Thinking Out Loud

December 27, 2016

Year End, Tax Receipt Incentive Giving Can Be Creative

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas time isn’t a lot of fun. We‘re still short on one of our supplier payments. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is a major goal.

It’s also a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a tax receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others.

Here’s a principle I believe to be important:

You may be tempted to give something to charities in the broader market, but remember that the broader population will respond somewhat to their appeals. I believe there are Christian causes that only we can give to, and we should “do good to all… especially those which are of the household of faith.”

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water, aid the fight against human trafficking, provide start-up funds for micro-businesses, deal with health issues in countries where access to medicine is still limited, or assist oppressed people — especially women — see justice.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? These make a huge difference in the lives of children, but aren’t fully supported by fees. Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? A regional Bible College, or Christian University College? Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead. I also find you get more balanced doctrine with most Christian radio than you do with Christian television, plus, you really never, never know who the station is reaching.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically? If no specific organization comes to mind, consider the work of The Salvation Army.
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, The Gideons or the various Bible Societies. 
  • What about those invisible ministries that come alongside other organizations? Previously on the blog we’ve written about Engineering Ministries International, Christian Salvage Mission and Partners International.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing. 

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need. 

You can’t leave this to the last minute, but secure online giving means you can cut it pretty short. Wait on whatever you were going to click to next, and respond as your heart leads you.

Advertisements

April 28, 2016

Camp Memories (3)

Filed under: Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:58 am

parent child - Wikipedia commonsThere are certain junctures in life as one emerges from girl to woman or boy to man where one finds themselves in a middle ground between adolescence and full adulthood. A person is perhaps in a place of leadership and yet they are forever the child to their parents. One of the lessons I am learning now that my own kids are in their 20s, is the axiom that you never stop being a parent.

At the camp I worked at, the junior staff had varying degrees of relationships with their families. Many went back to the city on weekends; others had family cabins — what we refer to as cottages — in proximity to the camp. My objective during the three years I was on senior staff was to spend every possible moment on the camp property. Summers are short in Canada and what we call “cottage country” in Ontario is beautiful, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of it.

In my first and third years there I was able to accomplish this. But in the middle year, I had to return to the city to complete some obligations I had with the individual who was employing me through the fall and winter months; the first time to catch a train for a week Winnipeg, the second time to catch a flight for eight days in England.

At all other times though, I was happy to spend my time at camp, and missing home never entered my head.

On the other hand though, while it was rare for me as a senior staff member to meet the parents of our other 160+ staff, my own parents had their own relationship with this particular ministry organization. This camp had in previous years got themselves in some trouble with various levels of government concerning reporting procedures, which is a nice way of saying they hadn’t filed any paperwork for over a year. People were paid, taxes on accommodation were collected, but the federal and provincial (i.e. state) revenue departments weren’t seeing a penny of it, and they were threatening to shut the whole operation down.

That’s where my father stepped in. For Americans reading this, keeping your tax information in a shoebox and reporting certain deductible items on an honor system may be common, but here in Canada shoebox type accounting doesn’t make the cut, especially at a business or charity level. So over many months my dad did the forensic accounting needed and implemented systems where each department had a cost code and the government started smiling again. The accounting supervisor he hired and trained works there to this day.

For this reason, he and my mother often showed up at camp — there was even a designated cabin for them to stay in — but because I never called home, I never knew they were coming until they had already arrived. “Your parents are here;” someone would inform me; to which I would reply, “Okay, thanks;” and carry on with whatever I was doing.

So now we return to the meat of this discussion as outlined in the first paragraph above.

Closest thing I could find to what we used that year. By the following summer the bikes had mysteriously disappeared.

Closest thing I could find to what we used that year. By the following summer the bikes had mysteriously disappeared.

One summer the director, having served in ministry in Africa, thought the best way for us as senior staff to get around the property would be to purchase a “fleet” of four gas powered minibikes; what I think were called mopeds at the time. They certainly were convenient, and we kept the keys where the campers would never find them. (I’ll skip the story of the day I let a camper ride on my back and we hit a giant hole in the middle of a field and were both thrown off the thing.)

