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Jeff Anderson writes:  For over a decade I have been talking with folks about their personal financial giving. Among the most common questions I hear is, “What do I do when my spouse and I are not on the same page about our giving?” Great question. Often tension in the area of giving can frustrate a marriage. And it’s not always as simple as one spouse is generous and the other is not. As with other issues in marriage, the root cause of this situation can be complex. Here are five ways couples can untangle their giving wires and grow together in generosity. #1 – Connect as a Couple Often the problem has less to do with giving… or even money. It has to do with the marriage. From my own experience, a marriage can build layers of unresolved issues – poor communication, busy schedules, parenting challenges, unmet needs, financial stress, work stress, etc. (Shall I go on? Sure is getting quiet!) Anyway, each layer collects dust. When the issue of giving comes along, it often gets placed on a pile of unresolved issues. If one spouse tries to press into the matter of generosity, the dust starts to fly! One spouse is inspired by a new church project and desires to give a faith-stretching gift. The other spouse, feeling attention-deprived, resents the fact their spouse is feeling so charitable when their personal tank feels so empty. I remember an out-of-town conference where I had been touched by a radical giving testimony, while feasting on hotel steak. Then while enjoying a peaceful flight home with my spiritual head in the clouds, I dreamed up some noble giving plans for my family. Meanwhile my wife, Stephanie, was recovering from a rough week at home, juggling sick kids, constant carpools, and the fallout from a failed freezer. Let’s just say I learned these times are not best for giving conversations. Often what the giving conversation needs most is a relational tune-up. Whether it be a weekend retreat, marriage conference, or a simple date night, take some time to connect as a couple and to connect with each other’s core needs. As for the giving conversation, set these aside for times when relational connection is high and the distractions are low. For Stephanie and me, we address our giving with a year-end “business” meeting right after the holidays. This usually involves a date night away from the kids – a time to celebrate the passing year and look ahead to the next. In addition to enjoying a good meal and quiet conversation, we discuss a short list of items such as family vacation plans, the kid’s sports calendar, our dreams and goals as a family, etc. Included in this agenda is our financial giving plan. Enjoying a nice evening with my wife, reflecting on the God’s goodness, celebrating the previous year’s highs and setting sights on the year ahead – that’s when the giving conversation seems to flow best for us. Also, by taking time to plan our giving in advance, we have a giving plan in motion for the new year and a framework in place for reacting to giving “prompts” along the way. Take steps to connect as a couple; and address your giving when the connection is high. Your giving will flourish. #2 – Connect in Worship Often spouses bring different worship preferences to the marriage. When it comes to Christian living, we all agree the matter of generosity is more important than the matter of church size, style or song selection. Whether your church sings hymns or pop-praise, whether your pastor sports a tie or a tattoo – these considerations are not significant to the core elements of financial giving. Still, when couples struggle to find agreement with worship preferences, they struggle to find agreement with the weightier matters. Attending a church does not define a Christian. However, we are biblically instructed to be connected to a body of believers for spiritual growth, connection and protection – whether it be the downtown church or the house church. And when couples connect on the little things like church worship preferences – they’ll be better able to connect in the areas that really matter. #3 – Connect Spiritually Spouses are not always at the same level spiritually. When this is the case, there can often be a rub in the area of generosity. One spouse may be seeking to grow spiritually and connect deeper with God through new levels of giving. The other spouse can feel alienated and detached from this process because of where they are (or are not) spiritually. The more mature partner may be able to pull them along the journey for a while, but likely not forever. For the more spiritually mature spouse, think about what it would look like to be generous to your spouse. How can you invest in their spiritual development? Perhaps instead of a gift for missions, you invest in attending a Christian couples conference together to connect spiritually. Maybe instead of a special gift to the church capital campaign, you invest in an overseas trip together with the church missions group. I am not providing excuses to give less, and I know you are not looking for them either. But there’s much grace in the giving journey – especially for couples where spouses are disconnected spiritually. God knows your heart on this matter and your desire to grow together in the giving journey. Step back and consider creative ways to invest financially in connecting spiritually with your spouse so that you can advance in the giving journey together. #4 – Connect Financially Just as spouses bring different spiritual alignments to a marriage, they bring varying financial styles and experiences as well. A free-spirited, free-spending spouse will clash at times with a tightly-wound, bookkeeping spouse. Often the spouse who appears inclined to be more generous