Nothing shows American individualism like the days between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, when everyone is free to celebrate the holiday of his own choosing—ancient or modern, major or minor, traditional or made-up—as long as he follows the Two Cardinal Rules:

  • Don’t assume everyone else wants to celebrate the same holiday you’ve chosen, and
  • Spend lots and lots of money!*

I reach into the grab bag and choose:  Advent, all twelve days of Christmas, and Epiphany.  Perhaps New Year’s Day as well.  None, technically, involves spending a lot of money, but we generally manage to do our part, and so far this year has been no exception.

For the purposes of this blog, the operative word here is holiday.  I am attempting to take a break for the season.  I seriously doubt I won’t post at all, but do expect a significant reduction in the number and length of posts.

May whatever holiday(s) you celebrate bring you blessing!


* The money doesn't have to be spent selfishly, despite what the television ads may lead you to believe.  I recommend considering some version of the Advent Conspiracy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 11:30 am | Edit
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I'm afraid, though, our Church's Finance Commission meant this morning to see if we could encourage folks during Advent to catch-up with their annual pledging, and perhaps make a special gift at Christmas, and maybe prepay their pledge for 2011 during Epiphany. It's all good stewardship, but it's hard to escape the money part, even at church!

Posted by Eric on Thursday, December 09, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I wonder why it is so hard to escape at church. I think it is great that at our church it took us around a month to figure out how people actually gave any money to the church. (the offering is collected by an almost unnoticeable box in the back).

We do have an annual budget meeting to approve the next year's budget, and there sometimes (always? Maybe I miss the Sunday that it is handed out sometimes) is a 6 month report. And we did have a special meeting last year when the church was approaching 200% of the budgeted amount for helping folks with various needs. (apparently the by-laws say the leaders can allocate up to 200% of the budgeted amount without specifically asking the congregation in a given year).

I've heard it said that most churches think it crazy to not pass an offering plate, and that people wouldn't give anything if they weren't guilted into it with the collection method.

That's pretty sad if it is true.

Posted by Jon Daley on Friday, December 10, 2010 at 11:22 am

Our church does send around a collection, and they even do financial reports in the service occasionally (with fairly convincing reasons) but what sets them apart is that whatever money is left over at the end of the year is donated to missionaries and those in need. Every year there's a fresh start and renewed trust that God will provide as he did the previous year!

Posted by IrishOboe on Friday, December 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I've always liked the idea of unobtrusive giving (like the box in the back), and giving bigger sums less often rather than smaller amounts each week. But I've also come to realize there is something beneficial about having the presentation of the offering being part of the liturgy—especially if the church has an altar to receive it.

Let me speculate that one reason Jon's and Janet's churches are more "at ease" with the money issue: they are both small churches with no buildings of their own.

Certainly there are advantages to being a settled church with your own building(s)—it's a great way to be part of the community, for one thing. Our church recently expanded, and now host many activities that involve neighbors who would otherwise never set foot in a church. It's great, but—having become irrevocably committed to the work just as the big crash came—it has made us have to think a lot more about money. We now have the same kind of meetings Eric's church does, and will for a few more years, I foresee.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, December 10, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Not having a building and not having a full-time pastor certainly makes the money situation easier, but what in the opinion of our treasurer makes it extra easy is that more and more people have turned from irregular (and perhaps only half planned) cash offerings to thoughtfully planned automatic payments.

We used to give finance reports more often, when it was more necessary to remind people that without gifts we would not be able to pay rent or the pastor's salary. The thought was always that people would be upset at not having been told the church was in a pinch if they only found out later.

I think it's a hard balance to strike: on the one hand, church is not about money, and the gospel is free, but on the other hand, giving money to support God's work is part of an active Christian life. Some people have already built the habit to give generously and will remember to give when they walk out the door; others get distracted, perhaps by conversation, and need a more obvious reminder to give what they want to give. How do you remind those without a few people feeling "guilted" into giving? How do you build the habit in new Christians if you never mention it, neither in sermons, nor financial reports, nor offering collections?

Paul asked for an offering for the church in Jerusalem; he later reminded the Corinthians to put their money where their mouth was, and to systematically prepare their giving, with a number of reasons beyond guilt. Paul backed it up with a frugal life. I think if our churches are well and wisely managed, they need not consider money a taboo topic.

Posted by Stephan on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I haven't heard anyone talk about that in terms of raising kids - I suspect that most would simply think it is up to the parents to teach them how they see fit.

I suppose the best teaching would be simply to direct folks to read their bible, and if a doctrine can't be established from there, I wouldn't make a big deal out of it.

Money shouldn't be a taboo topic, and I've always wondered why people make such a big deal about not talking about how much money they make. But, perhaps that gets into a privacy conversation more than a money conversation.

Posted by Jon Daley on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I wasn't thinking of kids, where I agree with you that they will be taught by the parents for good or for bad. I was thinking of people who are new to church. In an ideal case they could teach themselves, but would you really have every new believer work out all doctrine over again? Why withhold the experience and teaching of fellow believers?

Posted by Stephan on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I think I would be in favor of every believer figuring out doctrines, yes - otherwise, you have the situation where no one knows why anyone believes X, but people have for a long time, so X must be true, even though X isn't in the bible.

Posted by Jon Daley on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I would say yes and no. It's foolish not to take advantage of what others have discovered. We wouldn't have gotten very far if each person had to discover all of mathematics from scratch before he could use it. And you can't build much of a building if all you're doing is building a lot of foundations.

On the other hand, you don't get very far in mathematics if you just learn the formulas and don't understand where they came from. And sometimes starting from scratch does result in what Richard Feynman called "a different set of tools" that can be enlightening. But only if you're Richard Feynman. Or Martin Luther.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I support people looking up X and thinking about X and why it is doctrine, no question. It's dangerous to swallow doctrine without asking, and it already happens too often.

Trouble is, some folks who think about doctrine without any outside guidance come up with ideas and conclusions ranging from weird to cultish to dangerous and heretical. (That's not supposed to be a knock on the non-intellectuals - many heretics were very smart people - nor a knock on the intellectuals - many heretics didn't think very well.) Doctrine ought to be a communal effort.

Of course, these days, if one doesn't like the doctrine in one's church, one picks up one's bags and founds one's own... heresy schmeresy, I know what I'm doing.

Posted by Stephan on Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 12:44 am
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