On a particular afternoon, I was riding one of the bikes back to the main office, when at the same moment my parents were arriving from the parking lot. My mother had no idea the camp had even purchased the bikes, didn’t know I knew how to ride one, and totally freaked out, speaking loudly over the sound of the bike’s engine, “Paul! What are you doing? Get off that motorcycle!”

I know those were her words because there were just enough staff members around to hear it that it became associated with me for about a week. Even junior staff who were on their day off that afternoon were walking up to me saying, “Paul! What are you doing? Get off that motorcycle?”

To her credit, I learned many years later that there was some story in her family involving her brother and a motorcycle — a real one, not a little dirt bike — which may have instilled some fear in her. To my credit, I shut off the engine, told her not to worry, started the engine again, and drove off…

…Even when you have your own children, you never stop being your own parent’s child. Furthermore, you never know when parental instincts are going to kick in, even in that moment where you are in a leadership position and don’t see the potentially lethal moment of embarrassment sneaking up on you.

Still, I hope I never do that to my own kids. That’s why I don’t have Facebook. I can’t comment on their status updates or photos. I can let them be themselves as they jettison childhood and embrace adulthood, right?

Well, not entirely. Because the axiom is true, you really never stop being a parent.

 

April 26, 2016

Camp Memories (2)

“This is Natalie. She has no English. She will learn, yes?”

With that, her mom left the registration desk and drove off leaving her little 11-year old girl in our care for six nights.

But we didn’t know the registration story until three days in.

Natalie (not her real name, at least I don’t think so) turned out to be a handful, but not in any hyperactive or disciplinary sense. Simply put the girl appeared to be a young nymphomaniac. She was very affectionate to the male sports instructors. She was very touchy-feely with some of the male counselors. She seemed to have no limits in rubbing against male senior staff members like a cat.

Not having the vocabulary to verbalize even the most basic things, she communicated physically. In ways that were inappropriate. In ways that suggested there was lot more to this than just a language barrier.

Today, we have the internet. Simple searches can reveal patterns. We know that sometimes a child that young has probably had their sexuality button switched on by abuse of some type. We talk about those things more freely. The internet, in many respects, makes everyone an expert on subjects that formerly have been left to the professionals.

middle school youth ministryBut flashback a few decades and those supports didn’t exist. In fact, it took several days for our assortment of instructors, counselors, kitchen crew, maintenance workers, and senior staff to combine their stories to form an overall picture of what had been happening at camp. People started comparing notes, and the anecdotal base grew rapidly.

Fortunately, this was an era where the staff, though very large, had a strong sense of morality and ethical integrity. These days, it seems that everywhere you turn there are stories of people in children’s ministry or youth ministry landing on the front pages of local newspapers. It would not surprise me to hear of camps hosting children like Natalie with totally different outcomes.

I got invited to the senior staff meeting. I mostly sat in silence except to say, “I’m not sure how she knows the difference between a 16-year old staff member and a 16-year old camper.” I went on to say, “I think we’re okay with our staff because they’ve been screened carefully, but don’t know that a camper might not take advantage of her.”

The meeting continued and eventually it was decided to quietly communicate the situation to the entire staff base — some 150 people — to make sure staff kept their eyes open; to make sure that any and all contact with male campers was being supervised.

Another half week later, Natalie got picked up and the staff breathed a collective sigh of relief as her mom’s car drove out the front entrance. In the ten minutes that followed I heard at least three people simply say, “It’s okay; she’s gone.”

I know this camp, and I know that in the intervening years there were probably a few more Natalies. I would wager to say that the number of kids who have been in abusive situations, even in seemingly-respectable upper-middle class homes is probably slowly increasing, and the number of adolescent and pre-adolescent kids acting out their sexuality is growing accordingly. But liability concerns dictate that camps, Christian and otherwise, make sure that staff at all levels are trained in negotiating various complex situations. For the most part, camp staff are doing the right thing.

For our camp staff, what was the issue here? Was the problem Natalie, or Natalie’s mom; the way she simply dropped her off and made a hasty exit off the property?

