  When a Classis does it's job right, it is the connector and amplifier of the various ministries provided by its congregations and, in some cases, becomes the medium through which such a ministry can either exist or be enhanced.  As far as the lack of knowledge amongst congregations as to what Classis does (or can do), I encourage the Classis to utilize narrative budgets that tell the story of how last year's funds amplified the effect of ministries, how the funds enabled education of office bearers and/or employees and coordinated the efforts of congregational teams (such as Safe Church).  That narrative budget should also tell the story of how next year's funds will be utilized.

If something new comes up (e.g. new legislation, amendments to Church Order, opportunities to serve, etc.) Classis can provide necessary references or can coordinate re-education connections for the ministries of the various congregations.  If synodical ministries need to connect with congregations, the Classis can be the conduit.

Classis needs to tell its story and show the good news that results from an effective Classis.

My wife and I consider our payment of ministry shares to Classis AB North to be an "investment" (with a great return), not an expense and the cost of our investment works out to be less than the cost of going out for coffee weekly.  I wish they were asking for more since I know how good the rate of return can be.

The matter would also be of some interest to the church's insurers if a "known abuser"  is reinstated as a church leader and subsequently re-offends.  It would be along the lines of "fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice, shame on me".  If a known offender is put in a position of authority and trust and that offender re-offends, those who placed the known offender into that position may be held personally liable in a court of law.  The civil action would seek likely seek damages from the Church and the members of Council by alleging that they knowingly placed an offender in a position of trust.... and they should have known better ("vicarious liability").   In fact, if Classis approved the reinstatement, the civil action would likely include the Classis as a defendant.  And any insurance coverage may be tenuous given that insured parties who negligently create the situation in which damage occurs might be denied full coverage

Such a council decision puts the church itself and the Council members at risk.   I'd be resigning from council.  In some instances of poor decision making by a Council when dealing with "Safe Church" matters, criminal conviction of council members has resulted..

I will try to forgive the child molester... but I won't ask him/her to volunteer as a youth leader.  

I will try to support the healing of an alcoholic... but I won't put him/her in charge of the communion wine.

I will try to forgive the fraudster....  but I won't ask him/her to be Church Treasurer. 


When I joined a law partnership many years ago, the senior partner gave me a note that read "If all 4 of us always agree, 3 of us are unnecessary".  I think this is a great rule to keep in mind when serving on Council, attending Classis or Synod, or any committee.  Disagreements (when honourably presented) can lead to discussions that can reinforce the primary opinion or revise it or prove it to be wrong (leading to a better solution, hopefully).   At the very least, you'll get a good idea, in advance, of what the possible objections to a majority decision may be.  At the very best, a disagreement can show you where you're wrong.  I've had many years of experience where another person's honourable presentation of an opposing opinion has led me to realize how wrong I was (and I'm not just referring to my wonderful marriage).

If nobody is disagreeing, one might even consider appointing somebody to present an opposing opinion.  In order to clarify and test their decisions, the Roman Catholic Church leaders used to appoint what was called a "devil's advocate" to provide the opposing arguments to the proposed canonization of a saint. 

And, when I find myself in an unending disagreement, I find myself quoting the words my father often used to end our numerous discussions.  "You could be right".

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