Stewardship: Raising more with less stress


Stewardship does not have to be the hardest thing you do at church. Pastors and leaders often lament pledge drives or stewardship campaigns. Fundraising in the church is difficult.

There is an alternative to non-stop fundraising, convincing people to give more – or simply cutting the budget. It’s what you bring to stewardship that you already have and not about learning the latest technique.

Register for this FREE webinar for Monday, May 5th @ 3:30 PM EST and you will be able to:

  • become more thoughtful about the financial challenges you and you church face
  • see money – and the process of stewardship– from a different perspective
  • bring more calm and creativity to recurring and unexpected problems in funding ministry
  • concentrate on long-term ministry goals and strategic persistence to get financial support for those goals.
  • focus on yourself and what you can impact directly rather than trying harder to convince others to give more
  • enjoy the stewardship process rather than dreading it each year

Leading this webinar is Rev. Margaret Marcuson works with churches who want to create a ministry that lasts and clergy who want to have more impact on the people they serve best. She speaks and writes on leadership and works with church leaders nationally as a consultant and coach. Margaret is the author of 111 Tips to Survive Pastoral Ministry, Leaders who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry and Money and Your Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance (just released). Margaret is an American Baptist minister and was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gardner, Massachusetts, for 13 years. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Karl, and belongs to First Baptist Church of Portland.

Spots are limited for this webinar! Sign up today.

Waterboarding is not funny, Sarah Palin


Former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, gave a one-liner to an audience at the National Rifle Association that likened baptism to waterboarding torture.  Palin said in her speech:

They obviously have information on plots to carry out Jihad… Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.

It appeared that the joke was well received with the NRA audience. The rest of her speech was delivered with a snarky and sarcastic tone.

To Sarah Palin, waterboarding and baptism are such minor realities in her worldview, that she feels the need to belittle such serious topics. Senator John McCain, who was Palin’s running mate in 2008 and a former prison of war, has denounced the practice of waterboarding because it is torture.

Palin has made it abundantly clear that she is a born-again Evangelical Christian. Sarah Palin and I believe in the divinity of Christ, the salvation of God, and the importance of the biblical call for baptism and repentance of sin. However, where we completely differ is how we talk about baptism and torture.

On her Facebook page, Palin defended her remarks:

If some overly sensitive wusses took offense, remember the First Amendment doesn’t give you a right not to be offended. Perhaps hypocritical folks who only want Freedom of Speech to apply to those who agree with their liberal agenda might want to consider that the evil terrorists who were the brunt of my one-liner would be the first to strip away ALL our rights if given the chance.”

I believe in free speech, but also responsibility for that speech. Torture is a horrible practice.  Jesus Christ was tortured on a cross. I cannot imagine that Jesus would want anyone to suffer such fate. Palin’s extreme rhetoric only hurts the Christian witness. For a public figure who is a Christian to share such a joke leaves the impression that Christians do not take torture seriously. Such talk treats violence, without any thought about the dignity or sanctity of human life (no matter how evil the actions of a person) as a casual topic.

To jest that waterboarding is how she would “baptize terrorists” shows a complete lack of respect and reverence for the ordinance of holy baptism.  Sarah Palin has a lack of self-awareness. Some would say, “Hey lighten up. Terrorists are the enemy.” However, Palin’s track record of such inflammatory statements do nothing to advance the kingdom of God. The act of baptism is the mark of a Christian who dies to sin and is raise into new life through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ did not die so that the act of baptism could be used as fodder for a political agenda.

We Christians must speak out again such ignorant and un-Christ like talk. Jokes about terrorists and baptism treat both topics as a drive-by joke to be laughed and used for scoring likability points.

I know folks will disagree with me on this issue of torture. No matter your view on torture or waterboarding, please treat such topics with all seriousness, good faith, and respect.

How to have a ‘good’ Good Friday

How can Good Friday be good? Good Friday is the day that Christians all around the world remember the suffering of Jesus Christ on a cross.

Depictions of Jesus Christ’s suffering are immortalized within our cultural framework because of such movies as The Passion of the Christ. However, we are not meant to wallow or suffer in the grief of Jesus with torment and pain.

On this day of sadness, we wonder: what is so good about this phrase Good Friday?  There is no clear answer, but the word “good” and “God” were mixed together in the English speaking world.  For instance, the surname “Goodspeed” derives from “Godspeed”, which comes from the expression “God speed (with you)”  The expression, “good bye” came from the phase, “God be with ye (you). 

Despite the origins of the phases, we don’t really feel “good” on Good Friday.

No matter what the origins of the phase, we cannot escape our feelings.  Are we meant to feel guilty and depressed on Good Friday? We don’t feel “good” about Christ suffering.  Are we meant to feel the pressure to be grateful of Jesus’ torment? 

No! We must acknowledge our feelings of grief and loss regarding Jesus’ suffering on Good Friday.  We cannot deny these feelings, nor should we. The stages of grief are real for us as they were for Jesus and his disciples:

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Join me on HuffPost Live today, 1:20 PM

Join me on HuffPost Live today @ 1:20 PM discussing “Creationists, Skeptics, and Science”: How do creationists maintain their beliefs against all scientific evidence? How do professional skeptics avoid being driven by their knee-jerk reactions?

I’ll be a on a panel with Will Storr the author of “The Unpersuadables” about the strength of fringe beliefs.

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You can have an email sent to you when the segment starts. Click here.

Or, click here to join the discussion or watch. 1:20 PM Eastern.