I went about 20 years and never thought about Natalie. But recently, as online reports about crises in youth ministry and children’s ministry seem to get darker and more frequent, she came back to mind, as my personal poster child for post-abuse. Sure, maybe some of it was hormonal, and I know that there are occurrences of kids acting out in this way simply because that’s how they’re wired, and I know that the lack of verbal communication messed up the dynamics that week; but despite that, I remain convinced that something in her past had triggered her precocious behavior, though our summer staff that year never knew what it was, and never will…


…On Saturday morning the kids leave and just hours later, you’re hosting a new batch of children, and dealing with different issues…

December 24, 2011

Making Your Giving List and Checking It Twice

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas time isn’t a lot of fun. We just made the last of our supplier payments online. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is a major goal.

So this is a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a tax receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others. 

You may be tempted to give something to charities in the broader market, but remember that the broader population will respond somewhat to their appeals. I believe there are Christian causes that only we can give to, and we should “do good to all… especially those which are of the household of faith.”

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water, aid the fight against human trafficking, provide start-up funds for micro-businesses, deal with health issues in countries where access to medicine is still limited, or assist oppressed people — especially women — see justice.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? These make a huge difference in the lives of children, but aren’t fully supported by fees. Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? A regional Bible College, or Christian University College? Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically?
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators or the various Bible Societies.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing.

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need.

September 5, 2011

A Lesson in Humility

There are times we can be so convinced that God is leading us to do something, that even afterward, when the particular vision or project doesn’t meet expectations, it’s hard to believe that, in terms of its original goals, the project was a bit of a failure.

Many years back, I would wake up in the morning, have breakfast and brush my teeth, and somewhere between the cereal bowl and the restroom sink my brain would flash this:  “$100,000.”  I tried to interpret this in different ways.  Was it a reference to Canada’s daily Christian television show, 100 Huntley Street? No, I decided that what it meant was that I was to raise $100K for Camp Iawah.

Iawah — pronounced the same as Iowa — is an acronym for In All Ways Acknowledge Him. It’s the camp my wife and I met at, and the camp where our two boys served on staff this summer. I guess I was hoping that in the process of raising some money for them, I would be welcomed more warmly when I arrived on the property. The camp — though already a second home — would become my “Cheers” bar, where everybody knows my name and they’re always glad I came. Plus, like most parachurch ministries, they could really use the money for capital projects. Secretly, I hoped my efforts would raise $200K.

My strategy was to advertise in Canada’s national Christian magazine, Faith Today, a publication of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. To draw in interest on a national scale, I would focus on the ‘mission field’ aspect of eastern Ontario, the part of the province designated by the “K” postal code.

It’s important to note that this area stands in contrast to the relative ‘Bible belt’ of western Ontario. “K” at the time didn’t have more than 100 churches where there would be more than 100 adults present on a Sunday morning. Most of these were in major cities like Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Belleville, etc. and “K” wasn’t the home of any major Christian organizations or Bible colleges.

“Name a mission field that starts with the letter ‘K'” was the tagline for the advertisements.

Yes, several ads. One for Camp Iawah. One for Northumberland Christian School, a ‘diamond in the rough’ where I had taught part-time for a year, which really needed a financial kick-start; and one for CHRI radio in Ottawa, Canada’s first-licensed commercial Christian radio station. The series of three advertisements would be a win-win-win. The magazine would be an immediate winner with some advertising revenue. My three (at the time) bookstores, also all located within the “K” code, would get fine-print mention at the bottom of the page, also ensuring a business write-off. And of course the organizations in question would be placed on the hearts of readers across the country who would respond with donations.

The first advertisement hit a bulls eye of sorts. The magazine was already running a cover story on Christian camping, and within a week, I was emailed that a family had signed up their kids for that summer. But after a couple of months, I was told, “If any donations we’ve received are a direct result of the advertisement, we aren’t aware of it.”

That was disappointing, but by then the next advertisement was already running. These were 1/3rd page display ads, and I was reminded that, “The effectiveness of any advertising campaign increases after several repetitions.” And due to a technical error, that second one got run twice. But six months in, money was neither pouring into the camp nor the school, and my attempt at raising awareness of ministry need in “K”-land was clearly flawed. I ran the third one anyway for CHRI Radio in Ottawa. After the eight month campaign, I wondered if just giving the money directly to the organizations in questions might not have been a better use of funds.

