Tell the Truth

We live in a generation where knowledge is power.  It seems that if you know the most, you have power over those who know less.  We esteem information over just about everything else.  This is why we are often consumed with learning how to do things better.  We spend hours and days in training and seminars learning how to do many things.  Now let me say here that I believe education is valuable to a point and training is important if it helps you become who it is God has made you to be.  But there is a point when the training must stop and we should put it all into practice.

I know I personally have sat for many hours learning “How to share my faith”.  When I think about that, it almost seems wrong.  I have listened to others pour into me about how to share something that, if I have it, should be easy to tell.  It is, after all, MY FAITH.  What is it I believe? Who is it I believe in? Where do I place my faith?  The story of Jesus is a simple and powerful story.  We don’t have to read into it or add anything to it.  We just have to tell it.  We shouldn’t be afraid of it, but embrace it.  Our faith will see us through.  If we do believe in Him, we should be excited to tell the truth any time we have opportunity.  We will have a desire to share it with anyone we come in contact with as God provides the opportunity.

We are to be witnesses.  Acts 1:8 tells us that we are to be witnesses to those around us.  A witness is someone who tells what they have seen, heard or experienced.  That’s it.  We are just supposed to tell the truth and let God work out the details.  We should tell about what we have seen Jesus do, what we have heard about Him and what we have experienced personally.  It’s not a memorized presentation, but telling about something we have personally experienced.  A presentation that comes from the heart is more powerful than one that comes from a script.  You can reference scriptures as God brings them to mind, but know that in telling the truth, it doesn’t have to be a perfect presentation.  It just has to come from a witness who is available to be used.  If that is the case, what is it that keeps us from telling the story of truth?

Our faith may be misplaced.  This is easy to do in our lives.  It is much easier to believe in things we can see than in things we cannot see.  We often become tripped up by our own good intentions.

  • Our faith may be in others.  We don’t want to offend someone.  We don’t want them to become uncomfortable.
  • Our faith may be in ourselves.  We are afraid of what they will think of us if we tell them the truth.
  • Our faith may be in this world.  We are afraid that we will lose status, possessions, power or comfort if we tell the truth.
When our faith is in God we see people as He sees them.  We see that they are lost and in need of a Savior.  We aren’t as concerned about ourselves, because we care too much about them not to tell them.  The things of this world become less important as we gain a perspective on things that are out of this world.  When our faith is in Christ, we are motivated to tell the truth whenever we can.  But how can we do this in a way that people will relate to?

His story becomes our story.  We shouldn’t just tell the story as a statement of history, but as a statement of how it has impacted our lives as well.  If the people we talk to hear us telling our personal experience, they will relate to it.  We can’t sugar coat it or make ourselves look better or worse than we were.  We must simply tell the story of what happened in our lives when we believed in Jesus.  What changed?  Describe the peace.  Describe the feeling of freedom.  Describe how it has changed every day since.  Tell about how Jesus is actively working in and through your life today.  Simply put, we should tell the truth.  Below are a few keys as you prepare to use your personal experience as a witnessing tool.

  • Think it through.  Remember the details of your salvation experience as clearly as you can.  When was it? Why did you want to be saved? What did you do?
  • Write it down.  We are more likely to remember things when we write them down.  Be sure to write out the details.  It will also help you make it clear in your mind.  The truth is, we will not tell the truth until we feel comfortable with talking about the details of what God has done in our lives. (What you have written down is just to solidify some thoughts in your mind so you will be ready.  It is not a script for you to memorize.)
  • Organize it well.  What was your life like before Christ? How did you receive Christ? Are there any verses that were used that you could share with your friends?  what is your life like now that Jesus is Lord of your life?
  • Practice it often.  Once you know your story.  Tell it.  You may start with just telling it to a friend who is already a believer.  Here is an important tip: Don’t ask, TELL.  We don’t ask people permission to tell them a story of our latest mountain climbing experience or the game we watched last week.  We just tell them because we’re excited about it.  The same should be true about the experience with Christ as well.  We need to have that same kind of excitement about telling the truth about our experience with Jesus.
  • Know how to invite them into a relationship.  Once you tell your story, you can ask if they have ever experienced a personal relationship with Christ.  If they have, ask to hear their story of faith. If they have not, ask them if they would like to today.  Here you can use a simple gospel presentation (Romans 6:23 is a great verse to use to describe what God has done for us) to confirm some thoughts with them and invite them to pray and ask Jesus to be their Savior.

Let’s not over complicate this.  Let’s be willing to be witnesses.  Let’s be willing to be bold.  Let’s just tell the truth!

