Churches are an important resource in caring for America’s poor, but the job is too big for churches alone. With all the talk about healthcare and the nation’s deficit, I’ve seen more than one blog suggest that churches take over the responsibility for caring for the nation’s poor. While that is a noble goal, moving all government “safety net” programs to churches is a numerical impossibility. Let’s just take one example — the food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank, puts the food stamp program budget at about $75-billion dollars. But, let’s use a more conservative estimate from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They estimate that 36-million Americans (1-in-8) receive what most of us call food stamps, or nutrition assistance. On average, each participant receives $133 per month, or about $1,596 per year. Okay, let’s do the math on those numbers: $1,596 x 36,000,000 = $57,426,000,000 or about $57.5 billion per year. That’s less than Cato estimates, but will serve our purposes just fine. The total number of congregations in America is generally estimated between 350,00 to 400,000. Let’s use the higher guesstimate of 400,000 churches of all denominations in the United States. The median size of these congregations is 90 in attendance each Sunday. Here’s where the numbers tell the story: For churches to take over the feeding of America’s poor, each church in America would have to feed 90 people each. That means that the average church would take on as many poor people as it currently has in attendance! But, even more difficult is the financial picture. If each church allocated $133 per month to feed each of the 90 people, the total yearly cost would be $143,640 per church per year. Most churches with 90 in attendance don’t have a total budget of $150K per year, much less a benevolence budget of that amount. Of course, this is only one program. The SNAP program is run through the US Department of Agriculture, but other programs Continue reading “Think Churches Can Feed America’s Poor?”
SmallChurchPROF.com links to the best news, ideas, insights, and information relevant to small church ministry. The site features articles in eight categories of interest to small church leaders and members:
- Featured. These articles are the latest of the web’s ever-changing content that have application to small churches. Links to events, people, and issues that are making news or creating conversations are featured here each day. A recent feature, “What comes after contemporary worship?”, focused on a small church that was re-establishing traditional worship after 15 years.
- Small Church News. Small churches and their people make the news, too. This section curates the best of small church newsmakers and recently featured an article about the CIA shooting down a missionary airplane 9 years ago, killing a young mother and her infant in the process. “When Mission Trips Go Bad” focused on the plight of 10 Baptists who went to Haiti and were arrested trying to transport Haitian children across the border.
- Outreach. A recent article told the story of a Nashville, TN church that uses mixed martial arts to reach young men. The story ran in the New York Times, so small churches can have a national influence in the mainstream media. The Outreach section often showcases successful outreach ideas or concepts, such as the post, “How Can We Get Some Young Folks in Our Church” written by Jeremy Troxler of Duke Divinity School’s Thriving Rural Communities program.
- Discipleship. This section links to articles that either reflect issues of interest to those seeking to follow Christ as disciples, or specific instances of discipleship in action. When the Archbishop of Canterbury challenged Wall Street’s greed and materialism, that’s of interest to those seeking to follow Christ’s teaching that you cannot serve God and money.
- Leadership. The Leadership category finds the most helpful and insightful web articles about leadership development, characteristics, and examples available. Some articles come from the business world, others from the non-profit world, or a valuable leadership resource. All of the links in the Leadership section provide insight into being an effective leader in the 21st century. Seth Godin’s “Who Will Save Us?” was a recent post revealing the struggles of leaders to adapt to our changing times.
- Service. Service tells the stories of churches working to make this world a better place. A recent link from the local Nashville, TN paper, The Tennessean, revealed that the traditionally isolated Churches of Christ in middle Tennessee were cooperating with other denominations on community ministry projects.
- Worship. Featuring creative worship ideas, sermons, and other links pertinent to small church worship, I recently linked to a story about “Dinner Church.” Dinner Church is the nickname a new church start, St. Lydia’s in New York, gives to its combination of dinner and worship, patterned after Jesus habit of breaking bread with the disciples.
- Technology. Finally, the most current technology developments, such as the rise of mobile smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, sound systems, video, and even Apple’s iPad, get recognized in this section.
