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Blessing Blurb, Fruit II, Worship Time Change, Graduation Time, Outdoor Worship, Birthdays, Baptisms and Marriages Form, The Parish Paper.

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Blessing Blurb

 

You might recall that the Stewardship Committee has been encouraging people to speak approximately once a month about their experiences of stewardship, discipleship, and in general, acts of generosity.

         Well, this month it’s my turn.

 

YAGM

I would like to talk to you for a few minutes about my experience with YAGM—Young Adults in Global Mission—a unit of the ELCA’s Division for Global Mission.

 

         When I graduated college I knew I was too young to start seminary, and I still had a lot of questions about the church if it was the kind of organization I should devote the rest of my life to

—so I signed up to be a missionary through the ELCA.

         I was sponsored by Central Lutheran in Eugene Oregon.

·      They allowed me to use their bank account to hold the money I raised.

·      They also helped me raise the money.

 

I had to raise $3,500 dollars of the $7,500 it cost to send me on my way

·      the remaining $4,000 was paid for by the Division of Global Mission—which is paid by our mission support to the Synod.

 

         Those were the days when the internet was still kind of novel—Governor Howard Dean was running his presidential campaign via the internet and asking for small donations

 from a lot of people and the political pundits were saying that’s no way to raise money.

 

Well—I followed that kind of example and I asked 140 people to give 25 dollars a piece to send me to serve as a missionary at Audley End in the UK.

         And the wild thing was, I got it.

 

People were generous—and sometimes people I wouldn’t have expected—Barry Goldwater’s Jewish nephew, a couple Muslim friends—and dozens of dozens of Lutherans from all over the country, some I didn’t even know.

I was overawed by their investment in me—in who I would, and will, become.

 

Return on Investment

         And I want to talk just a moment about return on investment.

I bring this up because we sometimes get it in our head that the church is just like the US government

·      City/State/Washington DC

·      Congregation/Synod/Chicago

I want to tell you, I don’t know about those people in DC, but those people in Chicago are pretty darn efficient and effective.

 

         Firstly, with $7,500 YAGM was able to fly me to a foreign country and pay for me to live there for a year. A country in which the dollar was worth half as much as it’s worth here.

 

         Secondly, there is a much greater way of looking at our investment in YAGM—how it transformed the lives of those it sent out.

·      Of the 12 pastors who graduated with me from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia 5 of them were YAGM alumni

·      An even greater number to think of is this—over half of those of us who were under 30 when we became pastors my year were YAGM alumni.

·      For that matter I don’t know of a single YAGM who isn’t highly active in their church to this day.

 

–we talk about the graying of the church—that we are losing young people left right and center—that doesn’t need to be the case.

 

Why did some many of us YAGM missionaries become church leaders?

         Because YAGM allowed us to see the church at it’s best during a time in our lives when we were trying to figure out what it’s all about.

         We found the Joy of meaningful work for the gospel—whether it was digging wells in Egypt, running alcohol rehabilitation centers in Scotland, or teaching archery, trampoline, and the Good news about Jesus in East Anglia.

         We were loved and nourished by the body of Christ throughout the world, during a time of transition.

         We experienced the church in its oneness—the unity we find in Christ—that same unity Christ prayed to God about in today’s gospel lesson.

Two quick examples of that unity.

 

1.   The ELCA lent my group of Lutherans and Presbyterians from the United States to a Baptist group over in England, Time for God—they in turn lent us to the Church of England. –I count four church bodies working together in the name of Jesus Christ.

2.   I remember the two worship retreats in London, where all the Time for God volunteers got together—Koreans, Hungarians, North Americans, Germans, West Africans, Bolivians, and Englishmen all there praying together—praising God for the Joy we experience together through Jesus Christ.

And that’s my story of experiencing the Stewardship of the church.

·      People are generous.

·      The church is efficient and effective both financially as well as in the faith lives of young people.

·      Those acts of Stewardship brought us closer to Christ’s prayer “That all may be one.”

 

 

 

Pastor  Chris

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Fruit (Part II)

Last month we talked about “Fruits of the Spirit” as qualities the Spirit grows in us:  love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  These are the Spirit’s gifts to us.  This month we will talk about another way “fruits” is used in Scripture.  When we speak of “bearing fruit for the Lord,” we are generally referring to what can be accomplished through us because of the gifts of the Spirit in us.  These are our gifts to God.

For example, as the Spirit works love and kindness in us, doing things for others becomes not a duty but a joy.  Or, as the Spirit cultivates generosity in us, tithing or increasing our level of giving to the Church and/or feeding the hungry, becomes less of a chore that we feel we should do, but rather more of a gift to God that we want to do.  As the Spirit works gentleness and patience in us, we find that we can deal with “difficult” people, not through gritted teeth, but in genuine concern and compassion.