These were good advertisements, persuasive, informative and well written. So what went wrong? Here are some thoughts, you might have more to add:

  1. The first one, for the camp, was done with mixed motivation. I wanted greater acceptance there, so I sought to earn it somehow.
  2. I acted as a lone ranger, “gifting” my promotional and writing abilities to the organizations, but not working with those people to optimize the opportunity.
  3. I overestimated those same abilities, forgetting that I was, after all, a person who once held a yard sale to which absolutely no one came. A bit of a record, wouldn’t you say?
  4. I possibly needed a lesson in humility.
  5. I got confused by thought patterns like the “$100,000” thing that got stuck in my head, forgetting there are people who, every time they drive by a certain tree or stop sign on the way to work have a song that triggers in their brain for no apparently connected reason.

Since then, I’ve also learned the line, “The voices in your head may be due to the pizza you ate last night.”  But there are also some things that came out of this I need to remind myself:

  1. I did provide some needed revenue to the magazine.
  2. There was the family that signed up for camp, and apparently one that learned of the school.
  3. I will never know if some donations were sent as a direct result of the campaign but just not connected by the donors or the recipients. Or perhaps the ads served as a reminder to people who were already on the mailing list of those organizations.
  4. Despite a lack of tangible results, I did raise awareness of the needs in the “K” postal code, an area that continues to struggle.
  5. I was obedient to the vision I thought I had received with no negative complications or side-effects for pursuing that vision.

Fall is a time in ministry to dream dreams. You need to know with clarity that those dreams are God-sent, but that won’t always present itself with 100% assurance; some of it has to be a step of faith. You need to be willing to risk failure. You need to be willing to do the necessary analysis afterward to see if there’s anything you can learn. I believe that doing something is better than doing nothing.

[] [] []

Camp Iawah is growing and meeting spiritual needs in the lives of hundreds each year. If someone were wanting to invest in the lives of the next generation, this ministry organization would be at the top of my recommended list.  CHRI Radio has moved from being a commercial music station to the financially-safer format of selling blocks of air-time to radio ministries, but still requires donations to meet its budget. I believe that the Christian school still faces some long-term challenges, though its larger family of schools is worthy of support. 

And yes: The magazine Faith Today continues to be published by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, our equivalent of — but not connected with — the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S.

May 26, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Another Wednesday rolls around… where did you go this week online?

