February 27, 2014

A Little Child Will Lead Us (Again)

Last Saturday our church gave away free bottles of water as people stopped at the light in front of our church. Perhaps your church has done this too. But this was our first time, so we are in a learning mode.

Our church has a great location and is visible from a major road in our town, and we wanted to reach out to the more than 90% of our community that does not go to church anywhere. If your church is exploring its demographics, they are quite revealing. It's not that United Methodist are a minority, it's all Christian churches. And we, like many places, have a church on most every corner. Most of these unchurched folks will not come to us, so we figured that passing out free water would be a nonthreatening way to help people to at least notice. And who doesn't drink bottled water or like free?

As you might expect, many people were wary of (especially) men. Getting people to open their car windows and accept our gift was not easy. That is until a couple of small kids joined the group. It helps that they are cute. One is 6 and the other is 8, but their presence made all the difference. They stood with their mom and the boom began. People not only stopped but asked questions and thanked us. All the bottles were gone quickly.

Were our efforts successful? Yes, but with our children present and helping, the message was significantly different and more easier accepted. Jesus was right. Little children do lead us.

If your church is looking to find ways to reach out to the 90% who are unchurched, giving away bottled water is a good way to start. But  including children will not only help your efforts, but they will inspire the rest of your congregation.

How are things going in your church? In what ways is your church serving and helping to usher in the Kingdom?

Grace, Kathy

February 24, 2014

Attract Families to Your Church and Keep Them Coming Back

Every church needs this new book by Linda Ranson Jacobs! This book comes out May 1 and is for every pastor, every children's and family minister, and every Sunday School teacher.

Make your church family friendly. Navigate through the changing tides in ministry and become a church that families want to attend.  Reach out to all kinds of families: two-parent families with children, blended families, boomerang families, adult children of divorce and their families or lack of families, single adults whose family is the church, grandparents parenting again, childless families, co-habitation families, and children with three legal parents. 

This book gives practical helps and suggestions for ministries, worship, small groups, and even facilities. Author and family expert Linda Ranson Jacobs will help you to create a welcoming place for everyone.

Buy it here:

Here is what churches have to provide to attract today's families:
1. A strong children's ministry that caters to the individual needs of their child.
2. A safe place for their children.
3. A place that meets the adult's need for spiritual growth.
4. A place where adults and children feel loved and accepted.

1. The Church That Might Have Been
2. What Parents Want
3. Taking a Page out of the Book of Nehemiah
4. Creating a Family-Friendly Church for Single-Parent Families
5. Nontraditional Families Are the New Normal
6. Other Common Family Structures
7. Looks Count and So Do Church Attitudes
8. Keeping the Family in Family Ministry
9. Electronic Steeples: Social Media and the Digital World
10. Making Worship Family Friendly
11. What to Do with Those Challenging Kids
12. More Help Attracting Families to Your Church

Linda Ranson Jacobs is a popular church consultant, author, trainer, program developer, and a family expert who regularly writes and speaks to church leaders throughout the United States. Linda is the developer of HLP4 (Healthy, Loving, Partnerships For), a website for single parents and those working with single parents, the creator of DC4K, (DivorceCare for Kids), and a contributing developer of the H.E.R.O.E.S. CARE Project, (Homefront Enabling Relationships, Opportunities, and Empowerment through Support).

I kid you not, your church will benefit from this book. Costs under $12.

February 14, 2014

What Does Love Look Like

The meaning of love deepens over the years. It still means warm and near when you are together or in separate rooms or even distant cities. As the movie reminds us, "Love means never having to say that you're sorry." (Although saying "sorry" doesn't hurt either.)

But here are some other acts of love.

Picking up crumbs off the floor that your spouse dropped when he was sneaking a cookie before dinner.
Sharing the box of chocolates your spouse got you for Valentine's Day.
Being ok when your pastor spouse has to leave the dinner table and rush off to a congregational emergency again.
Listening to your spouse share about his day even though you have other things you need to do.
Taking time to always kiss your spouse good bye and tell him that you love him.
Being happy that he was happy with the banana pudding you fixed him for his Valentine's gift.

How much more, then, does God love us? You can connect the dots.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day. I hope you can be with those you love the most.

Grace, Kathy

February 13, 2014

What Is the Anxiety Level at Your Church?

Last night at choir practice, we prayed for so many people. It seems that everyone knows someone who is struggling with illness or other trauma. It gives great comfort to pray with others and have the assurance that all is in God's hands.

But I'm not sure why we don't have that same confidence when it comes to dealing with money in the church. Like many churches, our church wishes it had more money for mission and ministry. Giving is down but that is because some major givers have moved. Membership has increased, but many young families don't have the resources to give. While I am grateful that our church is growing and that there are new faces in the congregation, money issues seem to be the only issues that matter to some folks.