We may be at a place in our life where it is obvious to us for some reason just which of the Spirit’s fruit we are most in need of now.  A situation we are in may call for particular patience or self-control, or a need may arise that calls for generosity on our part.  If there is no need that is obvious to you at present, remember that there is One who knows us better than we know ourselves.  Ask Him to reveal to you how He wants to help you to grow into the new person He intends you to be.  Ask Him for the gifts He wants to give you.  He would like nothing better than to give them to you!!

If you are not sure how to go about this, here are a few suggestions:

1.                         Sit quietly and clear your mind.  Focusing on your breath for a short period may help with this.

2.                        When you are ready, say something like, “Lord, I want to manifest your Spirit in my life, but I’m not sure how.  I don’t even know just what to ask for.  You promised that in situations like this your “very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom.8:26,27)

3.                        Sit quietly and listen for God’s answer.  God may speak to you when you are deep in prayer but also during the course of your everyday life, the answer may suddenly become clear as God speaks to you through someone close to you or even through a stranger. God may speak directly to you in church during the readings, the sermon, Communion, or during conversation with a brother or sister in Christ.  Since Jesus is the fulfillment, the perfect manifestation of the Spirit of God in human form, getting to know Him better through prayerful reading of the Gospels may be the way God will suggest to you which characteristic of Jesus (which fruit of the Spirit) He wants to help you cultivate.

4.                        Once you have identified your spiritual fruit, the way God means for you to use it to bear active fruit for/in Him may now be obvious, or it may come in any of the ways described above. 

5.                        This process will be our summer project just as the “instead of” activity was our Lenten project.  In the Fall we will have “fruit” for all to hang on the tree in place of the Easter blossoms.

6.                        Finally, to use an analogy from the summer sport of baseball: when an athlete finds that he has a particular talent or gift for batting, the only way he develops that gift is by practice.  The same holds true for our spiritual gifts.  While they are, indeed gifts, they require practice on our part in order to make the most of them.  Like natural fruit on, say, an apple tree, the fruit does not pop out all at once, but it grows gradually.  Now to combine the analogies:  If you have asked for the gift of patience, chances are that God will not “zap” it into you all at once, but help you develop patience through the intentional practice of patience.  Intentionally put yourself into situations that you know will require patience and enter into them with Jesus by your side and in your heart. Likewise with generosity.  Intentionally practice it, and if at first it requires much effort, it will gradually become so much a part of you that it will be one of your greatest occasions of joy.

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Worship time change – Sunday, June 2, 2013 thru Sunday, September 1, 2013 worship will be at 9:30 a.m.

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It’s Graduation Time Again!  We would like to acknowledge our graduates in the bulletin. 

If you are graduating from middle school, high school, college, technical school, etc., please give your name, school graduating from and date,

honors and awards, and future plans, to Kathy Cortese or email the information to the church by June 2nd.

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Outdoor Worship – Sunday, June 30, 2013

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St. Stephens Annual Family Picnic

Sunday, June 9

 Begins after the service

(come to church in picnic clothes)

Burgers / Dogs / Sausage & Peppers

  Drinks / Fun & Games

$2.00/person (no more than $10/family)

Bring your favorite salad or dessert to share

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Birthdays, Baptisms and Marriages

Did we miss your special day?  Please fill out the form below so that we

can update our records and include your name in the future.  Thank you!

Name__________________________________       Date of Birth:________ Baptism:________

                                                                                           Marriage:________

Name__________________________________       Date of Birth:________ Baptism:________

                                                                                           Marriage:________

Name__________________________________       Date of Birth:________ Baptism:________

                                                                                           Marriage:________

Name__________________________________       Date of Birth:________ Baptism:________

                                                                                           Marriage:________

Name__________________________________       Date of Birth:________ Baptism:________

                                                                                           Marriage:________

Name__________________________________       Date of Birth:________ Baptism:________

                                                                                           Marriage:________

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THE
PARISH
PAPER
IDEAS AND INSIGHTS FOR ACTIVE CONGREGATIONS

Coeditors: Herb Miller and Cynthia Woolever – http://www.TheParishPaper.com
June 2013 – Volume 21, Number 6
Copyright © 2013 by Cynthia Woolever

Making Informed Decisions during Times of Change

Ann asked what seemed like a simple question: “We need more input and information before our committee can make a recommendation. How can we make sure that our decisions are wise and all voices are heard?” Congregations and regional bodies face this challenge when change or diminishing resources call for innovative approaches—such as new staffing configurations or shifting mission priorities. With many people involved—some with strong views and others with little interest or knowledge—how can leaders accurately portray the priorities of all those affected? One-on-one conversations about new policies are impractical in congregations. And when a regional governing body charges a task group with making proposals, the number of potential stakeholders grows even larger. In general, the larger the geography and the greater the number of stakeholders, the more complex the work becomes.