You can bookmark the entire site, SmallChurchPROF.com, or subscribe to each category in a separate feed if your interest runs only to one or two areas. Simply click on “More SCP Links from Publish2” at the end of each category for access to the RSS feed.
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In addition to this blog, I also edit/curate articles at two other sites, NewChurchReport.com and SmallChurchPROF.com. Both of these sites consist of links to videos, articles, blog posts, and information applicable to churches. Today I’m introducing you to NewChurchReport.com, with the following from the NCR About page:
NewChurchReport.com searches the internet for the best of church news, ideas, information, and inspiration. Four categories comprise the homepage of NewChurchReport.com:
- Spotlight: Videos, photographs, cartoons appear in the Spotlight box focusing on important issues and ideas each week.
- News: The left column of NCR compiles church-related news feeds from around the globe. Sources include Christianity Today, The Christian Post, Christian Today (UK), Ethics Daily, Religion News Service, and others.
- Featured: The center column articles feature well-known church thinkers from outstanding blogs and websites. I select each article for its value to church leaders. While I may or may not agree with each writer, I find the articles useful or thought-provoking.
- Blogs: The right column posts I select from blogs of pastors, ministry leaders, and others whose voices may or may not be well-known, but who have something worthwhile to say. Blogs range from opinion to practical help to issues of interest to church leaders.
Editorial philosophy: As the editor of NewChurchReport.com, I look for well-written pieces that have something new to say about churches or the issues churches face. I represent a variety of viewpoints, even those with which I disagree. I am looking for practical or provocative articles that make me think. I include articles from secular media if I think those have application for churches. I don’t post Bible studies, theological treatises, polemical pieces, or argumentative posts. There are enough of those articles elsewhere.
Goal: NewChurchReport.com will be the go-to-source for interesting, unusual, provocative, practical, and inspirational writing. Readers will find church-related articles here that they won’t find on other church-related sites. Let me know if we succeed in accomplishing that goal, and how we can improve NCR in the future.
Contributors: If you would like to contribute an article to NewChurchReport.com, please read the editorial philosophy above before submitting. If you would like for me to consider an article for inclusion, please email me the link, not the whole article. The editing system I use depends on links to the original post or article, so if an article is not on the web at a specific URL, I cannot link to it. All titles link to the original articles, and all original sites are credited. I write the “hook” that appears below each title, which may include a quote from the article, or my summary of the main point of the article.
Disclaimer: NewChurchReport.com is an independent Christian news and opinion publication. NewChurchReport.com does not endorse or promote any particular doctrine, denomination, or point of view. All articles appearing on NewChurchReport.com are chosen for their helpful application to some aspect of advancing the church of Jesus Christ in today’s world.
Scott Linklater started NewChurchReport.com and handed the job of editing the site over to me in January, 2009. All content is selected by the editor, and does not necessarily represent the views of the editor, or any person, denomination, church, or other organization represented here.
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Tom Friedman, author of The World is Flat and New York Times columnist, is big on China, but he’s not the only one. The 21st century is being called the “China Century” as China’s economy is predicted to grow to three times the size of the US economy by 2040, only 30 years from now. One book, When China Rules The World, foresees drastic cultural and political changes as China rises in world status.
What does this have to do with churches? Just this — young people, including Chinese young people, are already exerting tremendous social pressure on the global culture. Trends in China’s emerging generation are both reflecting and influencing the world youth culture. I track several emerging gen sites and blogs, and Chinese trends are appearing more often.
One site, enoVate, belongs to the company by the same name. Headquartered in Shanghai, China, enoVate’s mission is “insights and creative solutions for China’s youth market.” But look at their client page — Coca-Cola, Sprite, New Balance, Kraft, Unilever, Ticketmaster, and assorted other American and European corporations. All of them are trying to expand their reach in the world’s largest youth market by understanding what makes Chinese youth tick.
A recent post on enoVate’s blog posed a provocative idea — ‘”I Want A Mixed-Race Baby”: Are Chinese Youth After a Mixed-Race Baby?’ The combination of Chinese features, augmented by those of another race, are seen as both exotic and desirable among Chinese youth. The previously insular Chinese society has not only adopted the racial pluralism of the United States (we have a mixed race president now), but has given racial pluralism an uniquely Chinese twist, which is what China tends to do with any trend they adopt.