  • Ruth Tucker at Christianity Today marks  the passing of Moishe Rosen, the sometimes controversial founder of Jews for Jesus, as does an article in the New York Times.
  • Readers of The Internet Monk blog can catch a free download of the first chapter of the late Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity.
  • A candid Leadership Magazine interview with Francis Chan — is he ever not candid? — about how things work at Cornerstone Church.
  • While I usually laugh at the blog, Stuff Fundies Like, here’s a piece that makes a very, very solid point about Outcome Based Justification.  If just one person clicks on this…
  • Yikes!  A 13-year-old student in New York State can’t wear a rosary to school because of a statute prohibiting “gang related dress.”  Who ya gonna call?  Jay Sekulow.   But wait a minute, could the school board be justified?  The police think so.
  • Blogger Jeff Leake has reason to be proud of his talented 16-year old son, Josh Leake who has released a new album.   Right now they’re selling actual CDs, but they might want to also consider downloads.   Check out his MySpace page.
  • Trevin Wax thinks that, “Traditional evangelistic strategies are not necessarily deficient in what they say, but in what they assume.”  Read more at Kingdom People.
  • I know a number of bloggers have already mentioned this, but if you’re a parent, you need to watch this Vimeo clip from Randy Alcorn about Pornography from 12 days ago, and also this more recent one — despite the audio problems — from 7 days ago for parents who have daughters.
  • What is God’s relationship to time.   Not an easy question.   Start your thinking process at this article at Prodigal Magazine.
  • Unequally yoked?  Russell D. Moore got a letter in April about a conservative, dispensational Calvinist marrying a tongues-speaking Pentecostal.  Two weeks later, he’s still getting mail.
  • Blog discovery of the week (but it’s been around since 2007) — E-Royal by Royal Farris.   Lots of good video embeds recently.  Which is where I first saw
  • “The Gospel According To Krispy Kreme” a ten-minute YouTube video of Louie Giglio from 2009.
  • Whatever happened to scripture memory.   Here’s a top ten list of some Bible passages everyone should know by heart.
  • It would be great if God spoke to us by sending little written notes to us throughout the day.   That’s the theme of this 2-minute free sermon video download at Floodgate Productions.
  • Currently reading:  I actually don’t limit my reading to Christian books; I’m currently enjoying The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee.  (Love that middle initial!)  The book is a fascinating history of Chinese food.   I discovered Jennifer at TED Talks.
  • Currently fundraising: Chris, our oldest is going to be working in the kitchen at a Christian camp for ten weeks this summer.   Based on a 48-hour (i.e. six day) week, they’re giving him $3.00 per hour; he has to come up with sponsors for the rest.   Contact us if you want to help.
  • Currently listening to:  A Ton of Worship.  A  collection of church worship from the UK, but check out the stats:  5-CDs.  20 songs per CD.   That’s 100 songs for only $12.99 US/$15.99 CDN.  Also a kids version for $9.99 US/$12.99 CDN.   From Kingsway Music.
  • Message to certain bloggers:  Your Twitter updates are really slowing down your page loads.   Is it worth it?
  • Question to video uploaders:  Why Vimeo and not YouTube?   I have a fairly high speed connection, but the Vimeo server — especially when embedded in blogs — doesn’t even come close to the speed of the YouTube servers.
  • Our cartoon panel this week is from Calvinist Cartoons by Eddie Eddings (c/o John Scaddington).

February 5, 2010

The Camp Monk Meal: Variant

At a couple of the Christian summer camps I’ve worked at we often did a variant on the classic monk meal.   In the original version, you’re trying to replicate a monastery where the monks have taken a vow of silence.   At about day four of a residential camp experience, there isn’t a single counselor who isn’t glad to see the monk meal on the schedule.

The variant doesn’t require silence.   You simply aren’t allowed to ask for anything.  You can’t say, “Pass the ketchup;” or anything like that, though with some camps’ food, the ketchup is exactly what you’d be asking for.

Instead, you’re supposed to see that someone across the table has a need.

Most people today are too selfish to be considerate.   It’s not taught.   In fact, I’d argue it’s at the heart of our spiritual condition; many of the verses containing the word “sin” continue to work if you substitute “selfishness.”

Today we were at a grocery store checkout where the groceries are scanned and then placed in one of two conveyor belts for customers to pack their own bags.   They alternate between the two, except that the guy ahead of us didn’t care to operate from the end of the belt, and was blocking everyone’s only means of exit.   With my wife staying at the cash register to pay, I wanted to start packing, but I couldn’t get by him.

The order just kept filling up the other belt, and still he didn’t move.  The cashier saw the problem and did nothing.    Normally I would say something, but I wanted to see exactly how inconsiderate this guy was.

When the cashier started scanning the groceries for the people after us, there was nowhere to put them.   She switched back to the belt that was, by now, clearing a little, but even as those groceries started appearing on his belt, he still didn’t move.   He didn’t care.    Didn’t give a

Later on, as we drove away, we found ourselves in traffic where two lanes merge into one.    Despite being ahead of another car, I realized that there was absolutely no way he was going let me in first.    He simply roared his engine and squeezed in ahead of us almost causing me to hit the curb.  It’s a me-first proposition when you’re driving; you almost have to adopt the mentality if you want to survive.

Somebody needs to find ways to adapt the monk meal to other areas of life.   Maybe people will get it.   Maybe they won’t.

Now if I could just get somebody to realize I’d like some more juice.

April 17, 2009

Missionfest: A Ministry Trade Show

missionfestAfter 35 years working in and around various types of ministry organizations, today I attended my first ever ministry trade show.    After several years of getting snowed out in the winter months, Missionfest Toronto moved both its date and its location and today’s balmy weather in Canada’s largest city rivaled that of Southern California.