is also the one thinking about a new swimming pool or the next vacation destination. Meanwhile, the one who reacts more cautiously about giving ideas is thinking about this year’s IRA contribution or an extra month’s savings for that unforeseeable economic crisis. When the giving conversation surfaces, resentment concerning how the other spouse views money gets in the way. Couples need to find their common ground. Neither spouse is fully right or wrong in their position. Both need to be affirmed… and both need to be challenged. The bookkeeper needs to be affirmed for their helpful management skills; but they may also need to be challenged to take steps of faith and give past their comfort zone. And the free-spirited spouse needs to know their desire to give freely is admirable; but they may also need restraints on their personal spending to “earn the freedoms” to be generous that come from practicing sound stewardship. Even couples with similar money styles become disconnected. My wife and I graduated with accounting degrees and view money similarly. In the past when I gave my wife the “time to cut back” speech, that was my signal to tighten our spending. Then weeks or days later I might come home with a grand giving idea. She’d call “foul” on my mixed signals (rightfully so) and I’d have explain my cryptic thinking. Since then I’ve worked harder to keep her in the loop with the financial picture and how possible giving sacrifices might affect our overall situation. To connect financially, consider taking a financial stewardship course together. If scheduling seems problematic for you, consider going through a self-study as a couple. Early in our marriage, my wife and I went through a financial bible study together as a couple. For stewardship resources, check out Crown Financial Ministries or Compass – Finances God’s Way or Financial Peace. For generosity-specific resources, consider our Plastic Donuts materials at www.AcceptableGift.org For many couples, a budget coach or counselor may be helpful to press into some of the more difficult areas. Often financial stress and difficult circumstances stand in the way and require a third party help to resolve. For a couple to advance together in the giving journey there must be togetherness in the financial journey. #5 – Connect on God’s Blessings A Christian couple should regularly count their blessings. This stirs up a heart of gratitude together. And gratitude (not guilt) is the wellspring for generosity. Often we don’t take time to count our blessings. Instead we focus on our problems. But there will always be challenges in our lives…and in the world. Remind each other of what God has done for you – not what has happened to you. Remind each other of what you have been given – not what you are lacking. My wife and I see-saw together on this. When I am gloomy, she counts our blessings for me and helps me perk up. When she’s in the dumps, I talk about the big picture and pull her up. That’s the power of a couple working together. When news reports blare the world’s problems, we take the time to reflect on our blessings – after all, we have food, water, shelter, and the means for me to type this article on a laptop. A spirit of gratitude can be learned. Encourage each other in these areas. Also, be sure to celebrate the milestones in your marriage and your shared spiritual journey. How did God bring you together? Reflect on that story. How has God enriched your marriage? Circle back to those events. Connect on God’s blessings regularly and generosity will grow in your soul… and into your conversations together. Healthy Connecting Leads to Acceptable Giving – and Living Connect as a couple. Connect in worship. Connect spiritually. Connect financially. And connect with God’s blessings in your life. When you connect as a couple in these areas, your marriage will be fruitful. And generosity will flow out from your marriage partnership. God will notice. And God will be pleased. He will find your gifts acceptable… and your marriage acceptable, too. Jeff Anderson has worked with churches and non-profits for nearly two decades – as elder in his own church, and as Vice President of Generosity Initiatives with Crown Financial Ministries. He now leads AcceptableGift.org, helping people see living and giving from God’s perspective. Jeff continues to consult and speak, and is the author of Plastic Donuts, A Fresh Perspective on Gifts. Contact: info@acceptablegift.org
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How can your church help other churches be more effective in reaching people? Here’s a testimony from PastorMentor.com that may help you get started in the new year: New Song started helping other churches almost by accident. Three years after we launched the church, I had to lay off our entire staff. We were transitioning from the “portable church” stage into a 24/7 lease situation, and it was obvious that we weren’t going to have enough to pay our staff and our lease. So we wrote pink slips which said, “We may not be able to pay your full salary for the next few months, but we’ve always lived by faith and we hope you’ll stay on. We believe God will provide for you until we grow into our increased budget.” Each of our guys agreed to pray and see what would happen. The next day, my Associate Pastor, Scott Evans, got a call from a church, asking if they could pay him to produce a mailer similar to the ones we had been sending to our neighbors. Another church called the following week. Scott began offering his services to more churches, and eventually Outreach, Inc. was born. Seventeen years later, Outreach has served over 90,000 churches with mailers and other marketing tools because of a pink slip and a nudge from the Lord. How to Get Started

