Monday Meditation – A Ministry Passion of Mine

feeding

And I will still be carrying you when you are old.  Your hair will turn gray and I will still carry you.  Isaiah 46:4 ERV

During my sabbatical, in addition to caring for my grandchild, attending Spanish classes and keeping the house clean, I was able to participate in a passion of mine in ministry to older adults.

In my church’s neighborhood, there is a group of older adults who live at or just above the poverty line.  They are typically living alone, their children hardly visit, and they are lonely.

During my sabbatical and even now, I meet with them regularly.  Being an introvert, I can give them what they most crave – someone who listens.  It is a skill I get to use to the glory of God.

Response

They have responded by coming to our church once a month to be fed physically, mentally and spiritually.  In addition to listening to them and being with them, I also cook for them.  You see, cooking  is another one of my passions.

I have great joy in working out God’s call on my life.  To be able to partner with God in shepherding these older adults through their later years is immensely rewarding to my soul.  It is my way of answering Jesus’ command to his disciples in Mark 6:37, “You give them something to eat.”

For whatever reason, God has chosen to include us in His work caring when we care for the marginalized, including the elderly.  As God’s partner, we must take seriously the many institutional changes going on in the country today that may leave the elderly behind in poverty and at risk.

I do what I can in my life to carry out the gospel message, but I cannot forget that society must never leave behind those whom Jesus came to save even the one amongst the many.

Dear God, you are the Great One, the Almighty One.  Lord, we come before you now asking for our part to play in Your ministries in this world.  Whether it is as an individual or as a society, help us to come together to do Your will and show Your love here on earth.  Help us to remember the lonely and the powerless.  We ask for clarity from, and for, our representatives in the halls of government.  Help all of us to choose wisely and not selfishly. Amen.

Make giving a cheerful experience for your congregation

Cheerful giver

A guest blog from Vanco Payments Solutions

Jan Jasmin, SVP, Charitable Giving Evangelist

We often hear or say that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Many of us draw satisfaction from simply making a gift, but others are looking for a deeper understanding of what their gifts help the church accomplish. Is there more that church leaders can do to make giving an experience that your congregation goes about cheerfully?

A good place to start is looking at giving from the givers’ perspective. It’s important to them to understand why you need their gifts, and that they can give them in a way that’s familiar and convenient to them. Answering both of those needs can help your members give more often and more generously.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to update your giving program and make it a cheerful experience for your congregation:

Talk openly about money.

You won’t surprise your congregation or make them feel uncomfortable by talking about money. Quite the opposite is true ¾ they want to know how you use their pledges and offerings to make a positive impact through your ministry, and they want to know how much you’ll need so they can plan their giving budgets to help.

Encourage generosity by showing how your church has changed lives.

Let your congregation know what your outreach ministries are doing to help the community. Share their successes and let your members know how much their financial help brought them to fruition.

Summarize your plans for making a positive impact on your community.

It’s not enough to tell your congregation what you’ve done. You also need to share your plans for the future. Your strategy for keeping your church active in the community may be the thing that excites your congregation and leads them to cheerfully contribute.

Do everything you can to make it easy to give.

Your congregation needs multiple ways to respond when you ask them to give. Some members will only give when the plate is passed. A steadily growing number of others almost never carry cash or a checkbook, but always have debit and credit cards and a smartphone. A mix of electronic giving options like online, mobile, text and kiosk will help them respond when they want with the method or methods that they prefer.

Watch what happens next.

Take these steps and keep a close eye on your outcomes. You may be surprised at how cheerfully your congregation responds and by the increase in funding your ministry receives when you empower their generosity.

White paper: How to Create a Sustainable Ministry

Our white paper, Electronic Giving’s Role in Creating a Sustainable Ministry, has tips about creating a successful fundraising strategy for church leaders who want to help their congregations give cheerfully.

[Download Now]

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At Vanco, we’re committed to making a difference for our clients, and those they serve. We strive to listen, be helpful, earn trust and deliver what’s needed in accordance with the values that define us. If you have questions or would like to learn more about Give+,  visit vancopayments.com/giveplus-um,  or call us at 800-675-7430.

 

Monday Meditation – A Historical Connection for Building the Kingdom of God

Connectional Giving Blog

In second Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV), Paul tells us of the extreme generosity of the Macedonian church.  It wasn’t out of abundance and peace that they gave but during strife and poverty they found ways to give financially to the church.

