Help Kids & Family Fun TONIGHT

I want to tell all the families in the Capital Area about a wonderful event going on tonight.  If you are looking to support a great cause and searching for a family event then come to TreePaad tonight!  One of my church members, Colleen Pierre (Malta Mama) is helping to coordinate this family event to raise money for To Love A Child.  This organization helps children impoverished children and their families throughout the world.  Colleen’s husband was born in Haiti, was there in January and survived the earthquake, and still has family there.

KidsGiving is a children’s charity event benefiting local non-profit, To Love A Child and co-hosted by Malta Mama.  The event is taking place TODAY Friday, November 12th at TreePaad in Malta.  In addition to all the fun at TreePaad, KidsGiving will feature crafts and games for kids, live music, a silent auction, world handicrafts, a bake sale and more.  It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn about how to help underprivileged children in Haiti and Zimbabwe and to raise money for an amazing charity organization.

Tickets are $12/child, and kids 2 and under are $8. Your ticket price includes two hours of unlimited play at TreePaad (including laser tag, rock climbing, and the other ‘extras’).  Contact Colleen (colleen@maltamama.com) for tickets or stop by TreePaad to purchase.

Me and my family will be going tonight!  I hope I can see you there!

Churches Stop Decline in UK

For years we have heard reports and studies tracking how churches are dying and God is slowly “disappearing” from Europe. Personal stories persist too. Despite what Fox News and other news outlets like to spin, there are counter reports that suggest otherwise. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that churches are growing in the face of modernization:

Most scholars used to believe that modernization would extinguish religion in the long run. But that view always had trouble explaining why America, a nation in the vanguard of modernity, is so religious.

One study, by Christian Research, who published a widely-respected Religious Trends survey discovered:

…that Church of England attendance has held steady for the past decade (not including Fresh Expressions), the Catholic Church has held steady for the past five years, and Baptist Union attendance has actually been growing.

Secularism is often also thought to contribute to empty churches and forgotten stories of God’s people. However, it is not an issue concerning if people in the United Kingdom believe in God, it is their participation.  The following graph shows some surprising facts about Christian belief in the UK:

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The Fruits of Stewardship

The decline of giving to churches was well documented during the Great Recession.  Larger churches particularly struggled with giving.  The graph here shows regional declines in giving.  Many churches struggle with a vision on stewardship.  Many churches guilt their people into giving or force the concept of tithe.

Viewing giving through the lens of stewardship is helpful for churches and Christians.  Having a theology stewardship is key for churches to build a fruitful plan for giving.  If we start from the idea that everything we have comes from God then we can see our money, possessions, talents, and time as gifts.  Americans are very possessive when it comes to our property.

However, churches often ask the question, how can we encourage giving?  Cynthia Woolever gives three ways pastors and churches can encourage giving:

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Breakup Stats on Facebook

Facebook is a treasure trove of information – including when relationships end.  A recent New York Times article tracked what break ups occur based on Facebook user information:

In a recent TED Talk discussing the project, Mr. McCandless explained that most breakups occur three times in the year — in the weeks leading up to spring breaks, right before the start of the summer holidays and a couple of weeks before Christmas. His research also found that people tend to break up with their significant others on Mondays, presumably after a weekend grapple. Thankfully, the lowest day of the year for breakups is Christmas.

I wonder if couples break up so that one of them does not have to buy the other a gift?  This goes to show that you have to be careful with the information you share online.  Believe it or not, statistics are being gathered on what you share, how you play Farmville (I refuse to play that game), and how many pictures you share.

I would like to get my hands on some Facebook religious affiliation statistics and blog the results.

Maybe this is a good time to make all your info on facebook private. Go! And share less information about yourself.  Someone is reading about you right now!

Cheeky Saints

Many Christian families and churches dread the end of October as the days draw closer to Halloween.

I spent a good deal of time in Halloween blog post advocating for Christians to reclaim Halloween as Christian celebration. For those of you who follow a lectionary or liturgical calendar, November 4th is All Saints Sunday.  I’m sure that there are Christians trying to make sense of these events for churches.  Seeing Halloween through All Saint’s Day, Christians can remember loved ones and thank God for those who labored as saints of Christianity. There are a number of churches that hold fall festivals, trick or trunk events, or other safe trick or treat events.

Instead of drawing attention to Halloween as our culture does, through scary movies, gory displays, and haunted hay rides, we are going to spend some time honoring our loved ones who passed away on this All Saints Sunday.  We will have a special time of remembrance for our personal ‘saints’ who have passed away. We did this last year in worship and it provided a very meaningful time of reflection.

Historically, All Saints Day was a way for Christians to remember martyrs and saints.  Most protestants are uneasy with using the word “saint” because of Catholic theology and veneration of saints. The New Testament mentions ‘saint’ over 60 times. This Sunday, we will be talking about ‘cheeky saints.’  What is a cheeky saint?

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7 Reasons Why Christians Should Celebrate Halloween

Is celebrating a holiday that honors ghouls, demons, ghosts, and everything that goes bump in the night dangerous or even evil?