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The Small Group Journey

To say that we’ve tried just about every small group approach out there would be accurate.  When our church started, we knew we wanted to have the small groups be the main hub for developing relationships, discipleship, caring for people, reaching the community and engaging people in a real life journey with others.  In the process of making this happen, we have tried a variety of ways manage the small groups systems at our church.  We have had long term groups and short term groups, age graded groups and stage of life groups, interest based groups and gender based groups, book studies and sermon discussion groups, and many other varieties.  We tried appointing people to groups and having people sign up for groups.  We have tried groups that consist of only 2 to 4 people and groups that were just over 20 people.  All of this was in an effort to discover what would work in our community and in the culture that we had been ministering within.  Through all of this, we discovered some things that were true for our church and may prove helpful to you as well.

1.  You can’t force relationships.  We worked really hard assigning people to groups because we wanted to make sure they were with someone.  We discovered that many times we were working against ourselves because we were the ones making the choices for the people in our church.  They had no ownership in the decision.  Because of this group attendance was hit and miss at best and the discussion seldom went past surface level.  We even tried this with 2 to 4 people to create opportunities for one on one discipleship to take place.  But there again, we were the ones matching people up and were in a constant state of frustration when many of the pairs/groups didn’t go well.

2.  Group settings require a forum.  We have discovered that really 6 to 8 people are the smallest forums we want to have healthy discussion and dialogue during the weekly group meeting.  Fewer than this and it often moves into more of a lecture format or very little discussion taking place.  In order to have this as the minimum, we try to sign up 16 to 20 people in each group.  This allows for people to be MIA at times and gives and average weekly meeting of 8 to 14 people. (Special Note: Even though this is a forum, it’s not an open forum for discussing church business or openly criticizing direction, ministries or staff.)

3.  Not everyone fits the stereotype.  Not every empty nester wants to be in an empty nesters group and not every college student wants to spend their time in a college group.  Because of this, we allow people to sign up for whatever group they feel would be most beneficial to them.  An exception to this, of course, would be gender based groups.  We have discovered that having a broad age range within one group often helps to add many different perspectives to the group setting.

4.  Leaders must come from within.  We have discovered that the leaders that excelled in their group are the leaders that had personally grown from being a part of a group within our church and had a heart to help others experience the same thing.  Giving a leadership role to someone who is new to the church is very tempting but often would come back to cause us issues in the future.  Even though new comers may show leadership skills and look like they would be a perfect fit, we discovered that waiting for at least 6 months would allow them to experience groups and us to experience them.  This approach has eliminated some of our frustrations with groups.

5.  Common Ground is essential.  For any group to fully engage those who are in it, there must be some common interest, study or pursuit.  This is why we now have implemented a lot of variety within our groups system.  We do have groups that tend to be age graded, some groups that go through certain books together (i.e. parenting, marriage, finances, etc…), some groups that explore a book of the Bible together, and some groups that are centered around specific interests.  This allows us to engage people where they are and let God work to shape them into He wants them to be.

6.  Change can be good!  Change is essential to any growing organization.  The same is true with groups.  We have found that within our culture, short term groups of 8 to 12 weeks work great.  We then reshuffle the deck and sign up for new groups.  This constant change makes it easier for newer people to jump in, keeps it fresh for people involved in groups, and allows many relationships to be cultivated throughout the church.  Change is also a defining force in our culture.  We know that once we have found “what works” that it will only be temporary, as the culture changes around us.  We continually make adjustments to impact and involve more people.

The truth is you’ll never get to where you want to be if you’re afraid to fail in the process.  We failed many times in our attempts to create healthy group environments within our culture.  But in the process, we learned new truths that helped us get to where we are today.  Don’t wait until you think you have all the answers.  Get started and discover that there is a good chance you weren’t even asking the right questions.  Enjoy the journey.


Tithe Challenge

There are some who believe that tithing is a legalistic approach to giving.  But I believe that God has called us to bring our tithes and offerings to Him on a regular basis.  It’s a physical act that demonstrates that He is the Lord of our life.  The New Testament didn’t lower the expectations of giving.  If anything it actually increased it to the point that we should be willing to sacrificially give to glorify God and further His Kingdom.  We should teach regularly on the biblical perspective of giving using both the Old and New Testament as our guide.  Jesus talked more about money than he did any other subject while He was here on earth.  He knew that if we were going to learn to trust in Him, we would have to learn to let go of our main object of trust, our money.

