Saturday, February 28, 2009

Searchers and Church

The George Barna group, a marketing research group that serves churches, reports that one in seven adults changes churches each year, and another one in six attends a handful of churches on a rotating basis. Church shopping isn't a matter of merely changing congregations: A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life last year indicated that 44 percent of American adults have left their first religious affiliation for another.

Part of the discomfort with church shopping has to do with the way today’s growing churches attempt to attract spiritual shoppers. That simple marquee in front of a church with the sign that says ("Prevent truth decay: Brush up on your Bible") doesn't really suffice to recruit searchers. These people are looking for something that message doesn’t always provide.

Furthermore, since there is no state church in America, preachers have had to learn to get along without support from the state. It has made the ability to recruit and keep a flock—and encourage them to give generously—crucial to a church's survival. This has produced a ministry often modeled on capitalism, with pastors and church leadership acting as the church's sales force.

Salesmanship sometimes degenerates into telling people what they want to hear and, in the case of religion, into a faith that never comes down too hard on the faithful. That doesn’t sound like the teachings of Jesus, who told everyone what they needed to hear.

In 1776, Stark and Finke write, fewer than one in five Americans belonged to a local church. Today, the figure is more like 67 percent. That definitely is good news.

And, let’s face it; the free market in faith has been good for America's religious life. All that changing churches across denominational lines has likely helped produce a less rigid, better informed, more ecumenical religious culture.

Knowing that churchgoers have so many options should keep pastors and preachers on their toes. But what churchgoers are looking for may not be doctrine and dogma. It is believed they are looking for acceptance and a sense of community lost in today’s society. If we and our congregations can provide that, our churches will succeed in meeting the needs of these modern day searchers.

Joplin Today

Today, Leslie and I will go to Joplin for a meeting of congregational pastors and CFOs. There we will learn about a "new" way of coming up with our Mission Center assessments. That way will be volunteering just exactly how much each congregation can afford to donate toward the Mission Center budget instead of being assessed according to the number on our rolls. Assessing according to the rolls has never bothered us at Crossroads since we have our rolls cleaned up. Cleaning up the rolls means transferring inactive members that you cannot get activated to the "general" rolls instead of congregational rolls.

When a member has been inactive for three years or more and been visited and encouraged to attend without any response on their part, they qualify for being transferred to "general" and the congregation is not assessed for that member.

Nine years ago, when we had districts and our congregation had a CFO that was the DCFO for the entire district, that's the way he handled assessment and it worked beautifully. Congregations did the best they could to donate as much as they could afford to donate and the budget was always made. Then he died and we changed to Mission Centers and the next Mission Center MCFO went back to the old way of assessing congregations according to the number on their rolls.

Some congregations struggled with this. They had never made the effort to clean up their rolls. And it is an effort. It takes visiting inactive members regularly to encourage and invite them to full participation. Only when all efforts fail are they transferred off the congregation rolls. Congregations may have been assessed for 40 members when they only had 20 attending regularly. That put a hardship on the congregation. So now they have decided to go to a "new" method of assessment. Some things never change.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Fun Day

This should be fun day. I really don't have anything planned for the morning. At noon Bob and I will go to Independence and take our daughter to lunch.

After that, I will take the board member books by the clinic and leave them. Bob will visit Ivan tomorrow at the nursing home.

Then I will go by the high school and ask the music director if the Indy Ensemble can sing for the Palm Sunday service.

This evening we will take a large salad and go to the PINCH dinner at Marilyn's. That should be fun.

Now, isn't that a fun day?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Normal Day

This should be a more normal day...whatever normal is. I will clean the house, do a load or two of laundry (also wash the dog's bedding) and go visit my sister. That should make it a slow day.

We were going to go to Independence to take our daughter to lunch but she has a noontime meeting at work so we will go tomorrow instead. While up there, we will go visit Ivan who is in the nursing home. I will go to the Montgomery County Health Clinic and take Susie's notebook back to her. I tried to organize it for her yesterday.
I will also go out to the high school to talk to the music director about his special vocal group singing at the Palm Sunday services. So I have quite a bit to do tomorrow.