My point in this is not to build an airtight case for the rise of China, but to suggest that we tend to look only within ourselves and our own culture for insights into how to do church. But there are other models that are taking a broader, more global view. One example is Newsong church, with its international locations in California, India, London, Bangkok, Mexico City, and the other parts of the US, which has styled itself as a “third culture” church. More churches will follow Newsong’s lead, and if you have traveled in Asia as I have, you recognize that China dominates the landscape.
With increasing global communication, world travel, and social networking, we need to pay attention to the trends driving China. Because, to paraphrase Hollywood, these are coming soon to a community near you.
Breaking News: After I posted this article on Jan 20, the Jan 21 edition of the New York Times carried this headline and article — Foreign Languages Fade in Class – Except Chinese. It appears that while other language subjects are declining, the teaching of Chinese in public and private schools is increasing, partially because China is paying the salaries of teachers to travel from China to teach in the US. Remember when all Chinese wanted to learn English? Interesting.
Seth Godin said it first, “Small is the new big.” Now it appears, big churches are the new small churches.
Let me explain. The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas is sponsoring Verge, a missional community conference. Felicity Dale of simplychurch.com and a leader in the simple church movement, comments about the new interest megachurches are showing in microchurches:
Just over a year ago, within the space of 72 hours, Tony and I had three megachurches ask us about simple church. We may be fairly slow on the uptake at times, but even we couldn’t miss the fact that this might be the Lord. Since then we have had a two national meetings with megachurch and microchurch leaders meeting together, and even the theme of last year’s national conference “The Rabbit and the Elephant” reflected this potential.
Austin Stone Community Church is one of those megachurches interested in using microchurches (missional communities) to reach Austin. So, small is the new big, as Seth Godin said.
Megachurches are coming to the realization that you can only build so many 100,000 square foot buildings and 1,000-space parking lots. The economies of scale, both economically and organizationally, favor smaller groupings of people. The original and most successful model of this small-to-big idea is Yoido Full Gospel Church founded by David Yonggi Cho in Korea. Built on cell groups, Cho grew Yoido to over 700,000 members. But the church’s goal now is to start 5,000 new churches, a kind of reverse of what Cho originally did. Of course, not everyone likes Cho, but regardless of what you think of his theology, his organizational gifts are evident.
So, small is the new big as megachurches move out from their gigantic worship centers into neighborhoods, coffee shops, apartment complexes, and homes. Is this a trend, or just an isolated example of the big church to small church phenomena? Stay tuned.
According to a new survey, over 84% of mothers online — some 27-million women — can be grouped into 5 “digital mom” categories. However, these tech-savvy mothers use the internet, social media, gaming, texting, and other online content in different ways and for different purposes. Churches can benefit from the insights of this new study by the marketing company Razorfish, and the world’s largest mom-centric website, Cafe Mom.
The survey discovered these five “digital mom” types:
1. The self-expressor mom.
Typically in her early thirties with one preschooler, and possibly more on the way, this mom is as likely to be stay-at-home as employed. She balances the most limited household budget of all 5 types, and so needs to shop for value. This mom is a highly socialable networker, and has a higher than average number of friends in her online social network. She both creates and participates in online polls as one of her favorite ways to engage with others. Her social network page is often decorated with digital badges, photos, and playlists which communicate her style. Marketers can involve the self-expressor in their online brand campaigns by appealing to her artistic and individual sense. She seeks the advice of real-world friends on parenting, but then turns to her online friends for addition advice and guidance. 40% of moms fall into this category.
2. The utility mom.
The utility mom is in her mid-to-late thirties and is raising a couple of tweens. She is likely to have the most children at home, yet spends the most time online in her social networking groups. Yet, she prefers to bring her own real-world friends into her online network, rather than make new online friends. She is more likely to join online groups, particularly if they are local school groups or groups providing practical information. While she will answer other online polls, she creates little online content herself, and has the fewest online photos posted of any group. She does like online game and quiz widgets, but values information from her real friends over that of her online network. The utility mom uses her social network time for both monitoring her own children, and her own enjoyment of playing games or answering quizzes. This mom is 26% of digital moms.