I have found that once or twice a year as you are teaching a series on giving or one Sunday on giving, you can use the tithe challenge to jump people from initial givers and systematic givers to tithers.  It’s just as easy to ask for a 30 day commitment as it is to ask for a 3 month tithe challenge.  If your asking for a 3 month challenge, you can also modify it to a 4 month challenge.  In Malachi, God says test me.  Encourage people to test God.  “For the next 4 months I want to encourage you to take this challenge and see what God does in your life.”  Along with this challenge, you could give out copies of the treasure principle to those who take the challenge.  Either hand it out that day or mail it to them.  Mailing it could be better because in the packet with the treasure principle you can include a letter from the pastor with info about the challenge and a mail in envelope and even ask them to use auto debit.  After the challenge Sunday, send an email from the pastor encouraging them about their commitment.  Then one month in, send another encouraging email, “Right now your being challenged and are wondering what is going on and you are considering taking back what is God’s…”  Again at half way through the challenge, send another email requesting stories about what has happened since they took the challenge. (Tangible or Intangible)  Do they feel better, have inward peace, seen financial blessings, seen financial struggles, etc…  And one month before the challenge ends, send out all of the stories you received to encourage others and invite more stories from those in the challenge.  If you’re ambitious, you can also do a daily devotion dealing with money to people who took the tithe challenge.

Note: Know that there will be some people that will not continue tithing after the challenge is over.  But there will be a good percentage of those who took the challenge who will realize the value of giving and continue to do it on a regular basis.

Times of change are good times to start a tithe challenge.  These would be the months January or Feburary and then again in August or September.

A Side Note on Tithing

Malachi 3 is the basis for tithing.  The best time to teach on giving is when things are going good.  It should be a part of the normal routine.  If you taught on money as much as Jesus taught on money … it would be every third week.  A third of Jesus’ teaching is on money.  You should challenge people to give more so they can grow more.  When you are not tithing, God is not proactively against you.  But at the same time, He is not proactively for you.  The curse from not tithing is the absence of God’s blessings in your life.  Partial obedience in the tithe is complete disobedience.  Genesis 4 is another good passage where it talks about Cain and Able.  Cain gave what was left over … it says he gave some of his fruit (not his best fruit).

A common excuse for not giving is debt.  But, the way to get out of debt is to pay God first and let him manage the debt, not to pay down the debt and ignore God.  Proverbs 3:9&10 tells us to honor the Lord with our wealth.  Additionally, the tithe should be given to the church not other organizations.  The church belongs to Jesus Christ.  It is the organization He left behind.


Plan to Reach More People with the Gospel this year!

I’ve worked on developing missions strategy and structure within the church for the past couple of years.  I found there wasn’t a lot of basic structure  on how to develop and/or promote missions into the lifeblood of the church.  As a result, I developed the following approach to missions and evangelism through the church.  I am including this here as a reference for anyone who might be developing this within their church.  This structure may give you a good starting point for developing a structure for your ministry.  Feel free to copy, take and use any portion of this.

Missions & Evangelism Ministry Breakdown

Overview:

The basis for our missions’ ministry is found in Matthew 28:18-20.  The passage tells us to “Go and make disciples of all nations …”.  It is our responsibility to “Go”.  Every child of God is commanded to “Go”.  This is not dependant on some calling to foreign, national, state or other missions.  God did not leave this as an optional area of service.  He has told each and every one of us to share the gospel throughout the world.   The structure for this ministry is found in Acts 1:8 – [Jerusalem (Local) / Judea& Samaria (Regional)/ Earth (National & International)].

Our purpose is to involve every member of our Church in missions as an effort to encourage personal fulfillment of the Great Commission, both locally and globally.  The foundation of this ministry will always have a goal of sharing the gospel and demonstrating the love of God in radical ways.  The vision and desire of the missions’ ministry is to increase the passion of our Church for personal evangelism, local, state & foreign missions, and missions efforts in general for the glory of Christ through training and involvement in missions opportunities.

This ministry will function under the direction of the Missions Pastor working with the Point Person of each area of missions to determine needs and plans for spreading the Gospel.  The foundation of this ministry should always have a goal of sharing the gospel and demonstrating the love of God in radical ways.

Trip Selection & Planning

Finalization of Trip Selection is to be determined by the Pastors and Point Person of each area.  These trips will be the church promoted/sanctioned trips for the year.  There may be some trips that are one year trips while others commit to a longer relationship with the field.  Those with longer relationships should be planned with the intentions of a multi-year commitment to the field.  These trips should be designed with the intention of developing relationships with the field.  Types of these trips could include: Evangelism, Construction, English teaching, Pastoral Training, Medical, Leadership Training, Life Skills, VBS, Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Orphanage, Church Planting, and more.  The goal of all missions’ trips should be to support and/or help establish local churches with indigenous leadership.  National and International trips should be prayerfully selected, approved and scheduled by July 15 of the previous year.