Tomorrow night we go to a dinner party at Jack and Marilyn's home.

Saturday, Leslie and I go to Joplin to a meeting of our Mission Center. She is our congregation's CFO.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Big Day

Today should be another big day. Though it will not be as big a day as yesterday. I have an appointment in Independence to get my hair done at 7:15 AM. Then at 8:30, I will meet Juanita for breakfast and at 9:30 I will meet Suzy Kleinbeck at the clinic to help her put together some books for our new board members. When I am finished with that, I will come on back home and Bob and I will go to the market.

We had an enormous day yesterday. We left here at quarter of eight with Sage and drove to Manhattan, Kansas, a trip of 3 1/2 hours to return her to her mother. We took them to lunch, Bob did a little shopping at the mall and then we drove over to Westmoreland, where he spent all his childhood summers and we walked around town and he looked up an old play chum and had a good visit. We went down a country road and picked up three of those distinctive red rocks that the glaciers pushed down that way millions of years ago.

We have packed those rocks from place to place since the early seventies and left some at every house we have owned. They are extremely rare nowadays since everyone else decided they liked them too.

Anyhow, we got home about 6:30 and found a very hungry dog and cat that we had left outside all day. We fed them and let them in the house and after watching the president's speech, we took our baths and went to bed. Needless to say, I slept like a log until 3:30 AM, when Slinky decided he needed to get outside to do his thing. He came back in and I ordered him back to bed. In a half hour he let me know he was hungry again and I had to come in and quiet him down so I could get some more sleep. Without his two hearing aids, Bob hears absolutely nothing so I was the only one disturbed. I was going to leave Slinky outside earlier but he began barking to get back in and I was afraid he would wake my neighbor. So I just scolded him and told him to go back to sleep. This time, I slept until 5:30, late for me, and got up to find Slinky was still asleep. He's been fed now and I have a cup of coffee before me and will soon get ready to leave for Independence at 6:45.

Maybe later this afternoon I can get our laundry done.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Trip to Manhattan Kansas

Today we will drive to Manhattan, Kansas, to take our great granddaughter back home to her mother. We had her all day yesterday. She is 5 1/2 and not yet in school. Her mother had her in pre-school but it cost $400 a month, which is what our grandson pays in child support. She wanted to quit her job and stay home with Sage so she took her out of pre-school. Not a smart move.

The child spent yesterday playing with paper and scissors. Later, she played on the computer at The only real problem is that mother is raising her vegetarian and she does not like veggies. She eats a lot of candy and cookies. I don't buy candy so she suffered a sugar deprivement yesterday. I had her dad over last night for dinner and had fixed Chicken Parmesan, veggies and salad with garlic toast. Then we had cherry pie cake after that for dessert.

She wanted a peanut butter sandwich and since that was all she would eat, that's what she had. I gave her one cookie for her dessert since she did not like the cherry pie cake.

Halfway through the evening she was hungry. I told her she would have to wait for breakfast since she did not eat a good dinner. You can't encourage a child to eat at meals if you fill them up on cookies. So she went to bed hungry.

While I was fixing dinner, a friend called wanting to use our computer. I told her and her husband to come on over and also to stay for dinner. When I opened those packages of chicken breasts, there were three in each package instead of two so I had a lot of chicken. I had that large salad, the veggies and garlic toast and everything turned out real well and we had a nice dinner. They had bought wine, which was nice. I don't drink wine but the rest of them did and it went well with our dinner.

We have a three and a half hour drive this morning to take Sage home so it will be a huge day. It will also be a three and a half hour drive back home. I have to get her up at 7:00 when Bob gets up. She's used to sleeping till 9:00 so it will be culture shock for her.

Monday, February 23, 2009

To Balance the Budget

The tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans has helped drive up the deficit these past eight years. President Obama plans to let those tax cuts expire and that should be a great help in his plan to get the budget balanced again. Those investment tax cuts will have cost the government $197 billion in revenue.

