When your in debt…

Maybe this is really obvious to other people, but apparently its not really helpful to go to a big stewardship conference when you are about $100,000 in debt. (at least it not if your me….)

There I’ve gone and said it. My family and I are over $100,000 in debt, and the end seems nowhere is sight. We live paycheck to paycheck, my husband works three part time jobs, I work one fulltime job. I try to tutor (although I’ve let that fizzle recently). We rent out our extra car, and we have wonderful people who we pay (not very much) to help us to take care of our 3 boy-boys. We try to stay off the credit cards, but when bills come they come. And maybe we could have put off having children, but every time we’ve had a child someone has been home (first two were during our summers at grad school and the third was when my husband was looking for a job by my new church) so we know we are saving a TON on childcare. We are done with that (we think) and I guess we could have not had kids, but honestly that so does not work for us. So we can’t really see what else to do……

Here is the part that gets me…We’re not alone. Most people my age are struggling with debt. I’m lucky that I have a job with benefits (which frankly is why we have 3 kids) but really, we aren’t really “making it” so to speak.

So when I went to the kaleidoscope stewardship conference, I really wanted to hear about the United States’ problem with debt, in the context that we pray and promise the forgiveness of debt. I wanted intellectual conversation, theological discussion. I probably would have settled for the fact if someone (besides me and my big mouth) had raised the issue…

What the conference was: A great bag of tricks and tools, and a new set of language to think about stewardship–a training for stewardship teams or world-weary pastors, a way to address money in (primarily) big churches or churches with undergivers.

A nice way to think about these situations are like this (your planting the seeds of stewardship)

328 × 272 – colsdioc.org

What it discussed: Healthy financial practices–including giving, personal relationships, thankyous, ongoing stewardship (instead of a once a year thing), and some reflection about where people do put their money and why it isn’t church (instead). For thoughts about wealth and how it effects judgement read this fascinating article..

575 × 300 – staparish.net

What it didn’t include:

ways to leverage Time and Talent as well as money, (much) theological discuss, what to do if you were in financial distress (or are already in debt), and the fact that we are moving on from institutional religion to something else in Christianity….

The story was pay your debts and then you can get on with your life…..apparently I will never be able to get on in my life.

I guess I pictured the conference to be more about this…

and less about this

367 × 224 – salempresbytery.org

If your interested in my theology of debt read my brilliant post about Ruth here!

But here is the long and short of it.

American’s Don’t God to Church (this report notes that “overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”)…ok so again an indication our “stewardship” approach should probably be more about sharing what we’ve got rather than raising money for the instituion….

All Americans have to deal with debt (sequester anyone??), ESPECIALLY those Millennial/Nones we (us religious people) are so desperate to connect with….

We pray for, Christ promises and we attest to the forgiveness of debts.

Anyone else notice that Christianity is dropping the ball here?

I vote we find a way to REALLY address debts and the feeling of worthlessness it induces (again read my Ruth post for more on this)

And since I’m one of those in deep debt. I pray we do it soon!

 

Graph from the fascinating article linked above

A True Story

A teacher and a nurse are left with a faltering church. The teacher is practical and into appearances and the nurse is into rule following and order. Both women help to run the church for 40+ years. In all probability should either of them not have been there the church probably no longer exists.

Neither woman likes the other (in fact there are rumors of the women’s mother’s hating each other), but they are there the two pillars of the church. In walks a policeman. The policeman is new, and yet he gets to irritate both the teacher and the nurse. The teacher hates how he wants to lay out everything in rules, the nurse hates that the policeman likes to always be right.

A new pastor walks in and insists that God wants all these people to be a church.

The people all wrangle, manipulate, yell and complain.

But the pastor says that God put everyone in this church for a reason.

Much more goggosomen,grumblings murmuring and mutterings occured (See John 6:35-51 about goggosomen)

Then the pastor insisted that the church continue to be a church

Then an argument broke out, it might have been between the policeman and the teacher, or the teacher and the nurse or any combination of said participants.

Words were said, aggression became passive for some and active for others.

And in the end the pastor looked at her scripture, threw out her sermon and preached on the Golden Rule in light of the fight that had taken place not ten min before service.

Jesus commands us to love God, anyone who has loved a person with depression, addiction or bad days knows that love is hard work. Happily Ever After is just the beginning of the commitment.

That is what we are doing here as a church–we are vowing to be together forever, to love no matter what and to work on our relationships.

Who here doesn’t have relationships they need to work on? Church is a place to work on those through the empowering and life-changing love that is personified in Jesus Christ.

And every Sunday, every time we gather, whenever two or three gather in Christ’s name–the tone should be that of a wedding, for we are renewing and living out our vow…

The story doesn’t end happily ever after–because the church is too busy, too busy renewing their vows, working together and attempting to love one another no matter what.

Because whether or not the church needs us, or whether or not the God needs us…

The church wants us, and God wants us….God wants to love us, God wants us to reflect that love unto the world so that our entire being is changing…..

And that is something the pastor will avow to till the end of her time!

Image

(funny thing, all these professions are public sector jobs, note the above comic portrays a teacher, a policeman and a nurse)

Deuteronomy 6:4-94Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

 

Mark 12:28-34

28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question

REEEEEEEEEE-form

Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)

Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…

Then there’s Sandy (enough said)

And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her statusImage

Can I just let out a general ARGH?

Here’s what I think

1. Restart, Rethink, Reform

We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it

Here’s what we should do

a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.

b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)

c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.

d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.

e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)

f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).

g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.

OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings

h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.

We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made

The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)

please

Generation Wars in Church

And then there are the (rare) churches who want a pastor to lead them into the 21st Century, to equip them to be ministers, to teach them not so that they are smarter but so their faith is deeper, who train others to do pastoral care, and who spend more time out in the community than in their church buildings. There are especially younger pastors who long to do this usually with great passion.

Shannon A Thompson

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