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September 2008 - INSIDE THIS ISSUE. . .
1. Keeping Faith in Tough Financial Times Click
2. Strengthen Your Congregation's Faith with these Stewardship Exercises Click
3. About VanderWyden Consultants, Inc. Click
4. Subscribe / Unsubscribe Instructions Click
Our Country is enduring very trying financial times. In this issue of Wyden Your Horizons, we share our understanding of the relationship of finances and faith.
At VanderWyden Consultants our mission is to enable individuals, churches, and non-profit organizations to Wyden their Horizons through
faith-filled fund-raising. We find that when we start with faith in God's
providing and give in proportion to our blessings that churches and
non-profit organizations achieve their goals and members find
the Joy of Generosity. Our programs involve no-pressure on individuals to
give, but are rather "painless and pleasant" explorations of faith.
That is how we approach the privilege of making a difference in the world through
joyful giving. We have found that when members and donors give
because they want to, they give wholeheartedly and often give far more
generously than if
they had been pressured or persuaded into giving.
The church has a great responsibility in such trying times. As many in our country are struggling to pay their bills, to keep their homes, to put gas in the tank, and food on the table, the church can provide invaluable support. Churches that understand that they are a mission station in their community will respond to the call of God to provide the support, resources, and spiritual reassurances that are essential to sustain individuals and families in these trying financial times.
In the times of The Great Depression churches were a key resource for those who were struggling through those most difficult financial times. We must remember that in those times there was no Social Security, no Medicaid, and no welfare. Also, most of the social service organizations that we have become accustomed to in our communities did not exist in those times. So during The Great Depression the church was the most significant resource of providing support for those in need. There also was a strong sense of shared struggle since so many were unemployed. During the 1930s, in the worst years of the Great Depression, 25% of the populace was unemployed and another 25% of "breadwinners" were having their wages and hours cut dramatically.
These times are truly tough for many families. But in contrast to the Great Depression, our unemployment rate is now 6.1% and we have a myriad of agencies whose purpose is focused on helping those in need. However, the past year has seen an alarming increase in unemployment. Over the past twelve months the number of unemployed individuals has increased by 2.2 million and the jobless rate has increased by 1.4%, with most of the increase occurring in the last four months. Many families are truly suffering. Many are struggling to pay their bills, to put food on the table, and many have lost their homes, because of awful combination of increased costs for most necessities and the mortgage foreclosure plague.
At the same time the disparity between the wealthy and the rest of society is the highest in history. The top 1% of our society owns about 40% of the wealth. There are now more than 900 billionaires in the United States. The United States has the highest disparity between the wealthy and the rest of society than any other industrialized country. One in every three millionaires in the world live in the United States, and there are over 3 million millionaires in the United States! The middle class in our country also is much more wealthy than the middle class in the rest of the world, and has much more wealth than it had 40 to 50 years ago.
So what is the good news in these startling statistics? For one, it means that even in the midst of these tough times there are many individuals who still have considerable wealth. Of course the media is publicizing the fact that some have lost huge sums of money recently as large investment firms have collapsed, but there are still many who have huge sums of wealth, and many more who have considerable funds. There are many millionaires in our churches. It's the millionaire next door phenomenon. Many churches don't realize that there are millionaires in their midst, because they seldom talk about money and don't ask their members to give in proportion to their blessings.
For another, it means that the church can again claim its mantle as a community of hope in times of trouble. In the midst of this financial crisis the church has a unique opportunity and mission to ask those who have significant blessings to give generously and sacrificially, enabling the church to provide the tangible resources that are essential for those who are struggling. As Jesus stated, "To whom much has been given, much will be expected." The church can provide food pantries, extra funds to pay bills, as well as other support resources that are essential for those who have lost their jobs and/or homes.
Those who give sacrificially in proportion to their blessings benefit from
using their resources in ways that reflect their values and
priorities. We have found that there is never a shortage
of money, but rather a shortage of faith in God's providing. Jesus
often taught about the healthy manner for dealing with our monetary
blessings. Many churches avoid the topic for fear of upsetting people.
Unfortunately by leaving out this crucial portion of the Gospel they do not
teach their members to have healthy habits about how they use their money. Consequently members develop habits of
allocating their resources to other pursuits and other causes. Misplaced
faith is a major factor in why the present financial crisis is upsetting so
Giving benefits the giver. Our consumer society has created a false mythology that seems to say that the more you are paid, and the more own, the more you are worth. Unfortunately there are many wealthy people who are very unhappy because they have not realized that accumulating wealth does not bring any real satisfaction. Studies continually show that the rich are no more happy than the middle class, or even some who we might consider poor but who have figured out what enough is. A significant factor in having a healthy attitude about money is being clear about our priorities, knowing what is enough to have a happy life, and giving and using our money in relation to our values. Many individuals have no real system or philosophy about how they spend or give their money. The church has a responsibility to those who have misplaced their faith in these times to preach the gospel of the Joy that is found in Generosity.
The church has a responsibility to preach this joyful gospel that it is a blessed privilege to give and that God is the one who provides the things we need for happy lives. It is more likely to happen when we have our priorities in order and put first things first. As Jesus said, "If you seek first God's realm, everything else will be yours as well." It is only when we share what we have with others, and use our money in meaningful ways to improve the world, that we create satisfying and significant lives. As Winston Churchill stated, "You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give." In giving we find real satisfaction in the opportunity to make a difference in the world, which creates a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
Perhaps the most important contribution that the church can make in these tough times is to sound a note of confidence, faith, and hope. A major portion of the dynamic of the stock market is psychological. Fear builds on fear. A few people become fearful about the value of their investments and they figure that they better sell what they have before they lose more. That kind of self-centered fear can be contagious. As others see more and more individuals selling their stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, and the price of stocks getting lower, they get fearful and conclude that they better sell what they have, and before too long that fear can lead to a stampede. We must have voices of hope and confidence, reminding us that especially in times like this we need to put our faith in front of our fear. The stock market has a history of huge crises and gains. When it goes down, it may be a time to buy, because it eventually will go up. This time much of what is occurring is more of a crisis of faith, rather than a crisis of funds. The point is if our country is to get past this crisis there needs to be voices of faith and hope that can overcome the cries of the media pundits that the sky is falling.
Those who are struggling financially need more than food and shelter.
They need reasons to believe that the future can be better, and that they can keep
their faith in the midst of tough times. The church has a
great responsibility and great good news to share in that regard. The
history of the church is rich with stories of those who have gone through
tough times and retained their faith and hope. So, too, with stories of those who have been
richly blessed and who have learned to gauge their worth not by how much
they have but by how they give of what they have. These times are
opportune times for the church to sound the trumpet of faith and hope, not of
doom and gloom, so that more such stories are lived, written, and told.
Seed the Offering -
Conduct a Family Priority Survey - Gather your family together and
ask the family members' opinions on the following topics:
Create a Congregational Family Life Journal -
Put Stewardship in the Offering Plate -
Our staff has conducted over 350 successful campaigns throughout the United States. Our "Joy of Generosity" Capital Fund Campaign program enables churches to raise as much as 13 times existing giving levels, and our "Wyden Your Horizons" Operating Budget Stewardship program results in increases of 15 - 45%. Top
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Rev. P. William VanderWyden, CFRE
President VanderWyden Consultants, Inc.
Headquarters -118 Westchester Drive, Amherst, Ohio 44001
Toll-Free Phone: 888-245-5826 (888-Bill-Van)
E-mail: Bill@WydenYourHorizons. com
Web: www. WydenYourHorizons. com