The Internal Revenue Service has released data on tax year 2003 that show the top 1 percent of taxpayers, ranked by adjusted gross income, paid 34.3 percent of all federal income taxes that year.

In 1980, when the top statutory income tax rate went up to 70 percent, the share of income taxes paid by the top 1 percent of taxpayers was just 19.3 percent. After Ronald Reagan's tax cut of 1981, which reduced the top rate to 50 percent--a massive giveaway to the wealthy, according to critics--the percentage of income taxes paid by the top 1 percent rose steadily.

By 1986 the top 1 percent of taxpayers' share of all federal income taxes had risen to 25.7 percent. That year the top statutory tax rate was further cut to 28 percent--another huge giveaway.

The nation's top 400 taxpayers made more than $263 million on average in 2006, as the stock market was rallying, but paid income taxes at the lowest rate in the 15 years that the Internal Revenue Service has tracked such data.

Each year, the IRS releases information on the so-called Fortunate 400, the 400 U.S. taxpayers with the highest adjusted gross income.

The average income of this group was the highest recorded by the IRS and was up from $213.9 million the year before. In constant dollars, the average income of the top 400 taxpayers nearly quadrupled from 1992, the first year such data were collected. The group's share of the adjusted gross income of all taxpayers in the country nearly doubled between 2002 and 2006, the data show -- from 0.69% to 1.31%.

Meanwhile, the group's average income tax rate -- calculated as income taxes paid as a percentage of adjusted gross income -- fell to 17.2%. in 2006 from 18.2% the prior year. That's down from 29.9% in 1995.

Making the tax cuts permanent would reduce federal revenues by almost $1.8 trillion over 10 years - and that's in addition to the $1.7 trillion of revenue losses already locked into law. By 2014, the annual revenue loss would amount to $400 billion, or 2 percent of gross domestic product - almost the size of this year's federal budget deficit."

The rich continue to get richer and richer while the poor get poorer and the middle class shrinks.

The very rich have so much money they never even miss what allowing Bush's tax cut on these wealthiest folks to expire will cost.

One thing we learned from this Bush initiative was that cutting taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans did not cause them to expand and create more jobs. They just moved them overseas. And they hoarded and hid the increase in their income.

Sage Comes

About 9:30 this morning, we will go out to our daughter's home and pick up our great granddaughter, Sage. She lives in Manhattan, Kansas with her mom and grandparents but comes about once a month to visit her father, our grandson, who pays child support.

We will keep her today and her father will come for dinner this evening. Then early tomorrow morning, we will take her back to Manhattan to her mother. It may be a little stressful for all of us since she is badly spoiled by her mother. She is being raised vegetarian and does not eat well at all. She is in the habit of eating a lot of candy, something we will not buy.

She used to be fairly easy to be around but lately, at five and a half, has begun acting silly to get attention. She has been in pre-school but her mother has taken her out, quit her job, and is just staying at home with her and doing nothing about getting her in kindergarten, where she really needs to be. She needs socializing in the worst way.

It will be an interesting day, I am sure.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another Enormous Day

This will be a horrendous day. I have to make a dish (a crock pot stew) and a dessert for our basket dinner today. Our Mission Center Leadership Team will be coming to conduct our worship service. After that, we will have a basket dinner and then a goal setting meeting in the afternoon.

Following that, I will do my letters and then this evening we have "Living the Questions" group to attend at Wanzer's home.

These kinds of days wear me out. There is no opportunity to rest. But I suppose they are necessary. There isn't a whole lot we can do to encourage visitors attendance at our church. It is located in the country. We have had a cookout/music once in the past and we invited the neighbors. Many of them came but it was very expensive and even more, exhausting, since there are only about a dozen of us to do everything. I am not a great fan of trying to encourage people to come to church that way. I think personal invitation is more effective. It is a great way to get acquainted in the neighborhood though.

We are very involved in our communities. That's our contribution to community building.