After one aisle, I turned to Mrs. W.  and said, “We’ve only seen a fraction of this  and already it’s overwhelming.”    Basically, I suppose I always knew that a large number of ministry organizations like these existed — probably a fraction of what one might see at a similar event in the U.S. — but there was something else about having them all set up their booths in the same room.

Missionfest exhibitors consisted largely of:

  1. Actual mission organizations doing evangelism and church planting in the third world
  2. Local, urban mission organizations working in Canadian cities
  3. Relief and development agencies
  4. Christian liberal arts colleges and universities, Bible colleges and seminaries
  5. Christian residential summer camps and retreat and conference centres
  6. Christian radio and television stations and ministries
  7. The teaching ministries of various authors or pastors, many of which are also broadcasters included in (6) above
  8. Ministries focused on Bible and Christian literature distribution
  9. Commercial businesses which provide specialized services to churches and non-profits (i.e. insurance, printing, internet, etc.)
  10. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to children
  11. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to the Jewish community
  12. Umbrella organizations, Christian political organizations, denominational groups.

From my wife’s point of view however, there were only two types of exhibitors:

  1. Those who were giving away wrapped pieces of chocolate at their booth
  2. Those who were not giving away chocolate at their booth

To be fair, my wife and I probably had the longest and most productive conversation with someone she previously only knew through e-mail, concerning the ministry project with which she is engaged.   He and she are probably getting together later in the spring to continue sharing ideas.

From the outset, we wondered what motivates the various organizations to drop their day-to-day ministry agenda to go through all the trouble of displaying their magazines, flyers, literature samples, etc. at an event like this.    Some reasons might include:

  1. There’s no doubt that for missions professionals, trade shows like this provide the benefit of any professional trade show, which is social in nature, or what we Christ-followers call ‘fellowship’
  2. Mission organizations are always looking for donors.   A few times someone came out in the aisle and told us, quite clearly, that they are looking for support.    It also occurred to us that conversely, someone of a philanthropic bent might attend this seeking out a target organization for their giving.   (We were actually keeping an eye out for something that would fit this particular criteria for someone we know who is in this position, but couldn’t attend; but nothing in particular jumped out at us.)
  3. Many organizations are looking for recruits; either as volunteers, missionaries requiring deputation, or perhaps even paid staff.   The colleges and universities are looking for prospective students.
  4. Apart from considerations in (2) and (3) above, everyone is looking to raise the profile of who they are and what they do; to get their name known in the Christian community, or in this case, more accurately, the Evangelical community.
  5. I would like to think that in addition to people giving their time and talents, or their money, that these organizations are also seeking specific prayer support.    I didn’t get that particular message today, though I’ve yet to sort through the large bag of literature we brought home.

The event also features a number of seminars dealing with various aspects of mission and ministry.    Many of these were on Saturday which conflicted with another event my wife is involved in; and some were part of a ‘Master seminar’ track which wasn’t in our budget.   (Some were simply capitalizing on who was available, such as Brian Doerksen’s songwriting workshop, prior to his concert tonight with Shane Claiborne; and no, I don’t think Shane is singing but I’ve actually heard him teach a song to about 2,000 people and he’s not bad.)

For me the “star” highlights were meeting Charles Price, pastor of Toronto’s Peoples Church, and also running into Shane Claiborne in the restroom.   I went back to the Crawford Broadcasting booth hoping that Neil Boron was free.  He hosts a four-hour afternoon talk show on WDCX-FM in Buffalo, which is the closest I get to coveting someone else’s ministry.   What a fabulous opportunity he has each day.    Unfortunately, he had left for lunch when I went back.

But the interactions with everyday people doing everyday mission and ministry were also valuable.

I walked into the exhibit floor someone cynical, reminding myself that missions — especially some of the 12 categories listed above — is very much run like a business, and that many of these people are in a very real sense competitors for items 2 to 5 in the second list.

I also know that some people are equally skeptical of the missions paradigm because — unlike (for example) a Christian bookstore which is theoretically self-supporting, or any model whereby the staff are ‘tentmaking’ at some other remunerative vocation — mission organizations merely have to “ask” to get money.