In verses 13-15, we have an understanding of the connection that was built between the Macedonian, Corinthian and Jerusalem churches.

“At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality” (NIV)

When one had plenty they were asked to give to those who needed.  Just as it would be returned to them when the other had plenty.

Now Paul set up some parameters to this giving.

  1. There is a genuine holy need. The Jerusalem church shouldn’t be hoarding the money either but using it toward ministry.  The Jerusalem church, being in a city, had many widows, the elderly, visitors and orphans in need of assistance and who needed care.
  2. Giving is interdependent. The financial support is given by everyone no matter how small a donation it may be.  The Macedonian and Corinthian churches shared in the support of the Jerusalem church.
  3. Giving is reciprocal. Even if the Corinth church was never without funds, the Jerusalem church could give to it once it was able to, in support of the Corinthian ministries.
  4. The gift is given for the furthering of the Kingdom of God.

“We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift.  For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” (verses 20-21)

Being in connection is relevant to us now as well.

Methodists have a connection.  Each church is connected to another so that when a need arises, all can help lift those who are struggling with the challenges life brings.

We give so that others might be able to share the Kingdom of God with this world.  We give so that those sharing the Kingdom of God have the tools and skills necessary to make disciples of all nations.  We give to improve the lives of our fellow human beings because we have been called by our God to do so.

Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it. (verse 24)

Almighty God, show us your love for each of us so that we might see everyone as our brothers and sisters in Christ, your beloved. Amen.

Monday Meditation – Still Small Voice

Still Small Voice

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?  (I Kings 19: 12-13 KJV)

A lady running errands has gone viral.  Why?  Listen to her testimony.

This woman went to the grocery store and saw a homeless man trying to keep warm near the entrance.  When she saw the man, she heard the voice of Jesus telling her that the homeless man liked bananas.  She should buy some bananas for him.

The woman figured on her own that he would also need some protein so she bought him a couple of small nonperishable items as well.  She also wanted to buy him some fried chicken so that he could have some warm food in his belly.

Jesus told her not to buy the fried chicken that the man needed something for later.

The woman persisted in asking why she couldn’t get him some fried chicken.

Jesus said, “I don’t want you to get him fried chicken.”

Well the woman let it go and went to go pay for her groceries.  She separated out the things she had bought for him and took it to him, wishing him a “Merry Christmas and God bless you.”

A lady came up from behind her and said “This is your lucky day.  Here’s some fried chicken for you.” She then hands him the warm meal.

Lesson:  Listen to that still small voice pricking your soul.  Even when the Spirit says no, there’s a good reason.

Dear God, Still us enough to hear your voice not only when you say “yes” but also when you say “no.”  Though we know not the reason, let us still trust you and do what you do ask of us.  Amen.

Giving to Support United Methodist Beliefs

Giving

Many of the year-end giving appeals you receive are about increasing tax ramifications for one’s financial gift. These are important and support many great causes. However, as Christians we also realize the spiritual significances of our year-end financial giving to the ministries of our local churches and non-profits.

Year End Giving

Giving is an act of worship. It is an act of faith, of planting what future generations will see grow to fruition.

Our connectional giving provides support to our leaders who face the daunting task of steering the Church towards a common goal of faithfulness, forgiveness and making disciples for Jesus Christ. Connectional giving supports our efforts to minister to a hurting world.

We have organizations within our denomination dedicated to aiding the needy, healing the sick, comforting the stranger and addressing social ills. Our giving helps support these.

The needs are genuine. We are and always have been a connection of believers in need of one another’s generosity.

“For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us,” 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 NRSV

As United Methodists we are dedicated to these causes. As a denomination we are called to support them.

Investing financially in what God has given us a passion for is one of the ways to participate in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God gives to us so that we might give. In giving we can fulfill our purpose in life – to love as God loved us.

During this time of gift-giving, let us remember our ministries that mean so much to us. As much as God has given you, provide good stewardship and give!

To learn more about how to give, where to give, and the impact of your donations, visit www.umcgiving.org

UMC Flood Relief

Flood ReliefOne Drop Of Water That Leads To A Flood

One drop of water is insignificant.

One trillion drops can stop an entire city!

