Be a Part of Virtual March for Life

Last Friday’s annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., attracted over 100,000 people, drawing wide participation in the rally against legalized abortion. The march concluded at the Supreme Court building, where the 1973 decision was made to legalize abortion. Since Roe v. Wade, more than 50 million babies have been aborted.

This year, over 83,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to sign up for the Virtual March for Life. And over 1,000 thank-you notes to pregnancy centers have been submitted online to, along with 60 prayer requests that have been posted online, submitted by pregnancy centers.

FaceBook Alert

The New York Times featured an article this week by Sarah Perez on the “bold and controversial” privacy changes made by Facebook since December. The article warned Facebook users to check their privacy settings on the popular social network, even if they opted to keep their personalized settings when prompted by Facebook to do so. The article feared many would simply agree to Facebook’s recommended settings without understanding the agreement; users may have inadvertently given Facebook the right to publicize their private information on Google and other search engines.
Perez spoke of a critical privacy change related to status updates.

She noted that the default setting for permission to view status updates is “Everyone”, not just referring to those on Facebook, but possibly everyone on the Internet depending on your search settings. She also mentioned Facebook’s new default settings for your “personal information”—including your interests, activities and favorites—and suggested that many would rather keep those exclusive to “Only Friends” rather than the default “Everyone” or even “Friends of Friends.” To make changes to your privacy settings on Facebook, go to your Profile page, drag the cursor over the Settings menu (top-right), click Privacy Settings, then click Profile Information.

Perez also recommended FB users review their “Search Settings,” which refers to what you allow Google and other search engines to index in your profile. Anything in the list you’ve checked “Allow” will permit search engines to access any information you’ve marked as visible by “Everyone.” To edit these preferences, go to your Profile page, drag the cursor over the Settings menu and click Privacy Settings. Then click Search from the list of choices and close the pop-up that appears there.

Check your settings.

It’s Not Supposed to Be Easy

Many churches years ago had mourners benches. Charles Allen in his book God’s Psychiatry said "Today we want God’s blessing without the pain of God’s purging. We want sermons on how to win friends, how to have peace of mind, how to forget our fears. But we must remember that Christ came to make men good rather than merely to make men feel good."

Let God make you a better person and not just feel better.  Michael.

Who Is Your Bully?

In his book Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes:

"There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate lesson guy said I had to start paying him five dollars a lesson. So I just went back to paying the bully."

Too many people feel it is easier just to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him.

Hold your ground.  Pay your dues.  Michael

The Church and the Economy: Adapting

The Economy’s Impact on Churches: How Churches Have Adapted    

[January 25, 2010] After enduring some of the worst economic conditions in modern history, many businesses, families and other charitable organizations are coming out of panic mode and adapting to the “new normal.” A Barna Group study with 1,114 pastors and church executives, conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009, explored how congregations and churches are coping with the economic downturn.

Adjusting to Decline

Most Protestant churches reported that the economy negatively affected their financial resources over the last year, resulting in an average decline of 7% across all such congregations. The Barna study shows there have been three major ways that churches have attempted to weather the downturn:

  • Reducing spending – Roughly one out of every five churches (21%) have cut their spending to compensate for diminished revenue.   In addition to budget reductions, pastors indicated that they were watching spending, conserving more, shopping for better deals, eliminating non-essentials, freezing portions of the budget, re-evaluating vendors. Each of these types of slices to spending was mentioned by 2% to 3% of pastors.
  • Cutting staffing and missions – A second type of reduction that churches made related to people, primarily staff members but also including missionary partners. In all, about one out of every six churches (18%) indicated that they had to eliminate positions, reduce salaries, rely on more volunteer time, and cut hours from full-time to part-time. Also, nearly one in every 25 churches said they had reduced their giving to missions or missionaries.
  • Reducing facility budgets – One of the least commonly reported adaptations was to related to church buildings and facilities (3%). These types of alterations included scaling back a building plan, eliminating a planned project altogether, delaying construction, making better use of existing facilities, delaying upgrades of equipment, and deferring maintenance and repairs.

Nearly half of church leaders (45%) said they had not made any changes to their ministry as a result of the economic problems of the last year. 

The study discovered that the types of churches most likely to reduce spending included Boomer-led congregations and large churches (churches of more than 250 adults and budgets in excess of $500,000). The least likely churches to reduce spending were smaller churches, congregations located in the West, and churches led by older pastors (age 64-plus). Staff cuts were also most common among large churches. Churches located in the West as well as congregations associated with traditionally charismatic denominations were less likely than average to cut spending but were more likely to have resorted to eliminating staff positions.

Programs and Proactive Planning

For the most part, church leaders seem to have been in a hunker-down mode, attempting to get through the tough economy while avoiding drastic cuts to programs. Only a small minority of churches said the economy had caused them to cut back ministry services and programs. For instance, just 16% of churches indicated that the down economy had caused their church to offer fewer camps and conferences. The vast majority of congregations reportedly managed to keep their 2009 camp and conference programming on par with the previous year.  