1. Find out what God is up to…

The week before churches began to call, Scott and I had read Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. Henry’s chief tenant is Find out what God is up to and join him in his work. God is always at work around you. What is he doing in you or through you or around you that might benefit other churches?

2. Figure out what you do well.

One clue to how you might help is by figuring out what you do better than other churches. We’re all good at something. What’s your strength?

3. When you solve a problem, share the solution.

If your church has a problem, chances are that others have that same problem. When you develop a solution, share it!

4. Don’t be afraid to share.

Church leaders are sometimes tempted to think they’re in competition with other churches. Not so. Other churches are our teammates. They want to win others to Christ as fervently as we do. via How to Help Other Churches Reach People for Christ – PastorMentor.com. How has your church been a blessing and help to other local churches?
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Need a boost to get you going today?  Fast Company has compiled a list of great articles that will give you some practical advice on being productive this year.  A new year brings a ton of new opportunity… but if you’re like me, the excitement of the new year can wear off quickly (probably by noon) when you get back into the swing of all that needs to be done. Take a look and see which of these resources might help you today: 11 Productivity Hacks From Super-Productive People Need something to light a fire under you in the New Year? Here’s your match. How To Outsource Your Most Dreaded Tasks If a task has you wringing your hands, there is a solution–don’t do it. Here’s how to move the things you hate off your plate in the name of productivity. How To Set Goals That Will Keep You Fulfilled And Focused Goals aren’t just a to-do list. When you set them properly, goals can motivate you to be more productive and give you a greater sense of purpose. For Successful People, Planning The Weekend Is Just As Important As Planning The Week You deserve a great weekend. Here’s how to plan ahead so you can relax and revitalize yourself for Monday. Your Weekend Has 60 Hours–Here’s How To Wring The Most Out Of Them Do your weekends fly by too fast? Craft weekends that are memorable, relaxing, and productive with these 10 tips from productivity expert Laura Vanderkam. The Most Productive Way To Meet Your Company’s Goals This Year: Choose Just One Word There’s a better way than numbers and goals to refocus your company and motivate your employees. All it takes is one word. Increase Your Productivity With 2 Questions Half the battle is knowing what to do and what not to do. Lisa Bodell, CEO of FutureThink, shares the two questions she asks herself to distinguish a good idea from a bad one. GTD! Q&A With “Getting Things Done” Author David Allen Personal productivity guru and popular author David Allen, the guy behind Getting Things Done, talks with Fast Company readers about how to get more done with less stress.
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Eric Geiger has some great tips on interviewing for your next church staff member position.  Eric writes: If you are a leader, you know that having the right players on the team is absolutely essential in fulfilling the mission the Lord has given your ministry. Thus, the recruiting and interviewing process is very important. In looking back at all the interviews I have been a part of, here are five red flags that give me great caution in taking a next step with a potential team member. 1 – No questions If someone asks no questions, it gives me the impression that they are passive, that they are not the type to take initiative, and that they don’t possess a holy curiosity that is going to nudge them to learn, explore, and look for more effective ways to serve. It also gives the impression that they are a bit cold, unable to have a conversation, to engage, to lead people somewhere. 2 – Bad questions I like questions because I learn more about a candidate by the questions they ask. And bad questions are very revealing about a person’s work ethic, passions, goals, and priorities. For example: The question: How many hours do I need to work? What I think: This may be someone who wants to punch a clock. I want people driven by a calling, not by a clock. 3 – Excuses Excuses are a major red flag because it shows the person is unable to own his/her responsibilities fully. I would much rather a person say, “Here is where I blew it and the lessons I learned.” 4 – Negative comments about current leaders The person who bashes his/her current leaders or team members will be the same person who brings that toxic attitude into our culture. No thank you. 5 – Over-negotiation When someone over-negotiates salary, benefits, or some other aspect of the role, I quickly get turned off. I think either (a) the person is not overly excited about the role as it is presented or (b) the person has an inflated view of her/himself and this will never end. I may be oversensitive to over-negotiation, but I tend to be the one who walks away. Eric has some other great thoughts on interviewing and red flags.  Read them here via Five Red Flags When Interviewing. What was the WORST interview you’ve ever conducted for a church position? How did it go bad? Todd