Now if people really tithed, that would be another story. Perhaps God will prompt them to be more generous. Research shows that pastors give a much higher percentage of their income to the church than other people in the congregation, and many more pastors tithe. Maybe our family has more of a vested interest. I certainly hope that is not the case, but sadly  (and frankly this annoys me) I've seen too many people just leave the church instead of helping make it better.

Our church and community have suffered some tough blows this last year, but Jesus is the Lord of the future and our friend. There is no reason to be anxious.


February 7, 2014

Extravagant Generosity

Last night a large group of us went to a local restaurant to eat and meet. At the meeting was a new person who had never attended before. Because our church's budget is very tight this year, the pastor asked if our group could donate to a particular church project--he was asking for second-mile giving. And while it is true that most of us go the second and third mile in giving, there was some hesitation and further discussion about the normal things like how much are we really talking about, how many other times will we be asked, why is the budget so tight, do we really need this, didn't the pastor know that we were short on funds too?

You get the picture and the direction of the conversation. The glass was not only half empty, but losing its contents with every passing moment. You won't be surprised to learn that the upshot of the discussion was to wait and see how much money are group had later. How much later was not considered.

While you might think that we were just being responsible and thoughtful in considering this request that actually came from the trustees and not the pastor (I asked him when I got home.), we were really being negative and, in my opinion, petty. We were not talking about thousands of dollars but maybe $200. And looking at most of the people seated with me (there were more than 20 of us), we all had the ability to write out a check then and there. But no one offered.

When we finished the meal, the new person ducked out. Nobody thought anything about it, but when she came back she whispered to me that she had paid for the dinner. At first I thought she meant that she meant just her's. But no, she really did mean dinner, all of it, everyone's dinner. She didn't want to announce it and asked me to. Actually she did it because with so many of us, it would take forever to get out of the restaurant and get home. It was already late. She didn't do it to be generous or make a statement. She just did it because she could. She did it for joy.

When I made the announcement, you can believe that everyone was surprised, to put it mildly. What a gift. It was unearned, unmerited, freely given, no strings attached. It was grace pure and simple from a guest at our table. The irony could not have been more profound. It made me reflect on what Jesus probably was thinking about our "responsible" behavior. It was not a proud moment for me but it was, nonetheless, a grace-filled experience of extravagant generosity.


February 6, 2014

"Someone" Is Unhappy!

You might think that after being in ministry for a while, a spouse would be able to handle this situation. Sorry to say that the learning curve for me is just too steep.

Last night at a prayer meeting, a person voiced the concern that "someone" (She didn't name them.) was upset and feeling pushed out. She didn't not want to mention names and she didn't. She really did want us to pray for our church. Naturally, we don't want anyone to feel unwelcome or alienated.

But even with her good intentions, the bomb had been thrown. Everyone reacted. Some just wanted to help. Some were curious. But we all were confused. Who could it be? And more seriously, what should we do?

I supposed that it may point to our lack of faith that we didn't think praying about it was enough. So we pressed her. Who are these people anyway and why are they upset? Then she replied and this is what shocked all of us. She said that we should just know. Couldn't we look around and see who wasn't there?

Really? We have over 800 members in our church. Three services. And lots of new people.

But yes, she said we should know already. Maybe she is right. If the church is our family, we'd notice who didn't show up for dinner. But there are so many and the vast majority attend twice a month. I'm still learning names and I've been there for seven years.

Then it hit me, she  expected that the pastor should also know. It was then that I started feeling annoyed. How many times have I heard (here and elsewhere) that people aren't happy and that was the pastor's fault. Why is the pastor responsible for the personal happiness of the members of the congregation? The pastor's job is not to make people happy or keep them from being upset. If people are upset it is their responsibility to speak out. Maybe they had, but who could know?

I care a lot about our prayer group, but it is times like these that I feel the special weight of being the pastor's spouse. There are so many unspoken expectations--some fair, others not.

Perhaps you have an opinion. What would you do?

Grace, Kathy

February 4, 2014

Appointment Time Where One Is the Loneliest Number

You may have noticed that UM appointments are already being announced. As this stressful time of year visits us once again, please remember that you don't have to go it alone. Many of us have moved multiple times, sometimes to a healthier church and sometimes to a more conflicted church.

Yet, each time we've moved, I've been optimistic. True, moving is a hassle and difficult especially if you have young children. But it's also a pain as you get older and just have a lot more important stuff to haul.

Look forward to meeting new people and leaving behind problem ones. If you can, you might offer to help someone in your district. While there is collegiality between pastors, there is less for spouses. So be proactive and call someone you know. If you don't know anyone, call your DS and ask for a name. If that fails, call your Conference Connectional Ministry office.

If you'd like to get more ideas to make your move smoother, you might check out this book by  F. Belton Joyner Jr., Life in the Fish Bowl: Everyday Challenges of Pastors and Their Families, 9780687332946. Or just contact us at the SpouseConnect blog.