3. The groupster mom.
This mom is in her early thirties with elementary school-age children. As the name implies, she is more likely to join groups or start groups than any other digital mom segment. But she is also not the most social of the digital moms, receiving more friend invitations than she sends. She is confident and sees herself as a go-to person for advice, but not necessarily shopping advice. She depends upon her online friends for parenting advice, although she says she is more influenced by brand programs on social networks when it comes to purchasing. She also ranks the highest in sending private messages online, and values 1-to-1 communication. The groupster mom is 12% of the digital mom cohort.
4. The info-seeker mom.
In her twenties with her first baby, this mom is looking for information. She is among the best educated of all the moms, and is most likely to be a stay home mom. She is interested in parenting information, which she prefers to get from real friends, but she will also turn to online parents in similar situations to hers. She values the mom-to-mom conversations online, but while she uses social networks, her primary concern is to get product or parenting guidance. The info-seeker is 12% of the total group.
5. The hyper-connector mom.
This mom is the oldest, usually in her forties, with the oldest kids, usually teenagers. Experienced as a parent, she uses social media more to chat with others, and gain information on products she might be considering. She also monitors her own teens online usage, and is likely to play video games online with others. She accesses digital news channels more than younger moms, and also blogs, leaves comments on the blogs of others, and is the highest content creator in the survey. She is highly active, inviting others to join her online community of moms. She values this online community more than expert opinions, online reviews or print advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions. This mom is 9% of the digital mom universe.
Other insights into the world of digital moms includes —
- All of these digital moms value WOM — word-of-mouth — recommendations, especially when the WOM comes from their online network.
- While all of these moms use digital media, they do so for different purposes and in different ways depending on their age and the ages of their children.
- From a marketing standpoint, online advertisers should engage these digital moms, rather than just depend on banner ads displaying on social networking sites. The same might be said for churches and women’s ministries.
You can download and save the full report here. The report is 36 pages and filled with charts and text explaining how each “digital mom” segment uses Web 2.0 media. If you’re interested in women’s ministry, the internet, demographics, or social networking, this report will give you lots to think about.
The end of the year brings out the list-maker in all of us. Not to disappoint you, here are the 10 trends that I’m going to be watching in 2010:
- Mobile everything. As the mobile phone morphs into the mobile communications device, 2010 will be a break-through year. Google will introduce the first “unchained” phone in a a few days, giving Americans a taste of what the rest of the world already has — the ability to buy a phone separate from the mobile service provider. Also, watch for “carrier billing” on phones, allowing you to purchase directly from your cell phone and have the item billed by your mobile provider. Apple should introduce its new tablet, which will revolutionize the whole mobile entertainment world. Think video, ebooks, ezines, iTunes, podcasts, email, gaming, web browsing, and more, all from a tablet device that’s always on, always connected, and multi-capable. The YouVersion Bible mobile app is a great example of how one church, LifeChurch.tv, recognizes and is capitalizing on this mobile trend.
- Economic recalibration. We are quickly learning to live on less, save more, and hedge against the next financial shockwave. Paul Krugman writes of a contraction of the economy in mid-2010, so the pain of the past 15-months will extend another 6-9 months at least. But economic recalibration is already taking place at the state and local government level — government will deliver fewer services and more of us will be on our own than ever before. This economic adjustment will be longer lasting that other pull-backs and may mark a new attitude toward money and material goods on the part of Americans across the board. Charitable giving, including church giving, will be affected by this adjustment.
- Prolonged polarization. The nation continues to be divided almost evenly into increasingly rigid camps. What passes for political and social debate will continue to be little more than playing to the entrenched positions of the base of each party, ideology, and theology. With the fading culture wars of the last century, of which The Manhattan Declaration is probably the last vestige, churches have a unique opportunity to bridge the social, racial, political, gender, class, and theological divide. It remains to be seen if we will take that challenge.