Trip Funding

Missions Ministry Leadership will annually prioritize ministry objectives to determine funding.  Portions of church sanctioned trips will be offset by the Missions Fund. (The Missions Fund is supported by the annual missions offering and special gifts given throughout the year to the Missions Fund.)  Each trip’s offset amount will be independently determined by the missions/stewardship team based upon the total cost of the trip, type of trip, availability of funds, and total mission efforts that need to be funded. Because of the missions ministry offset of the trip cost, each team is asked not to conduct a corporate fund-raiser aimed at the Church membership until after the annual offering is received.

Trip cost offset funds are only available to members of our Church.  And team members must contribute a minimum of 50% of the cost of the trip before offset funding will be considered.  Offset funds may cover anywhere from 0% to 50% of the trip depending on fund availability and trips to fund.  There is NO guaranteed percentage or amount for support.  Offset funds are guaranteed only for a set number of participants.

Deposits should be made by all participants on dates determined by team leaders.  Plane tickets may not be ordered until there are sufficient funds (including offset) to cover price of ticket.

NOTE:  Funding assistance for non-sanctioned missions’ trips by church members will be considered on an individual basis. Support will be determined by the missions’ team/pastoral staff with consideration given to other trips and funds available.

Trip Participation

  • The necessary qualifications including age, physical ability, mental & emotional stability, missions’ experience, and spiritual maturity of participants should be determined by the team leader in advance of advertising the trip.   This should be determined based on the requirements of the trip and type of trip.
  • Team participants should submit application including personal testimony to participate on trip.
  • Must be willing and able to share a gospel witness if needed (training will be provided)
  • Must attend mandatory pre-trip meetings
  • Must have or acquire a valid passport at their own cost prior to purchase of tickets. (If trip is International)
  • If the team capacity is not filled from the our membership, openings may be filled by individuals of similar faith. All other requirements remain other than church membership.

Trip Leaders / Trainers

Leaders and/or Trainers must be a faithful member of our Church who meets the qualifications for the First Lead level of ministry.  They must have participated in at least one other church sanctioned trip and/or been approved by the missions leadership and pastoral staff. They must also have served as a co-leader with an approved trainer before leading their own trip.  Additionally, they should have good organizational skills including the ability to contact local missionaries, make all travel arrangements, and manage the team while on the field.  They will be responsible for planning the trip itinerary, team size, project costs, and leading the necessary training sessions prior to the trip.  Team trainers are church pastoral staff members and other leaders who have the experience necessary to qualify as a trainer as approved by the missions leadership and pastoral staff.  Those going as co-leaders may receive additional financial assistance from missions’ funds because of an increased level of involvement as determined by missions’ leadership and pastoral staff.

Structure Developed

National & International

  • One to two main areas of focus will be developed for the church with the possibility of other relationships being developed on a lesser scale.

Regional

  • Church Plants will receive high consideration in this area as a way to multiply churches throughout the region.  We will discover ways to partner with and help various church plants.

Local

  • As part of the full spectrum of our missions’ obligation we must participate in missions efforts on a more local level.
  • The Missions Ministry will promote and help coordinate local mission projects throughout the year to help involve more our members in missions.
    • Servant Evangelism (use groups as a vehicle) – these are acts of kindness with the purpose of showing God’s love.
    • Community Involvement (church wide events) – these are opportunities to team up with existing ministries (i.e. food pantries, foster care, homeless shelters, etc…) to assist them in their efforts.  We don’t need to recreate the wheel that someone else is already doing well.  Also, should look for opportunities to partner with other churches to increase our overall efforts and reach.  Our goal is Kingdom growth!
    • Quarterly Collection Projects – (coats & blankets, food for holidays, cereal for kids, etc…)
    • Work Days @ Park / City clean up / etc.
    • Big Days – 3 or 4 per year.  These are more attraction type events that allow our people to bring their friends and family into our environment for worship.
  • One Dayin the community (make use of Servant Evangelism ideas)
    • Prayer Walking and Neighborhood canvasing Teams (get Easter door hangers)
    • Kite Day @ Lake Willastein (children’s and Family outreach event)
    • Car Show (community event)
    • Evangelistic FREE Car Washes (find location)
    • Evangelism at car washes and Laundromats
    • Yard Work/ Minor Home Repairs – Various Locations
    • Bottled Water Team (parks, etc…)
    • Senior Adult Ministry – (Nursing Homes)
    • Block Party (children’s and Family outreach event)
    • Dental & Health Clinic
  • Evangelism Group or Team
    • The vision for the group is to reach outside our comfort zones to share the gospel and build our faith and trust in God at the same time.
    • The tools for the group will use an evangelistic survey, evangecard, tracks (from E3) and invite cards to the church.
    • Demonstrate the tools to the group and how to use them.
    • Have those who have gone out tell stories about what has surprised them the most about going out and what opportunities they have had.
    • Have the group break up and practice scenarios including: How to approach people, What to say and How to close the conversation
    • Challenge the group to learn the E-card before the next meeting because it will be time to go out and put it all into action.