Where Do We Begin?
Obtaining accurate information means evaluating trends and reviewing resources (like budgets and revenues). Beyond that, the task group needs to hear a range of opinions and perspectives. However, some guiding principles for getting to the best-informed recommendation require the task group to answer some basic questions first.
What is our task? Without knowing the question, which serves as a kind of GPS system, the group is likely to find it impossible to arrive at their final destination. What is the need, problem, issue, question, challenge, or opportunity that prompted the formation of the task group in the first place? What purposes would be served by any recommendation the group might make? What do we hope to accomplish? What are our greatest hopes if the church or regional body acts on our recommendations?
What do we need to know (that we don’t already know)? The group already knows more than they think they do. Begin by making a list of what the task group or committee already knows. Next, list what additional information would be ideal to know before making a grounded and well-informed proposal.
Who are the stakeholders? What individuals, groups, or organizations will be affected by our recommendations? If possible, list these in order, starting with those most affected and ending with those least likely to be affected (those parties least likely to notice or care). Stakeholders vary in their experiences with the congregation or regional body and in their level of knowledge and commitment. Thus, summing up all perspectives requires different kinds of data gathering strategies.
How do we discover our core values? Organizations—whether governing bodies or congregations—always act on their core values, not on their mission statements. Core values are those beliefs and convictions that determine the actions of the majority of leaders and members. A review of the recent past reveals the way core values operate in a regional body or congregation:
· What ministries are funded and where do members give time and energy?
· What programs and activities receive the most support?
· What assumptions or goals direct policies and planning decisions?
Although core values are partially invisible to members and leaders, they powerfully frame perceptions. Stemming from theology, past experiences, and current context, core values determine what we do and how we do it. Effective data gathering tools uncover actual core values and prevent preferred core values—what people think ought to be or should be—from creating circular arguments and meaningless proposals.

What Way(s) Should We Gather Information?

Once the basic questions above have been answered, the group needs to determine which information gathering process(es) will build the most support for any final recommendation or action. At the end of the process, all stakeholders should perceive that they had the chance to contribute their views. It is fine if some constituents lack the interest to participate in any process as long as they make the decision not to participate rather than concluding that they never had the opportunity.
Most groups decide that they need more than one approach. Just as any building or renovation project calls for multiple tools—saws, hammers, nails, power or hand-held tools—groups need the same multiple-device tactic to investigate the best plan for organizational renovation or change.
Statistics and Trends. One category of information gathering uses numbers, charts, and figures to describe people, budgets, programs, or congregations. These methods are especially effective for illustrating the current state of things and to quantify change. Congre-gations or regional bodies should track some telling ten-year trends. For example: the number of congregations and total membership; average number of members per congregation; the total and per church number of baptisms and new members; average tenure of pastors; number of churches served by a full-time pastor; overall budget for the regional body; average contribution per worshiper; percentage of budget for staff, programs, or other expenses; programs and aver-age number of participants; and number and kinds of people active in leadership roles.
Surveys. Questionnaires can be mailed, distributed during worship services, given out at meetings (such as church boards, regional meetings, or events), or set up online. (Beware: Although online surveys are inexpensive, they tend to yield very low response rates.) Survey questions can either be close- ended, where all the responses are provided (for example, a statement followed by “Do you strongly
agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree?”) or open-ended, where the person answering the survey gives a written response. For example, “What are some of the best things you see happening in your congregation right now?”
One example of an in-worship survey designed to help congregations discover their core values is on this website: http://www.TheParishPaper.com/free-resources. Another easy-to-use worship survey reveals a church’s current strengths and ways to build on those strengths (at http://www.USCongregations.org/survey).
Interviews. Other methods bring balance to the picture painted by numbers and figures. Capturing stories or recounting experiences make up the essence of this avenue. For example, regional bodies can conduct short phone interviews with all (or a sample of) pastors, committee chairs, leaders in similar regions, or national denominational staff. In a congregational setting, consider doing ten-minute phone interviews with Sunday school teachers, committee members, or other sets of members.
Focus groups. Structured group interviews give additional rich insights if the task group identifies small affinity groups (such as pastors who serve in small churches, pastors new to the region, or recently ordained pastors). Carefully designed questions, prepared in advance, generate good insights. For example: “Tell us about an occasion in the past year when you had contact with a regional staff member. What brought you together and what was an outcome of that contact? What’s an important challenge that your congregation faces? How has the regional staff helped you tackle that challenge?”
In a congregational setting, focus groups prove effective with similar individuals such as new members, young mothers, or retired members.

Final Destination:
A Successful Recommendation

After compiling what they’ve learned, the task group draws on this knowledge to make an informed proposal. Good decision-making procedures include obtaining input from all stakeholders, permitting all opinions to be discussed in a respectful and open way, allowing the appropriate commit-tees and ministries to reflect on proposals and offer feedback, and constructing a plan to evaluate the recommendation’s effectiveness in the future.

Copyright © 2013 by Cynthia Woolever
http://www.TheParishPaper.com

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