- Weariness with war. With the battlefield focus shifting to Afghanistan, and possibly Yemen, we’ll grow increasingly tired of the whole idea of War, including the costs both human and financial. Again the church may or may not grapple with the theology of war, but the issue will not go away in 2010.
- Multiple church models. Tall Skinny Kiwi has pronounced 2009 as the year the emerging church movement ended, and I think he’s probably right. But the bright spot in its fading is that the emerging church discussion opened the way for multiple models of church to find legitimate expression. The traditional, attractional, missional, postmodern, house, monastic, marketplace, mega, multi-site, multi-ethnic, and other models now exist and flourish in communities all across America. For the first time in my lifetime, no one church model is THE model that everyone must follow. The good news in all of this is that small churches are viable in many of these expressions, and small churches are receiving recognition as a healthy, legitimate church model.
- Denominational disinterest. Okay, this one is pretty obvious already, but it will only continue into the next decade which begins in a few days. Rather than use the word “decline,” I am using “disinterest” because that is the attitude I see toward the centralized denominational headquarters model. There is not a big push to dismantle denominations either, unless you’re a Baptist or Episcopalian, both of which are self-destructing without outside interference. Mostly, the question of denominations is a big yawn for the next ten years.
- Spiritual longing. The opposite pole of denominational disinterest is spiritual longing, the desire for a meaningful spiritual connection to something bigger and better that can help us live life with more satisfaction. Americans are taking a “do-it-yourself” approach to creating their own spirituality. Churches can address this desire, or miss this moment. As Andrew Jones says, we aren’t going to meet this kind of longing with a church like grandpa’s.
- Limited access. Fewer students will be able to afford the college of their choice, or any college. Fewer families will rise out of poverty into the middle class. Fewer opportunities for advancement will accompany the flat job market. In short, access to many of the possibilities we took for granted in the decade just passing will be limited in the decade just arriving. The question for churches is, “How does hope flourish in a world of diminishing opportunity?”
- The problems of pluralism. We are just learning to recognize other faith traditions, and in 2010 the problems of religious (and non-religious) pluralism will continue to present themselves. The traditional American response of “this is a Christian nation” will prove to be an inadequate response to other faiths and traditions claiming their place on the religious, or non-religious, smorgasbord. Churches will adopt either an attitude of defensiveness, or of dialogue with non-Christian groups.
- Age, gender, and sex. These issues will continue into the coming decade as the baby boomers reach their 70’s, gay marriage becomes both accepted and rejected in various jurisdictions, and churches are increasingly challenged on the issues of gender in leadership of both ordained and laypersons. The Anglicans have center stage in this drama right now, but no religious group will escape this discussion in the years ahead.
Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, and most of these things are already self-evident, but I believe we will continue to see these issues impact what and how we do church in the next year, and in the next ten years. What would you add to this list? Or what do you take issue with? What are your 10 trends for the 2010?
Anne Rice, the author who made vampires trendy in her Vampire Chronicles series, came back to the Christian faith in 1998. Upon returning to the Roman Catholic Church, Rice published two books about the life of Christ. She has now turned her attention to the subject of angels. Her new book, Angel Time, is the first in her Songs of the Seraphim series.
The question is — will Anne Rice do for angels what she did for vampires? Rice was the author who spawned a virtual vampire industry. Stephenie Meyer’s The Twilight Series is being made into movies, and one blogger came up with the 10 most popular vampire book series. Lots of vampires and lots of readers who love vampire stories apparently.
Time will tell if Rice is able to turn angels into the next cultural trend, which would be interesting if it happened. Rather than the Goth look some kids love, we might get the Archangel look which parents would love. Halos would become popular, and wings would make a big comeback. But, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
But let’s say angels do become the new vampires, trend-wise that is. What do you know about angels? Rice sets her novel in a time-shifting milieu that finds a 21st century assassin transported back to the middle ages to defend Jews who are being persecuted. She believes angels move, not in linear time, but in another kind of time reserved only for — you guessed it — angels. Hence the title of the book, Angel Time.
