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I have just come across a discussion started by Michael Boyink suggesting that web designers should not work for free when it comes to creating sites for churches because that inherently means that the organisations that the work is done for do not value it.
Because when a church gets a website for free, it evidently has no value. Things with no value get replaced or reimplemented on a moment’s notice, on staff whim, or as soon as the person leading the effort is called away.
The comments on this piece numbered 85 when he closed commenting, and on Church Marketing Sucks comments are still coming in, so it is obviously a topic that people have strong opinions on.
The criticism around this says that the website creation should be a gift without reservation to the church and what they do with it is their business, but this misses the point of the article. Churches that invest nothing in the original design and building of a website are not likely to invest the relevant resources ongoing to develop compelling and relevant content for the site.
And when someone else offers to take over the site, the old design is too easily abandoned (as it costs nothing) and replaced, when in fact the time spent on the redesign could have been better used on content. Michael Boyink suggests that churches that pay for the site in the first place are more likely to commit the relevant resources to get the most out of their investment.
We recently left the church we had been attending for a number of years as we moved out of the area and felt it was right to find a new church rather than to make the trek back. Since then we have been looking at a number of options for a new church. We have been led to join the local baptist church, which is similar in style and substance as the church we were attending but with a much larger youth and children’s work, which suits our growing family.
In order for us to join we need to accept the rules of membership and enter a process of interviews and presentation in front of the church meeting. This is all pretty daunting, and not something we are used to, but we guess is normal in medium to large churches which need to be well-managed. The rules are long and overly detailed but it was a relief to read that, ‘membership ceases upon death’, because the thought of having to continue to attend church meetings while deceased was worrying us.
We are regular long-time Christians who are used to the ways of the church and still find this process of acceptance hard. Have you ever found the organisation or setup of your church a barrier to new people? For instance a Salvation Army church that I visited one summer on a project had a captain and a handful of members but most regular attenders did not enter into membership because it would have meant accepting the rules of that particular denomination which would have meant being tee-total. The setup was a barrier to some people, though it did not appear to matter in this case, as the church was one of the most community active churches I have ever seen.
Note: this post is only likely to be relevant to those under the jurisdiction of HM Revenue & Customs here in the UK.
Charities in the UK can claim back tax at the basic rate on donations they receive from tax-payers subject to certain conditions (signed declaration etc.) In the last few years, the basic rate of tax has been 22%. This means that for each 78p donated, the charity can make a claim for 22p from the government.
From 6 April 2008 onwards, the basic rate of tax has reduced from 22% to 20%, thus people are paying less tax within this band than they were previously. This means however, that for each 78p donated though, the charity can only reclaim 19.5p.
Because of the change, and to ensure that charities are not put into difficulty by this, there is a transitional relief scheme which allows charities to claim the difference between the 19.5p and the 22p until 5 April 2011 (3 years).
The charities do not need to claim this, but it will be done automatically as part of their gift-aid claim.
Before 05 April 2008: donor decided to give 10% of their gross income to charity, since they earned £20k per year, and the basic rate was 22%, they gave 10% x £20k x 78% = £1,560, knowing the charity could reclaim the £440 pounds which meant they donated 10% of their £20k salary (£2k).
After 06 April 2008: donor continues to donate £1,560 not realising that the tax rates have changed and the charity can reclaim £1,560 / 0.80 = £1,950, which means that the donor is no longer donating 10% of their income as they intended. Fortunately, the charity also receives gift-aid transitional relief automatically until the 2010/11 tax year and the charity receives the extra £50.
Special note: because the tax payer is now paying tax at 20% rather than 22% they might actually be making a saving overall. The amount of saving depends on their salary because there is no longer a 10% lower tax rate.
Someone earning £20k will be £69.90 better off and someone earning £35k would be £369.90 better off. Whereas some earning £11,482 (national minimum wage for over 22 working full time for 40 hours per week) would be £100.46 worse off and once the transitional relief ends this person would need to increase their gift to maintain a 10% gross salary donation without any reduction overall in tax.
(Perhaps now we can see why people are questioning Gordon Brown’s poverty-fighting credentials when the tax changes he has introduced only help those on middle-incomes and make things harder for those on lower incomes).
Charities including churches need to move towards educating their members who give regularly to realise that come April 2011 they will need to have increased their donations to at least maintain the level of their donations, though not all will receive the benefit of the corresponding lowering of the basic tax rate.
USA today has an unsurprising survey on the reasons while people change churches. Clearly only the people who changed churches without moving home are worth investigating and the reasons were mixed;
Most of the switchers who changed their house of worship without making a residential move (58%) say their old church failed to engage their faith, or put their talents to work, or it seemed hypocritical or judgemental.
But 42% of the people say they switched because another church offered more appealing doctrines and preaching or the preacher and church members’ faith seemed more “authentic.”
But the writers identify restlessness as the key point. In other words, either ‘I am not getting what I want here’, or ‘the grass is greener on the other side’.
There is some hope though. Brad Waggoner, LifeWay’s vice president of research and ministry development says:
There’s no simple answer why people are so restless … [but] we have a biblical responsibility to care for every person in our flock.
Found via: Think Christian
Previously: Changing churches
The BBC has an article today, asking the question: Calling yourself a Christian, but if you cut out the middle man [church] isn’t it cheating?
As every Christian knows, going to church does not make you a Christian, but fellowship with believers is an important part of Christian life.
The article contains the usual statistics on church attendance, namely ‘many people still believe in God, but hardly any bother to go to church’ and so on. But then it asks the question: ‘Is an expression of faith with no commitment to going to church just religion for the “me” generation?’
I think this is a valid question, as anecdotal evidence suggests that more and more people are separating their faith from the church for different reasons. Or are attending church as users, rather than participators?
But perhaps it just boils down to what must be done for Salvation? David Gushee wrote on this subject in Christianity Today magazine, when he questioned whether too much emphasis was put on the sinner’s prayer to the detriment of what Christ had said in relation to the Kingdom of God.
Mediocrity and hypocrisy characterize the lives of many avowed Christians, at least in part because of our default answer to the salvation question. Anyone can, and most [western Christians] do, “believe” in Jesus rather than some alternative saviour. Anyone can, and many [western Christians] sometimes do, say a prayer asking Jesus to save them. But not many embark on a life fully devoted to the love of God, the love of neighbour, the moral practice of God’s will, and radical, costly discipleship.
A pretty challenging thought.