But my viewpoint was softened very quickly, as I was impressed by the earnest sincerity of the people we met.

If an event like this hits your community, I would encourage you to check it out; especially if you’re at a personal crossroads and wondering if God may have some avenue of service — either short term, long term, or life long — for you to consider.


 

March 30, 2009

Mashpost Monday

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:30 pm
From Musician Shaun Groves

On your first day on the other side of the grave, do you think you’ll look back on this life and be flooded with gratitude for hours spent watching episodes of American Idol and Lost?

Will you wish you’d done more of that? Do you think you’ll look back fondly on the effort and money spent remodeling the kitchen?  Will you wish you’d had a nicer home?

Do you think you’ll be glad you were up-to-date on the juicy details of celebrity lives?  Will you wish you’d read more magazines?

Will you regret not spending more time at the office?  Will you wish you’d logged just a few more hours every week at work?

Will you miss your blog or Facebook?  WIll you wish you’d just had a couple hundred more readers, just a few more “friends?”

Me neither.

~ posted at Shlog Blog
(HT Zach Nielsen)

Why I Don’t Link To Your Blog

Thanks for the link on yours to mine, but here’s why I am presently not returning the favor:

  • doctrinal discussions are fine, but militant denominationalism doesn’t interest me
  • you haven’t posted anything since 2008
  • I gave up on your last post after the 27th paragraph
  • I like edginess and don’t mind critical commentary, but remember that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her
  • you think Twitter is cool, but I really don’t want to read all the minutae of your life, I’ve got my own minutae and you don’t want to read it  (BTW, Dan is over his problem with irregularity and Carla’s got blonde streaks in her hair now)
  • I can respect your view that the “other-ness” of the gospel is best expressed by using King James era English, but if that’s what you believe to be the case, I’m going to have to insist you write your blog that way
  • I’ve already got a dozen links that share your viewpoint and decided that was sufficient
  • I wanna blog about Jesus, the Bible, the Church, faith; not the latest gadgets from Apple, alternative operating systems and social networking sites
  • there’s a reason why newspapers have photo editors, I tried text-only blogging and its boring, plus you discover new ideas when searching for pix
  • I’m not sure that the Bible itself should ever be the object of a joke
  • if you don’t mind my saying, I think you’re really full of yourself
  • I’m not sure my average reader would get your distinction between the church’s need to embrace homosexuals versus the idea of personally embracing or endorsing the lifestyle
  • is it really about the blog, or are you just trying to sell more copies of your books?
  • I enjoy reading what you write to other pastors, but I’m not sure that the average reader of this blog would relate to it
  • I think your cynicism and skepticism is potentially contagious and thereby potentially dangerous
  • the thirty-five YouTube embeds currently on your first page mean that the page takes forever to load, even with high speed
  • here’s a thought, if you didn’t “get” what The Shack was all about and who it was written for, perhaps the problem is you not them  (comments re. this entry will not be posted)
  • we didn’t want to offend our Baptist readers
  • for all the depth of your deep theological explorations, I’m not sure that any of it really matters to anyone besides yourself
  • last time I checked, the Christian world extended beyond the United States’ borders
  • many of the bloggers I link to are people I would really, really like to meet
  • a house is known by the company it keeps

I currently read about 140 blogs per week, there’s about half that many listed here.   The ones that are listed are ones I endorse, and many of them are deleted if they wander from what they were when I started, and of those, about half find their way back later on.

Reaching Out To The Wealthy by David Hayward at the Blog Naked Pastor

wealth

For My Ontario (Canada) Readers

This year, for the first time in Ontario history, some students will be going back to school the week prior to Labour Day.   (Yes, that’s Labour with a “u,” in Canada!)   The decisions by each school board are just being announced now, and not every board is making the change.   Needless to say, this is throwing the tourism industry in general into a bit of a tailspin, but it also greatly impacts Christian camps, many of whom had their materials printed and suppliers under contract since last summer.   Christian camping is a ministry sector important to me, and my wife and I met at a Christian camp.    This is a surprise they simply didn’t need.   To read more about this, with a response from three Christian camps affected, you can link to a separate article here.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.