Missions Rally

  • This is designed to cast vision, promote opportunities, celebrate what God has done and pray for the harvest.
  • Missions Rally Plan (once or twice a year … below is an example layout for the meeting)
    • 6:00 – Welcome (Excited about what God has done)
      • Upcoming Opportunities in Missions
      • Praying for fields we have ministered in
  • 6:15 – Pray
    • Testimonies from missionary teams

Evangelism Training

  • The MISSIONS MINISTRY should function as an evangelism arm of our Church.
  • The MISSIONS MINISTRY will lead / help promote at least one evangelism training study or event annually to encourage the church body to become more able at personal evangelism.
    • Evangelism Explosion / Share Jesus Without Fear / FAITH / Way of the Master
    • The MISSIONS MINISTRY will work with the Groups Pastor to ensure that Servant Evangelism is a part of groups every semester.

Prayer in Missions

Daily prayer is necessary if we want to see something happen that only God can do.  We must encourage our church to pray as they are involved in missions opportunities.

  • PRAY for God to give you patience and flexibility as you minister.  Prayer is an important part of any missions effort.  There won’t be any wasted time as we minister … just more time to pray!
  • PRAY for God to bring us people who need to hear about Him and His salvation.  Pray that God will use YOU to share your faith with another person.
  • PRAY that God will bring people in the ministry area to be saving faith in Him.
  • PRAY for the churches of your area.  Ask God to guide them as they ALL seek to reach the city for His glory.
  • PRAY for church as a whole and the leaders of the church.  Ask God for wisdom, guidance, opportunities and safety for those who serve.
  • It is also vital that each person participating in a missions project have a prayer team of at least 5 people who will commit to praying for them daily.

Miscellaneous

  • The MISSIONS MINISTRY will lead and help coordinate along with the pastoral staff an annual missions’ season to promote the missions efforts of the church.  (November through January)
  • The Missions Ministry should seek out new and better ways to promote missions among our church family.
    • Missions’ conference / Missions Rally / etc.

 

Church Missions

Team Participant Application

Name _________________________________________________________

Email __________________________________________________________

Best Phone ____________________________________________________

Are you a member at our Church? Yes      No

Will you commit to pray for this trip daily beginning today?         Yes      No

What do you hope to see God do in the mission field on this trip?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What do you hope to see God do in your life personally on this trip?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My personal Testimony: (Including Salvation Experience)

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Should we use Credit Cards for the Church?

Credit Card

Having a good plan in place for proper use of funds will help with the overall stewardship process of your church. Often the use of credit cards and churches do not mix well.  Some are afraid of unwise use of cards or spending that may or may not be accounted for on a monthly basis.  And there have actually been leaders and pastors who have misused the church funds for their own purposes.  We shouldn’t judge all leaders and pastors on the actions of a few.  There are certain aspects of daily church business that requires some type of cash flow that is available to the leaders, pastors and/or business managers of the church.  I have found the system below to work well in providing accountability of spending and giving freedom to make necessary purchases on a daily basis for ministry functions.

The truth is if we can’t trust those who are leading our ministries and our church, then how they handle the money is the least of our concerns.  How they are leading our ministries and our church should be of a greater concern.

I hope this structure below helps as you develop guidelines for credit card use in your church.

Church Credit Card Policy

Those who use a credit card to make purchases within the church should follow the procedure listed below:

  1. Get a personal credit card in your name that will be strictly for the purpose of church business.
  2. Use that credit card for all budgeted purchases you make.  (If a purchase has not been budgeted, it will need to be approved prior to the purchase.)
  3. Keep your receipts
  4. Any purchase of more than $250 will need to be approved to check for availability of funds and cash flow.
  5. When the bill/statement comes in either to your address or to the church, you will need to fill out a monthly report indicating account totals (i.e. if you have made several purchases for supplies within your ministry, you will need to enter that on one line with a total that goes into that account)
  6. Turn the Accounting sheet along with the bill & receipts in to accounting to be paid.
Once you receive your bill, identify the account numbers and the total spent within each account and log this below.  Do not show each account more than once.  Simply give an overall total spent within each account.  Place the receipts in an envelope, attach envelope to the bill and turn in for payment

Account # Description of Account Dollar amount spent
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$
$

You Can’t Control the Future!