Leadership lessons from ‘Game Of Thrones’


The HBO hit show ‘Game of Thrones‘ has watchers captivated with the story line. Waring factions and kingdoms are at each other’s throats, but is there a leadership case study we can learn from?

Forbes magazine believes that ‘Game of Thrones‘ offers lessons in leadership with the way in which characters lead and act. Cameron Welter provides insightful commentary on several of the main characters:

The combination of my love for all things Westeros and the work we do with business leaders at Kotter International has made me keenly aware that the leadership styles we see in Game of Thrones are frequently played out in real life. Therefore, in the spirit of our favorite show’s return, let’s take a look at some of the parallels we can draw and see what we can learn from each.

Welter gives his ‘Game of Thrones‘ leadership analysis:

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Finding the associate pastor you need


The role of the associate pastor or minister is one that many churches think they cannot afford. In reality, the are a variety of ministry callings that do not involve staffing a full-time pastor or minister. In many cases, the associate pastor or minister can be found in their church.

As church budgets get tighter congregations struggle to use lay people to meet the needs of church goers. This model can be effective but there are particular situations where a church needs an associate pastor. The typical indicator of the need for staffing another minister is when the worship or membership begins to approach the hundred mark: 200, 300, and so on.

Typically, the larger the church the more likely that a church can fund a full-time associate pastor. For those churches that hover around the 150-200 membership range, they should make a plan for staffing an associate pastor. Not every pastor or ministry on staff needs to be seminary trained.

I use the term associate pastor/minister interchangeably. In the free church tradition, every member is a minister. Depending on your tradition, the tile of pastor may carry a different meaning. Regardless, most denominational polity allows for a church to empower a person with a specific ministry as “minister of ….”. Your church would benefit from utilizing people in your own congregation for the work of an associate pastor/minister. Here are some ways to staff such a position:

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4 ways to engage Millennial leaders


As over 40 million Millennials are entering or have entered the workforce, their ability to lead is critical. Baby boomers are exiting the workforce at rapid rates and companies and non-profits must understand how to lead and encourage these young people.  How will employers respond to this demand?

 Nicole Fallon of BusinessNewsDaily offers 4 key ways to engage Millennials:

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Why it doesn’t matter if Noah film is inaccurate

Russell Crowe as Noah

Noah staring Russell Crowe has seen success at the box office with the general public but not everyone is happy about the film.  Some claim that the Noah story was hijacked and is inaccurate.

True, there are parts of Noah that are inaccurate. These inaccuracies would be the things that Hollywood uses to make the story more entertaining, though these facts do not appear in the Bible. I’ll name a few without giving the movie away:

  • Noah is given snake-skin from the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
  • Watchers, fallen angels play a role in Noah’s story
  • Methuselah, the oldest person in the Bible, appears in the Noah story
  • A ruler named Tubal-Cain is the antagonist
  • An army wages battle
  • Several ploys to kill characters in the story
  • Noah experiences recurring dreams

There are many more. If you remember your Bible story about Noah, you know that none of those things are found in the biblical account.

However, it does not matter. It does not matter if Hollywood added or took away facts from the biblical story of Noah. Heresy you say?

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The unraveling church


A close friend of mine over the past six months has said several times, “It might feel like things are unraveling, but at least we know who holds the string.”  The first time I heard it I didn’t really get what he was trying to say.  I understood he was bringing comfort to churches and leaders who feel like their ministries, churches, and whole worlds were falling apart around them.  So on some level I understood, but I didn’t really get it until I thought about it in another way.

My wife is an excellent crafter.  She loves to use cool tools to make things.  Her greatest gift lies in knitting.  By working with yarn and needles she is able to create just about anything she sets her mind toward.  However, sometimes she really likes a particular yarn for its color or texture but has already made it into a scarf and used it as such for some time, then one day decides, “I think I want that to be socks!”  What is she to do?  She simply finds the end, unravels the existing completed project that has served its purpose and begins to turn it into something completely new. 

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Social media reaction to World Vision controversy

world vision

This week World Vision, the para-church organization that fights hunger, announced that they ended their ban on hiring people in a same sex marriage. After considerable blow back from supporters and Christians, World Vision reversed its policy. Some supporters said that they would stop funding World Vision and end sponsorship of children in need. World Vision president Richard Stearns and board chairman Jim Bere wrote,

We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.

People took to Twitter to express their frustration in this story. Here are a few that are notable:

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Don’t be a Fred Phelps hater

The enigmatic Fred Phelps has died. The church that he founded, the Westboro Baptist Church, made a name for itself by picketing funerals and public gatherings with signs proclaiming hate for soldiers, gays, and Jews – to name a few. At the end of his life his church kicked him out, his granddaughters rejected their family, and was deserted by the very people he led.

What can we say about a man who preached hate and bitterness?

It wasn’t until the 1990’s did America first hear about Fred Phelps, his family, and the Westboro Baptist Church. Millions were shocked to see so-called Christians carrying signs that read, “God hates fags” and “God hates you”. Over time the notoriety of Phelps and his family grew. Perhaps it was fascination. Certainly, as the age of the internet grew, America begin to love to hate them. More stories of this radical band and their message of hate spread through news websites, Facebook, and Twitter.

Fred Phelps and his ministry of hate was bizarre. It was not a message consistent with the message of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 is a common passage to refer to as an easy verse to describe God’s message of salvation. However, many folks do not read the next verse:

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I made


It’s not something I’m bragging about, but this is surprising. In response to my Times Union blog post on why church gun giveaways do not send a postive message, sited my blog post.

The headline reads, “Pastor Quotes Daily Kos, Apostle Paul Against AR-15 Giveaway”[Read more…]