Somewhere, in the halls of history, Halloween or All Hallows Eve, got hijacked.  What started as a day to prepare for All Saints’ Day (November 1st), Halloween became a spooky, evil, and candy filled observance.  The term “Halloween” from its beginnings, had nothing to do with any pagan or evil beliefs.  The Christian festival All Hallows Eve morphed into our current term Hallowe’en.

The key in understanding of the origins of the term Halloween comes from the sense of what is “hallowed” or “holy”.  In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians pray, “Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name…”  In the fourth century, John Chrysostom tells us that the Eastern church celebrated a festival in honor of all saints who died. In the seventh and eighth centuries, Christians celebrated “All Saints’ Day” formally.

How did Halloween become associated with evil spirits?  When we look at history we discover:

More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits… the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks.

If the Christian observance of Halloween began with a religious focus, how can we reclaim Halloween from its current feared status?  Here are 7 ways Christians can take back Halloween:

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The Nature of Pastoral Work

Several bloggers are writing about a paradigm shift in pastoral ministry.  The model of a pastor working 60-80 hours a week is slowly changing and for good reason!  Who can sustain their sanity, a family, and a job at that rate?  Maybe that is why many people think of pastors as male, bald (or have bad hair), look disheveled, and are over weight.  I know of some pastors that are literally killing themselves in their work by being at church four or five nights a week.

Three blog posts are worthy of your attention.  My friend and fellow pastor Elizabeth Hagan recently wrote about “Being Off Duty as a Pastor” on her blog Preacher on the Plaza.  Her piece was picked up by the Associated Baptist Press.  Props to Elizabeth!  Her most pointed comments might come to a surprise to many lay people:

But, as you might imagine, all of this can be quite weighty on a pastor when everyone expects him or her to be at everything. My week, as is the case with almost every pastor I know, is filled with hard choices of what invitations to accept (and don’t take this to mean I don’t want to be invited to things, I consider it an honor and an important part of my work, so I tell my church to keep them coming). If I say “no” to a birthday party or graduation ceremony or even a anniversary dinner, it doesn’t mean I don’t love my congregation.

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Lewis Fellows: Kansas City or Bust

This past week was crazy.  I didn’t have any time to blog or tweet. I traveled to Kansas City, MO with the Lewis Fellows and spent some time with pastors of dynamic churches.  When I returned to New York, I went back to the airport to welcome Gary Long, our retreat speaker.  Saturday the church held our fall retreat on vision – an excellent time.  Sunday was worship.  As you can see, it was a pretty full couple of days.

I want to briefly share with you my Lewis Fellows experience.  Tuesday, October 19 we visited Saint Andrew Christian Church (www.sacchome.org) and had a conversation with Senior Pastor Rev. Holly McKissick.  Saint Andrew Christian Church is a Disciples of Christ church.  Check out the church below:

As you can see, it looks more like a market than a church.  Such a welcoming property and building.  The church is only 20 years old and Holly is the founding pastor.  Below, Holly is standing and we are meeting in the sanctuary.  I loved this sanctuary.  The building is only about 12 years old.

Holly comes out of the Southern Baptist tradition, but was ordained in the Disciples of Christ church.  The sanctuary is welcoming and seating is structured in a “U”.  Holly’s take on leadership was interesting.  She talked about making mistakes, as all pastors do, but learning from them.  She was honest and candid about her leadership and ministry.

Below is a pic of the cross that hangs in the sanctuary:

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Changing Habits

Recently, I had to make some changes in my eating habits. I started to eat different foods and I didn’t like it.  It made me feel different. I was cranky and unpleasant.  It was almost like feeling withdraw symptoms that people with addiction experience.   Though I didn’t like the way I felt, I knew it was necessary to get to a point of change.

Who is ever successful in those New Year’s resolutions?  We usually stop those resolutions sometime around mid-February.  Why? It’s hard.  It is hard to change those habits that we know are not good for us.Organization consultants talk about change all the time.  Many fear the word “change.”  Why?

Change usually involves three areas of focus.  A recent university study found that  three things (pictured right)are required to make a difference.

The study also found some other information that will shock us (not really):

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A Vision For Chipotle

Man, I love Chipotle.  Goodness wrapped in a burrito.  Chipolte has been very successful creating a niche for their products.  Chipolte started as a humble company, but it quickly grew into a national chain. They have a very simple menu, store, and concept:

“Food with Integrity” is our commitment to always look closer, dig deeper, and work harder to ensure that our actions are making things better, not worse. It’s our promise to run our business in a way that doesn’t exploit animals, people or the environment. It is the philosophy that guides every decision we make at Chipotle.

Chipotle shares a special place in the hearts of poor college students.  For only about $6, you can get something to eat that tastes great and is fresh.  Chipotle has turned this idea into a multi-million dollar business.

Why do some stores or brands fail and other succeed?

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Mainline Churches Deal with ‘No Shows’

A new report this week has left many mainline churches  scratching their heads and wondering why church attendance has dropped.  The four major mainline churches, the Episcopal Church in the USA, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian (PCUSA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), have all experienced double digit drops in worship attendance.  What is even more puzzling is that the ELCA has seen an increase in giving in the last 10 years.

Churches increased attendance in the last decade but lost in attendance numbers in this decade. What gives?  The economy?

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