 Did you know that you or I can’t control the future.  It’s not possible.  There are times in our lives when we have the appearance of control, but at any given moment that can change.  Each day there are things that happen that are actually beyond our control.  It’s hard for us to accept sometimes, because we like to think that we are in control.  But how many of us have lost sleep because of something that consumed our thoughts about the next day?  How many of us have attempted to manipulate a situation in an attempt to control the future outcome?  How many of us are stuck in the past because we’re afraid to move to the future?  I know a few years back I worked in a company that I had been at for many years.  I had worked my way up from the lowest position they had to the point of helping run the company and being a decision maker in the company.  Because I had been there for a while, I had established a certain amount of comfort throughout each day.  I knew the job.  I was also secure in my job and could see it being a long-term career.  It was safe because I knew the people I worked with, I was earning a paycheck and found some satisfaction in what I was doing.  The only problem was, I also knew that this wasn’t what God wanted me to do long-term in my life.  But I was secure, comfortable and safe.  All of these things working together make it hard to move into the unknown.  That’s what all of our futures are … UNKNOWN.  We’re not sure what will happen tomorrow.  We’re not sure what the next phone call will be about or what will happen at the next stop light.  But God knows it all.  We spend a lot of our time worrying about many things.  A majority of those things never come to pass.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Later in Proverbs 19:21 we read, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”  This lets us know really who we should look to in our lives for our next steps and purpose in our lives.  The Lord has a better plan than we could even begin to imagine.

In Matthew 6:25-34  we read, 25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time consumed with either what has happened or what will happen, but not much time thinking about what IS HAPPENING.  The truth is that we’re too busy trying to control our future that we miss today.  The worry of damage control or preparation for tomorrow immobilizes us in the present.

I want to explore  why we’re consumed by the future.  I see 5 areas in this passage that we can explore to help us learn to live more in the present.

  1. We’re afraid we won’t succeed. (25)  We look at what as going on around us and measure our success by what we have and how well things are going.  We’re afraid that if we don’t get everything just right then somehow the world will come crashing down around us.  Somewhere along the line, we learned that failure is a bad thing in our lives.  And, although it is difficult to go through a season of failure, it is one of the best opportunities we have in life to learn more about ourselves and our God.
  2. We don’t realize our value. (v 26)  God loves us more than words can express.  That’s why He sent His son into the world to live and die for us and to live again.  We are valuable not because of what we do, but because of who we are in Him.  We need to realize that God doesn’t measure our worth based on whether or not we can hold the world together, He already has that coverd.  He loved us before we were loveable and desires a personal relationship with each one of us.
  3. We live by sight not by faith. (v 25-27)  We are conditioned to look at the physical things of this world as a guide for how well things are going.  We have learned to trust in what we can see around us because it’s harder to trust in what we cannot see.  To live by faith, we actually have to let go and let God take control.  We have to admit that we don’t have all the answers and can’t predict everything that will take place.  Faith is living in such a way that often goes against what the world will tell you to do.  It’s trusting God even when the finances don’t balance, or the move doesn’t make since, or you don’t know where the next meal for your kids is going to come from.  Faith is expressed in the details of life.
  4. We don’t pursue God. (v 33)  We work hard at pursuing our careers, our families, our hobbies and other relationships.  Often in the course of life, we fail to pursue God.  We assume He will be in our plans and will bless our efforts.  We assume that we are going in the right direction.  Our assumptions often take us away from God as we pursue the world’s view of success, security, value and happiness.  But the verse here tells us to seek God first above all things.  He should be our number one pursuit.  When we put that relationship first above everything else … everything else seems to fall in place.  It’s awesome the way God works.
  5. We forget His promises. (v 33)  He tells us if we seek Him first and He’ll take care of everything else.  Does that mean steak for dinner every night?  No.  Does that mean namebrand clothes in a packed closet? No.  It does mean that He will direct our paths and guide us through each day as we seek to glorify Him.  Let’s not forget that He promised that we’re not in this life alone.  He is there and waiting to be an active part of our lives.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”  Let’s do what we can to just take it one day at a time and let God handle all of the tomorrows that come our way.  We have enough going on in each day to consume our thoughts and actions without bringing in everything from the tomorrows that may not ever come as we think.  As we live each of our days for the value they bring, let’s seek to give Him the glory He deserves.  He is the one who is in control of all things and we get to experience the journey with Him.


