Membership and Engagement

This post is based, in part, on this post from 2017. Lent is a season of confession and penance, fasting and self-denial. Lent is a season of preparation for the greatest celebration on the church calendar. Lent is a season of preparing for Easter and the declaration of our faith: “Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed!” Lent is also the season when I receive the most emails promising the perfect method to turn visitors into lifelong members of my congregation. You see, there will be more people than usual in attendance at our Easter morning service—heck, we’ll even have

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A Simple Truth

A simple truth: someone else having enough does not hurt me. There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa, the smart and justice-oriented daughter of the title family accuses her hapless and dimwitted dad, Homer, or being jealous of Apu, the proprietor of the local Kwik-E-Mart, for… reasons. And Homer replies, “I’m not jealous, I’m envious. Jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have. Envy is wanting what someone else has. What I feel is envy.” And Lisa checks a dictionary and is astonished to discover that Homer—again, hapless and dimwitted—is right. You will probably never need

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Radical Charity Update

I was very excited to receive the first pages of Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church) in mid/late-February. Mariah and I spent some serious time reading and re-reading every word of the book to find typos, update some information, fix some odd writing, and generally make the book a little better. I can now definitively say that signing off on those pages—saying, “Yes, this is how it should be, send it on to the next step”—is absolutely nerve-racking. My biggest perfectionist fear is finding a typo after the book is available for purchase (so if

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There Is More to Fundraising Than Meets the Eye

It’s no secret that a lot of churches and small nonprofit organizations struggle with fundraising. I know a lot of these organizations whose members-who-are-responsible-for-fundraising feel like they are working harder every year to raise the same amount of money that they did the previous year. And I know more than a few who feel like they’re working harder every year—or every quarter, or every month, or every week—to raise less. A lot of fundraising in churches and small nonprofit organizations is just plain bad fundraising. It’s common fundraising knowledge that things like major gift visits and direct mail appeals not

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Kyrie Eleison

Welcome to Lent. Lent is a strange season. Last week, I told you that it is traditionally a time of fasting and repentance. It is a time to think about who we are and who God wants us to be and how we get from the former to the latter. It is a time of contemplation… …a time to contemplate our mortality with ashes on our heads and the whispered words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” …a time to contemplate our transgressions with prayer and self-denial and the words of a voice calling us

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Hard, Troublesome, Dangerous Love

There are some things you need to know. Maybe some things you just forgot. A couple of weeks ago, I talked a little bit about numbers. I talked a little bit about the numbers that I obsess over. I talked a little bit about how I keep track of our attendance and membership and giving. And I talked a little bit about how I feel better about myself when those numbers are higher. That wasn’t the core message of the sermon, but still… I know that there are people in this sanctuary who dream of being a big church, with

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Black History Month

As Black History Month winds to a close, I thought I’d share my praxis for this year. I am, I’ll admit, cribbing from my church’s newsletter and blog a bit here. It’s no secret that I am the white pastor of a white church in a pretty white town in a pretty white state (DeWitt, Clinton county, and Iowa are about 97%, 92%, and 86% white, respectively). It is easy for me to go through my day without ever entering a predominantly Black space or having a face-to-face conversation with a Black person. And what’s true in my daily life

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A True Story

A true story: Sendhil Mullainathan is a professor of economics at Harvard, and Eldar Shafir is a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton. A few years ago, they decided to work together to study a subject that doesn’t get a lot of attention: scarcity.  They wanted to know what happens to our brains and our behavior when we don’t have enough money or food or time or whatever. And they wanted to know how we could help people who don’t have enough money or food or time or whatever. One day, they told an economist colleague of theirs

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Mustard and Yeast

The Kingdom of Heaven is like this: A mustard seed is a very small seed. It’s not necessarily the smallest seed in the whole world, but it’s small. And in Jesus’ time and Jesus’ land, it grew wild. It’s not the kind of plant that someone would plant in a well-kept garden, where you want your crops all laid out in nice clean rows. But a man took a mustard seed and planted it in his garden, and it grew. It grew so big that it became a shrub. And it grew so great that it became a tree. And

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Vox: Finland Gave People Free Money. It Didn’t Help Them Get Jobs — but Does That Matter?

The psychological stability afforded by a guaranteed regular paycheck also emboldened some of the Finnish recipients to be more entrepreneurial. Sini Marttinen, one of the recipients, likened her experience on basic income to winning the lottery. “It gave me the security to start my own business,” she said. This entrepreneurial effect has also been observed in the past with cash transfers in places like Kenya. Vox: Finland Gave People Free Money. It Didn’t Help Them Get Jobs — but Does That Matter? Read the whole article.

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