But, back to my question — What do you know about angels? Did you know that the evangelical take on angels is pretty thin compared to the Roman Catholic Church? Did you know that a guy named Pseudo-Dionysius (called that because he wasn’t the real Dionysius apparently) said there were 9 ranks of angelic beings including Powers, Principalities, Thrones, Dominions, Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Virtues, and Seraphim? And, finally, did you know that angels are charged with care of creation as well as people?
In my own internet search for theological books on angels, I ran across very few. Most angel books tell accounts of how angels appeared to various people, but few give serious theological consideration to the subject of angels. In light of this dearth of material on angels, should we just dismiss the whole angelic order as though we’ve out-grown the childish notion that there are guardian angels? Or should we get to know more about angels because we might have to respond to questions about Rice’s books?
What do you think? Are angels the new vampires?
Here’s Anne Rice’s statement to her fans about her Christian faith and the Vampire Chronicles.
A new study reveals a specific link between luxury goods and selfishness. Two experiments showed that “exposure to luxury led people to think more about themselves than others,” according to a Harvard Business School paper.
Professor Roy Y. J. Chua and Xi Zou conducted two experiments in which one group of participants was exposed to pictures of luxury goods such as watches and shoes, and the other group was shown pictures of watches and shoes that were not luxury brands. After participants identified characteristics of the goods, they were then asked to take an unrelated survey about decision-making. Those exposed to luxury goods were significantly more likely to act in their own self-interest, even at the expense or harm of others.
In a second experiment, those exposed to luxury goods were less able to identify words that expressed positive social actions, than those who were only exposed to non-luxury goods. In other words, the cognition, or thought process, of those exposed to luxury goods tended to be self-centered, and self-interested with less regard for others.
All of this might explain why people like Tiger Woods make such absurdly self-centered choices. Tiger owns both a luxury yacht and private jet, not to mention the Cadillac Escalade he just wrecked, or the mansions he owns, and so on. This might also explain why the head of Goldman Sachs described banks, including his, as “doing God’s work.” Luxury tends to blind us to the needs of others, and bias us toward our own self-interest.
The Harvard Business article is playfully titled, “The Devil Wears Prada?” — an apparent play on the book and movie by the same name, only without the question mark.
So, when Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” he was telling us how to order our lives so that we have the basic necessities of life, but also are concerned that others have them too. It also puts the “prosperity gospel” (I hate to write those words together) in a new light. Preachers who drive around in luxury cars, fly in private jets, and tell their flocks how they can get ahead, may be creating the next generation of self-centered church members. Not that we haven’t seen that before, but this time we have proof that the more you have, the less concern you have for others. Something to think about during the Christmas season.
Churches can care for their communities by providing resources to encourage and strengthen marriage.
The Brookings Institute’s Ron Haskins writes — “Higher marriage rates among the poor would benefit poor adults themselves, their children, and the nation.” Haskins believes that churches and other non-profits should encourage marriage by offering courses on marriage, parenting, money management, anger management, and other family-related issues.
Out-of-wedlock births continue to increase in this country, as marriage rates continue the decline begun in 1972. Haskins contends that —
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, children living in single-parent families are about five times as likely to live in poverty. There’s also a high probability they’ll drop out of school, get arrested, be involved in teen pregnancy themselves, have more mental health problems, and be less likely to be employed or in school as young adults. Indeed, parents themselves are physically and psychologically better off when married than single.”
But churches will also have to address the reasons that some choose not to marry. According to Amanda Drew’s article, Declining Marriage Rates, young adults are choosing not to marry for a variety of reasons:
- Couples choose to live together before marrying;
- College graduates are taking a year off after graduation to travel before settling down;
- The expense of a full-blown wedding is not appealing to some;
- The decline in church attendance and the moral values that come from practicing one’s faith;
- Fear of divorce.
I am convinced that the task of the church for the decade of the 2010’s is going to be a reimagined “care of souls.” Churches can have a positive impact on their own communities by providing nurture and care for marriage and its attendant benefits. Because the poor have a disproportionately lower rate of marriage, churches could find themselves caring for the “least of these” within their own communities in this vital area. What is your church doing to encourage marriage and the advantages marriage brings in your community?