Timeline Plans for Stewardship

I work best with systems in place.  I don’t have to continually reinvent the wheel, just tweak it from time to time.  The timeline below has worked great in setting up some simple stewardship plans within our church.  Many of these things I have learned by reading after Steve Stroope, Nelson Searcy, and other trainings that I go to on a fairly regular basis.  This plan has been put together as I have taken various aspects of those trainings to create a system.  I hope it is helpful to you.

Annually

Secure an Annual Commitment (Usually in January)

  • Use a card in services: Will you recommit yourself to being in a small group (which group), sharing your faith (who is on your card), quiet time (morning, afternoon or night), Serving (where), Giving (What will you give to general fund, building fund, missions fund). This is usually about the third week of January.  This is recommitting to basic Christian discipline. Allow people to specify how they plan to fulfill their commitments this year (including the amount they plan to give to the general fund, capital campaign and missions).  Don’t base your budget off of this amount – it’s for the individuals themselves. People are 15 times more likely to keep a commitment that they write it down and hand it in.

Receive Christmas Eve Offering (In addition to General Fund Offering)

  • This offering can go towards the Benevolence fund to help meet needs as they arise in the upcoming year.

Receive an Annual Offering (In addition to General Fund & Christmas Eve Offering)

  • This can be done every December.  Most nonprofits send out a lot of requests at this time of year, because they know that it is a time when people are most willing to give.  Identify what the Annual offering is going towards.  If it is missions, identify those areas specifically that people can give to.  Be detailed.  People want to know specifics.  Mail a separate envelope to the homes.  Additionally have a separate envelope in the chairs for this offering.
  • This offering is a special offering given during a set period of time around Christmas.  It encourages people to give over and above their regular tithe and offerings.  The areas this offering goes towards needs to be “Heart” projects.  It encourages people and challenges people to get involved and offers blessings for people who get involved.  The goal for this offering should be set initially to be 2 or 3 times your weekly offering.  Once your church has done this a few times, your goal will more likely be 4 to 6 times your weekly offering.
  • Identify One-time causes and new initiatives to work towards and promote.  Have no more than 3 or 4 heart causes (non-recurring).  Types of “Heart” causes could include: Missions, Church Planting, Servant Evangelism, Counseling, and Benevolence, Help for Poor & Needy, Children’s Ministry, Youth, Seniors, New Church Plant, New Multi-site Locations.  The good thing is if you don’t raise it, you don’t fund it.  These should be things that you can’t do unless people get involved.  Any money given over and above your goal can be divided equally between missions and the annual budget.
  • If you hit your goal before the season for giving is over, you can always expand the goal by adding additional elements to the goal.  Tell the church that “God has bigger plans”.  This would be a true statement if He is bringing in additional funding.
  • Note: If all of the leaders in the church give, you’re more likely to get all of your people to give.  If only half of your leaders give than likely only half of the church will give.  The Pastor and staff needs to step up and give the first gifts towards this offering.  Make it the first and best gift you can give.  If you need to pay over a few weeks, then do it.  Be sure you are a part of setting the example.
  • When you mail out your packet for the Annual Offering include, a letter from the pastor, 2 page overview sheets, Q&A Pages, Giving Envelope – Put all of this in a 6×9 envelope.  Mail this out the week after the offering is announced.  Send it to everyone who has an affiliation with your church.  If you extend the annual offering into the new year, you may want to mail another packet at the beginning of the new year.
  • You should begin your kick off for this offering the Sunday before Thanksgiving (even sooner if possible).  Include it in your Week at A Glance email newsletter every week.  Give updates and tell people where you are at in the campaign beginning in mid December (talk percentages or hard numbers, which ever works best for the time).
  • You should promote the annual offering from the stage, in sermons, in small groups, at events and activities, in leadership training meetings, etc… When you get tired of talking about the Annual Offering, the people will have heard it for the first time.  Use creative redundancy.  Think through how you say it.  Focus on the Why of the offering.  Focus in on a different area of the offering each week.

Limit Special Offerings each year

  • Don’t nickel and dime your church.  You cannot hype something new every month and expect your people to respond fresh every month.

Annual Gifts

  • At the end of each year, everyone who gives over a certain threshold will receive a gift and a letter of appreciation to those givers.  The gift might be “The Treasure Principle”, a DVD of life changes that year, or even a book on spiritual growth. You can determine what the baseline threshold is.  This investment in these people will help them develop in their gift of giving and/or see what their giving has done to impact the Kingdom.

