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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 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, 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:

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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Have you thought much about what you will be concentrating on in your church in 2013? Joe Buchanan gives some practical advice on how to plan our your preaching calendar for the year.  See if this is helpful: 1. Spend time fasting, praying and preparing yourself spiritually to hear from God The amount of time and the way you do this will depend on the individual.  There is no substitute, however, for getting yourself spiritually prepared to hear from God. 2.  Identify the key issues and needs facing your congregation I like to take an afternoon to simply pray through our church directory, asking God to call to mind the needs of individual needs of my congregation.  As the Lord calls various issues to my mind, I make a list of issues and needs.  Once I have prayed through every name in the directory, I then go back and categorize the needs and identify the most pressing issues facing our church.   3. Outline your preaching strategy One of the key factors for effective preaching is to have variety in your styles and approaches… You will have to adjust the plan to meet your needs but I try to include the following in my yearly plan:
  • Preach through two books of the Bible
  • An expository topical series on the family
  • A theological expository series on a major doctrine of the Bible
  • Individual holiday sermons or short series
  • Standalone messages dealing with specific issues in the community
What do YOU have planned for 2013? How far do you normally plan ahead? And what are you MOST excited about for the new year? Read more here…
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Casey Tygrett shares three measurement devices for elders and local church leaders regarding spiritual growth and formation that will bring light and life to situations stuck in darkness. Are you regularly engaging with Scripture, both individually and as a leadership team? Leaders committed to wrestling with the narrative of God both alone and in their group have put themselves in a position to be corrected, humbled, and augmented for the sake of others. Being open to the Scriptures is a posture that embraces the mission of God in the world today. Scripture refines the lenses through which the mission and purpose of the church, as well as the mission and purpose of eldership, are seen. Scripture shows God on a mission as he calls sweetly, but firmly, to elders to fall in step and become missionally minded regarding where the flock they’ve been commissioned to lead is headed.  Are you praying specifically, honestly, and regularly? In my current ministry, I am often asked to help teach people to pray. I’ve found the most critical question in developing a prayer habit is whether or not people are willing to bring up the raw, uncensored, and unfiltered contents of their heart to God. Are you, as a leader, honestly expressing both your joys and struggles to the God who constantly leans in to listen (Psalm 10:17)? The most helpful aspect of prayer in my development in leadership over the last five years has been the opportunity to see myself through the objective lens of God’s Spirit; I’ve grown to understand there are things in my soul that, when applied to leadership in ministry, create issues I couldn’t see on my own. The opportunity to pray with and for other leaders is constantly in front of us—are you taking advantage of the times you could offer prayers that encourage and strengthen others on your eldership or leadership team? Are you reproducing leaders through spiritual friendship and mentoring? Leaders aren’t meant to be irreplaceable. If we have stepped into the stream of leadership in God’s kingdom with the expectation that we aren’t expendable, it is a clear and unmistakable sign we’ve skipped question number one in this list! The truth is, engaging in Scripture and prayer—especially reading Acts and praying for our leadership of God’s people—will shine a light on the reproductive nature of the church. The churches we find in Acts had leaders who understood what it meant to give away what they’d learned. Many elders and leaders may say they have read 2 Timothy 2:2—“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Great. Here is a follow-up question: are you giving away your leadership and ministry to reliable folks? // Read more here:  A Past Mistake and Three Challenges for Elders Thoughts? Todd

5 Simple Ways to Grow in your Leadership (from Catalyst Leader): 1. Read- leaders are readers. Pure and simple. I recommend business books, Christian living, historical biographies/autobiographies, and magazines. And of course the Bible as your #1 source. 2. Serve- jump in and help wherever needed. Ultimately, just keep Leading- more and more and more. The more you lead, the better leader you will be. And believe me, if you keep asking to take on leadership in your organization, you will continue to have more responsibility piled on you. 3. Watch- and learn from those around you. Who are more experienced, wiser, and have something to offer. Find a few leaders who you want to learn from, and seek them out. Ask them for advice. There are two more… but you’ll have to head over to Catalyst to see those two (warrning:  they’re good!) via 5 Ways to Grow as a Leader | Catalyst. QUESTION:  What is YOUR growth strategy as a leader for 2012?