The research pointed to mixed results regarding the proactive engagement of churches in trying to address the economic crisis. On the one hand, a Barna study among churchgoers that was conducted when the economy began its steep decline showed that large proportions of church-going adults said their congregation was offering special talks about the financial situation, providing financial counseling, offering prayer support for those struggling financially, and increasing the amount of material assistance available to congregants. 

However, in the current study, when pastors were asked to identify the changes they had made as a result of the economic downturn only about one out of every eight church leaders (13%) identified what might be described as activities that proactively position the church as a valuable resource to churchgoers and to those in the community. The  elements rarely mentioned by pastors included providing more financial assistance to the community, hosting support groups and classes for those with have lost jobs and who have experienced money problems, increasing the amount of prayer, teaching people how to handle money problems, and intentionally communicating how the church was dealing with its own budget shortfalls.

Perspective on the Findings

David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, commented on the findings. “In the past year, most churches have been satisfied to tie down loose financial ends and keep costs under control. That has been no small feat for most organizations, let alone donor-driven congregations. Yet, the surprise is how few churches seem to have clearly and intentionally developed a proactive response to the downturn. Perhaps they have been so busy keeping the programs running that they have failed to see the significant opportunities as well as unique challenges represented in the new economic reality. 

“For instance, many churches understandably have put off purchasing new equipment and technology,” Kinnaman pointed out. “Yet less than one-half of one percent of the churches we interviewed said they upgraded their use of technology in order to help cut down on costs or to maximize communication and reach. Some churches were naturally deferring building projects and facility-related expenditures, but virtually none of the leaders we interviewed said they were rethinking whether the future of congregational ministry required or could even sustain their current campus, much less planned facility expansions. And while some churches have offered resources, training and assistance specifically in response to the economic crisis, it is surprising that so few pastors had made strategic shifts to become a significant and vital resource to their congregants and to the broader community. Like so many others, church leaders have been focused on surviving; now is the time, though, to calibrate ministries and strategies to the opportunities brought by the new economy.”

If You Could Do It All Over Again

A reporter asked George Bernard Shaw if he could live his life over, and be any person he has known or any other person in history, who would he be? Mr. Shaw replied, "I would be the man that George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was."

Be a little more like the person you want to be.  Michael

4 Stages of Team Growth

The Four Stages of Growing a Team

Every church or ministry leader will benefit from understanding the key stages of team development (both paid and volunteer). The four Stages of team development were originally identified by educational psychologist Bruce W. Tuckman in the mid-1960’s.

Still valid today, they are:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing

Forming is what happens at your leadership retreat or first meeting. Everyone comes with company manners and is nice to each other. You might do some bonding games or talk about all you will achieve together. Hopefully you leave pumped and feel almost like you’ve found a fresh love.
Back home and back in the trenches, reality hits. The turf wars begin. Team members begin to jockey for acknowledged expertise in an area. Things get tense. You may wonder what you were thinking when you agreed to be a part of the team!

The storming phase has begun. Teammates are diligently working to identify who does and knows what. Pressure increases on how the team works together and challenges how the team deals with differing opinions around the table. Successfully working through this uncomfortable season will establish group norms. Just like after any storm, calm follows, relatively speaking that is.

Norming is building on the outcomes from the storm. This leads to growing trust within the team, and real forward progress begins.

With clear norms, performing becomes doable because the team is attuned to the same wavelength. It’s almost as if you can read everyone’s mind. The team delivers high-performance, and life is good.
Unfortunately, the process doesn’t always work quite this smoothly. Many teams never get beyond storming. Not quite understanding what is going on, leaders risk allowing things to get personal. This can become a de-motivator, and team members may start jumping ship, stalling progress. Teaching your new team the four phases can help them knowingly and successfully move through the storming phase.
Since most teams experience some turnover in their life span, it is vital to be aware that whenever a new member joins the team or someone drops from the team, the process will usually revert back to the storming phase. Be sure your team members are equipped to survive the storming process and work through to norming.

Awareness of what’s going on in your team and what phase you are in can smooth the growth of your team.

Lead your teams well.  Michael

Thomas Morgan Asks a Good Question

Several years ago, I was in a Bible study in which we were studying the Sermon on the Mount. It was most interesting because of the diversity of people we had in the study. You remember that passage, "Blessed are the peacemakers…" The discussion centered on the situation in the world today. On the wars and famines, and the terrorism, the factions.

Many in the group mentioned how they hoped that somehow God would work in the world today and bring about peace. One of the ladies in the room, said something, which just grabbed me. She said, “It seems like God and Jesus Christ is calling us to be ‘peacemakers,’ not just ‘peace-hopers.’" This is one of those statements where we all have to stop and examine what we are doing, just as James asks us to. "Is what I am doing right now—right here, in the family, in the workplace, at the church—does it make me a peacemaker?"

His Touch Changes Everything

There is a story about a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck. One day she was approached by a man who said to her, "Little girl, don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing." To which the girl replied, "Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday school that whatever Jesus touches, He changes."

Let Jesus touch your life today.  Michael

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