Quarterly Letter/Statements

Send quarterly statements to give people a chance to correct their giving before the end of the year. You need to maximize these quarterly giving statements.  Include a Financial Newsletter; keep it simple and easy to understand.  Make it about more than just finance by including small group involvement, ministry involvement and other areas.  Let people know what their gift has helped you to accomplish over the quarter.  Identify life change stories because of the giving – not just numbers … include names (remember that stewardship is a heart issue).  Let people know how you are accountable for money spent and identify how the money is spent (If you are audited, let them know).  This is a chance to communicate to your people how you (leadership) are being good stewards of the resources they’re giving.  The more formal your giving statements look, the more people give.  There is trust in professionalism.  This letter or newsletter needs to come either from the lead pastor or the executive pastor.  It is always good to remind people to be consistent in their giving (2nd Quarterly statement usually has this theme).  Always put a “P.S.” in your letters – People usually read this first.  Make it more personal by signing it first name only.  Place your title below the P.S.  When sending out your letter, find a strategic time.  You may use it to coincide with helping promote a new series or something that is going to be happening.  Include some add in promotional items with the quarterly statement. It doesn’t have to be right at the end of the quarter.  To grab attention, put teaser notes on the front of your envelope.  Let people know about projects.  Include a list of designated giving options they can give toward ($50 leather-bound bible that is given to new Christians to $50,000 van for the church … this can be things that are in the budget).  This is usually about 14 items. Also tell how to give online, etc… Put camp scholarships in newsletter.  If it is 4th Quarter statement, the front of the envelope can be, “Important 2012 Tax Documents Enclosed”.

Note: You could do another statement at the end of November to help promote year end giving.  This is an opportunity to let people make sure their records are up to date.  If you do send one out at the end of November,  your Third Quarter giving statement should go out at the first of October.  Make sure the 3rd quarter statements go out First Class; this allows you to know if the address is wrong.  Bulk mailing just gets thrown out.  A website resource for ideas on mail outs is lumpymail.com.

Monthly

You can promote giving in your monthly newsletter.  Make a constant box for online giving or automatic giving.  You can also use this section to insert testimonies from members who have seen how giving has changed their lives and their perspective on God.

Weekly

First Time Givers (Send Something)

  • Send out first time giver email… thank them for their gift.  According to our records this is the first time you have given
  • When someone gives to your church it’s a great time to ask for them to give again.
  • Can send a gift to first time givers.  “The blessed life” (Randy Morris) or “Treasure Principle”.
  • First time giving letters should come from the Lead Pastor.
  • Count the number of first time givers and the number of total givers to be able to track trends within giving.

Regular Givers (Thank Them and encourage with books etc..)

  • Get a big giver report every week …  ($1000 for the first time or out of the ordinary).  They will get a handwritten letter from the pastor.  “Dear ___, Thank you for honoring God with your finances.  Your giving helps support the ministry of our church.  (signed by Pastor)  Keep a record of who those notes go out to so you don’t continue to send out the same note. If they have never received the treasure principle book … they get the treasure principle book.  If they have that you can send The Generous Giver book, The Rest of God, Margin, Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley or other life development books could be helpful.

Extravagant Givers

  • Follow the regular givers layout above.  You can also write a personal handwritten note to key givers to thank them for being willing to give.
  • Consider lining up a meal (breakfast or lunch) once or twice a week with key donors.  Once they hit a certain point in giving, have these meals be automatically set up.  This meeting is not to show favoritism to those who give, but to invest in a leader within your church who has been blessed with the spiritual gift of giving.  When you go to this meeting, get a record of their giving.  This card should have the name of the spouse, kids, activity in small group, where they are serving, etc.  Ask the giver, “Is there any way our church can do a better job of helping you grow in Christ?”  Do you have any questions about where our church is going or anything that is going on in our church?” (If they have any concern about the direction or vision of the church it will affect their giving.)  Thank them for giving financially to the church.  Tell a story of a life that was changed in the recent past.  Ask them how you can pray for them and add them to your permanent prayer list.  You generally do not ask for money at these meetings and often times it is not discussed heavily. (If you’re in a capital campaign, ask them to pray about giving the biggest gift that they have ever given.)  The main goal of this meeting is developing relationships and trust with these givers.

The timeline above is really based on the idea that stewardship is discipleship.  We must invest in people and encourage them along the journey as they grow spiritually.  I pray that some of the above plans can help you move forward in developing a culture of generosity within your church.

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