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Geoff Surratt writes: The idea of numerical growth being the major measure of success is deeply baked into  our culture. Outreach Magazine’s list of the 100 largest and fastest growing churches is  by far its biggest selling issue. Twitter lights up every Easter and Christmas as the sem-ilost return to the fold, and we report our new record attendance. We add measurement on  measurement to create the perfect metric. Its nickels and noses, its small group  attendance, its number of volunteers, it number of missional communities. We are  looking for the Nirvana of Numbers that will finally tell us that we are doing a good job,  or at least that we’re doing a better job than the guy down the street. The sad thing is that  there is no end to the race. A pastor of a church of 20,000 told me that the real goal was  30,000. Once they arrived on that mountaintop they could then turn their attention to  other things. Pastors, however, are not just in it for the numbers. The bottom-line for almost every  pastor I know is Kingdom impact. He isn’t as concerned about making a list (as nice as  that might be) as he is in knowing that he had made a difference. All of the numbers are  just a way to figure out if the blood, sweat and tears that he has sacrificed in ministry  have been worth it. The sad truth is that for many pastors who are entering their sixties they don’t know that it has. Their churches have stopped growing and may even be  beginning to decline. The thrill of the next goal, the next barrier is past and they are  asking, “Is this all there is? I’ve played the numbers game, now what?” I believe we need a major paradigm shift. If we continue to measure the same things, to build our churches with the same goals, we’re going to continue to get the same  disappointing results. We need to acknowledge that every church has a lifecycle of increase and decline. There are seasons of growth, seasons of maturing, seasons of reproduction and seasons of decline. We need to stop emphasizing the tree and begin looking at the orchard. To borrow a phrase from Steven Covey we need to begin with the end in mind. Read more here…
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Technology
Lauren Hunter has shared a list of 12 church technology goals for your church for the year.  I think these are an excellent start for ANY church.  You don’t have to be a huge church to do these things… in fact, most are free or very low cost! And the thing I like about them is that they are measurable… and we all know that the things that are measured are the things that get done.  Here are the first six… then you can head over to Lauren’s blog for the other six. 12 Possible Church Technology Goals for 2012:
  1. Blog at least once a week.
  2. Update the church Facebook and Twitter accounts on a daily basis.
  3. Update the church website daily or weekly.
  4. Send regular email newsletters to congregation (include video if you can).
  5. Make better use of church management software to track involvement.
  6. Make sure to follow up with visitors as quickly as possible through email, snail mail, a phone call, or a visit.
Visit here to see the other six goals. What are YOUR church’s tech goals this year?  Do you have any?  Will you adopt any of these?
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Leadership
You guys remember Elmer Towns?  Elmer is still going strong down in Lynchburg from what I hear. Read this little paragraph from Dr. Towns: In 1971, I was Sunday School Superintendent at Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Virginia when Sunday School attendance averaged approximately 4,000 a week. Pastor Jerry Falwell set an attendance goal of 10,000, an unheard of record attendance. The goal was to saturate the city and surrounding counties. First, all 103 pages of the telephone book were distributed to 103 volunteers with the instruction to phone everyone and invite them to Sunday School. Twelve billboards surrounding the city invited visitors to the service. Sixty radio announcements were played on every station and 10 announcements on the I television station invited people to Sunday School. A flyer was placed under the windshield wiper of every automobile in town and 5,000 posters were tacked on trees, light poles, etc. Three mailings (a letter, flyer, and post card) were sent to every home in a 5 county area. Finally, 200 workers went door to door on the Saturday before the big day to invite visitors to Sunday School. As a result of saturating our “Jerusalem,” 10,154 attended Harvest Day, 1972.  But by 1987, Dr. Falwell was qualifying his opinion on every phase of Saturation Evangelism. He said it didn’t work as it used to work because of the high price of media. Falwell was exhorting “Back to Basics,” which included visiting, contacting friends, working through Sunday School teachers, etc. via Dr. Elmer Towns: Goals and how to reach them // I grew up in the hey day of Sunday Schools.  We did all the contests to get people to come.  We swallowed gold-fish; we gave away airplane rides.  I remember one Sunday we spread honey all over the pastor and threw feathers at him… all in the good name of getting more people to Sunday School. And you know what… it worked.  Not sure the motivation was right… but we got enough people there to honey and feather the guy. When I read what Dr. Towns states above, I think of a couple things: 1.  I’m not sure that this would work today.  I’m definitely sure that Sunday School is not the entry point. 2.  I’m struck by the amount of effort that they did in 1971 to get people to come to church.   Frankly, I’m not sure that anybody goes that those type of extreme measures these days.  Now we’ll pop a direct mail piece off to a mail-order house and make sure our music is really good.  Then we’ll sit back and wait for people to show up. 3.  I’m not convinced door to door is the way to go… but what if your church sent out 200 workers and simply invited people to church.  I bet the return would be better than two 10,000 people mailings. I’m just wondering… have we lost our zeal? In most churches, we wrestle just to figure out what the first step is for outsiders.  Is it a Sunday Service?  A home group?  A community outreach? All I know… if we’re not sure what we’re targeting at, we’ll never hit it. Say what you want to about 1971 Saturation Evangelism at Thomas Road, but they were doing something… and evidently it saw some pretty good results.  They aimed at the target and hit it every once in a while. As Seth Godin would say… they ‘shipped’. I hope that your church ‘ships’ in 2012.  I hope my church ‘ships’ in 2012. It’s time most of us quit spinning our wheels.      
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