In Louisiana, in a short time, millions upon millions of drops of water fell from the sky inundating the people, their pets and their homes with flood waters. Four parishes have been declared disaster areas because of this flood. There is much devastation and chaos.

Like snowflakes, individual water droplets are singularly beautiful, even innocuous and not all that forceful. But when they get together, their power becomes an overwhelming flood, sinking entire homes and killing people.

One Drop Of Grace That Leads To A Flood Of Love

Yet, just as much as drops of water coming together can wreak havoc upon a community, so too can United Methodists when we come together to bring grace and love to people devastated by flood waters.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). They are helping those affected by this flood with warehouse space, cleanup buckets, distribution assistance, and shelter for evacuees—opening hearts, minds and doors to those in need.

Banding together, United Methodists can take on the flood and show people how God is working their midst.

The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance, #901670, with your donations.

And praying, always praying.

Dear God, we pray hope and peace to our brothers and sisters in Louisiana. We ask for your healing touch upon the land that is flooded. May the waters recede and the time of rebuilding begin. We will not forget them now or when the rains stop. Protect them especially the vulnerable. Watch over them. Amen.

Meditation Monday: True Inheritance

True Inheritance

It may sound very selfish.

“I hope the church is around long enough to have my funeral.”

For many churches that find their numbers dwindling, such a sentiment is often expressed to clergy as discussion about the future of the church takes place. While the sentiment is a bit self-centered, the need it calls to is deep.

The more important inheritance is to leave a place just as comforting to the next generation as the church has been to us.

True Inheritance

Even as we draw nearer to the time of our death as an individual, our legacy is still influenced by our actions or lack of action. No matter what our age, we as individuals and as a church must continue to look toward the future for those who are following in our footsteps or who have yet to know the freedom of the gospel.

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 2 Peter 1:12-15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Meditation Monday: Willing Hearts

Willing Hearts

Jesus is looking for willing hearts, not a dollar amount.

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. Mark 10:17-22 (NASB)

Several American billionaires have pledged to give away their entire fortunes. After securing their family’s needs and wants, whatever is left over they promise to give away to charity.

Giving from abundance is a vastly different experience from giving from scarcity. The amount of choices changes. One billion dollars can fund a lot more works of charity than $100 can.

For Jesus however it is never about the amount. The fishermen gave up everything to follow Christ. The rich man would not give up one thing in order to follow Christ. While one sacrifice was probably greater than the other in total amount, what Jesus was looking for was willing hearts.

Is your heart willing to give? It doesn’t matter if you have billions or just pennies to give; your desire to give what you do have is what brings about the blessings of God. This is what it means to have willing hearts.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” Luke 21:1-4 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father help us to have willing hearts and to be willing servants of your Word. That in giving we fulfill a part of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Remind us that giving is more than pennies and hundred dollar bills. We are also to give our time, our compassion, our love to those in need of it, just as Christ did and does. Amen.

1 Doughnut, Numerous Savings

Doughnuts

 

What would you do to keep the doughnuts in your church every Sunday? When the finance committee had to cut the church’s doughnuts, Monte Chamberlin had seen enough budget cuts to last a life time. When the committee adjourned, Monte set out to save the cherished Sunday morning doughnuts—which served as a time of fellowship, sharing and caring. What he found was a way to leverage a coalition of churches to buy 200,000 doughnuts annually and reduce the church’s total expenses. Because of a doughnut, Monte founded Cost Stewardship, a company that finds abandoned or unknown refunds available from government agencies and utility providers.

Read more

Denominational Data

Denominational Data

Gathering Denominational Data

The annual gathering and compilation of United Methodist church statistics requires the assistance of numerous people across the connection. We are deeply appreciative of those persons and their efforts. Our gratitude goes out to the pastors and other local church leaders who give their time and effort to complete the Annual Statistical Reports. Their attention to detail makes it possible to publish an accurate resource of United Methodist Church Data.

We are also thankful for all the annual conference secretaries, statisticians and treasurers for collecting and submitting the information for their annual conferences. The denomination-wide collection of this data would not be possible without their administrative ministries.

The assistance of all these people makes UMData.org possible. Through their faithful and efficient work, UMData provides appointment information and statistical history of local churches, annual conferences, and jurisdictions. A sincere and heartfelt thank you to United Methodist employees who collect, vet and combine the voluminous information that makes United Methodist Data so readily available.

God bless you and may He continue to guide your work.