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I have just finished reading a new book by Jason Gardner, Youth Project Researcher of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (and a member of my extended family), I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to any Christian as the issues it covers relate to the whole of the church body and the relationships within it, but particularly to those wishing to change and shape church leadership. Below are a few comments;
Jason Gardner begins by carefully examines society and in particular the nature of young people and their relationship to adults over the last 100 years and looks at the changes that have occurred in a measured rather than in a sensational or rose-spectacled way.
He then looks at how the church has mirrored society in its treatment of the young, the contradiction of expectations and the polarisation of church communities. Not just in terms of youth congregations and ageing churches, but in terms of how churches create niche groups by age and how leadership delegates youth management responsibilities (appoint an underpaid, under respected youth pastor to reach and deal with ‘youth’, so the leadership does not have to).
I won’t spell out all the recommendations, but to say that the proposals that Jason Gardner outlines are challenging to the church but necessary to avoid a greater distancing of the generations and ultimately the breakdown of the church. With the external challenges faced by young people in particular, and different role that the church fills in society it is so important that churches can be the one place that generations can be side by side working together for Christ and the Kingdom. Through analysis, practical examples and suggestions, this book makes a positive contribution to achieving this aim.
On a side note, of particular interest to me were his points on parenting, one of which suggested that as parents feel guilty about spending inadequate time with their offspring, the time that they do spend becomes child-focused which does ring true. This can lead to the parent-child relationship being about fulfilling a child’s needs rather that the parent preparing the child for adult life. Maybe I should feel like it isn’t such poor parenting by getting my son to help with the DIY rather than doing something he would choose to do. This isn’t a parenting book, it is just one point that I found interesting.
Mend the Gap by Jason Gardner is available through IVP.
So I’m going to the Echo Conference in Dallas, TX (USA) next week. It’s for leaders that use media, the internet, and other forms of technology as a tool for the church. I get paid to go to conferences like this for my work and I’ve participated in these kinds of conferences or trade shows (yes they have trade shows for churches too).
There are a lot of conferences and training events out there that compete for the attention of the church staff. There are denominational events, those put on by the church’s affiliation or events surrounding a subject like worship or leadership in church. And the staff person must decide which events are most valuable while remaining a good steward of the church’s budget.
We are called to come together and meet as Christians and we also understand that iron sharpens iron. And when thousands of people commit to coming to these events year after year, it also becomes a place of commerce for many vendors. Is that ok? I happen to work for a vendor like this but I also know my own heart and I pray often about my motivations. At what point are these vendors and event organizers trying to create revenue rather than equipping leaders? My answer is: the vendors wouldn’t come if there wasn’t money to be made. My bosses wouldn’t let me attend or buy booth space if the end goal was to spread love.
It’s obvious that the makers of technology like projectors, video cameras, and computers are interested in sales. It wouldn’t make sense for them to give their products away, would it? And before technology was heavily involved in the church did we have the same scrutiny of stain glass makers and the people who make wooden pews? We are called to be IN the world not OF the world. So even though we participate in events that are consumer related and we’re treated like businesses by vendors we are still the church.
What are your experiences and what is your feedback?
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.
This is just a quick note to apologise to anyone interested, in that I have not updated this site for some time.
We have now moved home and have started attending a new church. Slowly we will be easing our way into church life, but because the church is a little larger, it is unlikely to be within web development.
Therefore there might not be too many more posts on this site on a web theme, but perhaps I will get some time to post other things if possible. (I am probably going to go through my unpublished drafts so there may be some random posts here).
The other news, was that my wife gave birth in December so that has rather occupied us as well!
Thank you if you have made comments or been a reader here. I really appreciate it.
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.