Thinking Out Loud

August 13, 2011

Trend Toward Part-Time Church Staff Raises Other Issues

With declining attendance figures, and a tight economy, many mid-sized and smaller churches are moving toward models involving part-time or bi-vocational staff.  But what does this trend mean in terms of the training that church staff committees look for in a candidate?  Normally, in any profession, one sees a full-time position as the payoff for a four year investment in college or university courses.  While one could argue that theological study is its own reward, certainly in economic terms, it doesn’t make sense to invest those years if the resultant job is only 20-30 hours per week.  And while Christian institutions of higher learning are increasingly offering specialized courses in urban ministry, student ministry, or worship ministry; these positions are most vulnerable to reduced hours or even elimination when money isn’t there.

If post-secondary education for ministry development is peaking, what happens to an entire Christian magazine industry that has budgeted vast amounts of income from advertising to Christian colleges, universities and seminaries?  I know that may seem cynical, but those adverts in those glossy periodicals are indicative of the vast amounts that have been historically spent on recruiting students.   Most Christian colleges have been in a growth mode for several decades as prosperity has allowed more people to pursue education beyond high school.  But if the economy slows and churches are cutting back available job hours, it means these institutions could see themselves facing years of decline.

Do you know anyone in ministry who has recently had their hours cut? Or lost their job completely due to the economy and/or church attendance issues?   Continue the discussion by looking at a Canadian study at ChristianWeek.org.

 

Photos: Cross Island Chapel in Oneida, New York has turned up on this blog before, but the one in Drumheller, Alberta was new to us!

 

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March 31, 2010

“Out Like a Lamb” Link Day

Except that I don’t think March rolled “in like a lion;” at least it didn’t here.   And why does this phrase borrow the Biblical “lamb and lion” imagery anyway?

There’s something unsettling in the contrast of having April Fool’s Day directly adjacent to Good Friday.   Perhaps with that in mind, I thought we’d lead off with this picture:

She looks real, doesn’t she.   This “cybernetic human” can act surprised, or angry, or any other emotion you want to program her to express.   Unveiled in Japan on March 16th, you can see more robotics at Boston.com’s Big Picture site.

And then there’s this picture, source unknown, of the “Love Chapter” from I Corinthians expressed as a tattoo:

Not sure which translation this is, but then again, that raises the question:  Are there King James Only tattoo parlors?   If not, someone’s overlooking a major market.

Which brings us to this T-shirt:

But I’m getting distracted; we really should move on to the links:

  • John Piper’s unexpected seven-month leave of absence — starting May 1st — was probably the story of the week in the Christian blogosphere.   How will the multitude of his followers get by without their weekly dose of J.P.’s encyclicals?    Read the official announcement at Desiring God.
  • Speaking of the Pipester, here’s his rant on the whole Emergent church movement, which he figures is due to implode in about six seconds from now, with some additional commentary at Tall Skinny Kiwi.
  • Theological finger-pointing at the Emergents continued over at Harvest Bible Chapel in NW Chicago on a recent Friday night Q&A session with a Moody Professor speaking for the anti-Emergent side while to balance things out they had… nobody.   JR looks at this rather one-sided presentation in this report.
  • Blogger Michael Krahn becomes a guest columnist at Canada’s Christian Week website; suggesting that all that technology has convinced us that we can’t sing.   I wish this article was a bit longer, because there are implications for church worship that might have been considered in a longer piece.    Check it out.
  • And speaking of things from my home and native land, I want to totally show off Canada’s national Christian magazine, FaithToday.   They’ve just started doing digital issues and if your internet connection is up for it, here’s a look at the March/April edition.
  • One of my favorite authors, British humorist Adrian Plass joins with Jeff Lucas — who pastors on both sides of the Atlantic — are joining together for a new book, Seriously Funny. “Made up a letters between the two, ‘Seriously funny’ is an honest look at life, love, book-signings, Christian ‘celebrity’, church…”   Check out the announcement at Christian Today.
  • Here’s a follow-up to yesterday’s piece here on foot washing.   Only this one, from last year, was a drive thru foot washing.    Seriously.
  • With all the interest in the Twilight books and movies, the Christian Post decided it was good time to interview former vampire-genre writer Anne Rice.   Actually, they were promoting the I Am Second testimony website.
  • Mark Sayers — whose DVD The Trouble With Paris was reviewed here — is up something big with this mystery project, Bordertown. You’ll have to sign up for the e-mail announcement.
  • I usually lose patience waiting for their web server to keep up to speed, but for what it’s worth, GodTube is back.   Apparently, like New Coke, the brand switch to Tangle didn’t take.  John Scaddington reports.
  • Described as “a little free-will humor;” the image below is from the blog Mockingbird.

  • Our cartoon this week is from For Heaven’s Sake; reproduced here not because it’s anything you haven’t seen before, but so that you can copy and paste it to that person in your e-mail list who needs a not-so-subtle prod.   Be tactful.   Okay, maybe there’s no way to be tactful and send this out at the same time…

  • Finally, the I Can Has Cheezburger (aka Lolcats) people have a new site, My Food Looks Funny. Maybe if the western world only ate as much as the person did who carved this, there would be enough food for everybody!



February 11, 2010

Autonomy of Christian Organizations In Canada Under Threat

With the Christian Horizons case already on the minds of Evangelicals in Canada, the right of Christian organizations to establish hiring practices which aim to hire Christian staff has shifted to another arena:  Christian colleges and universities.

The Horizons case came about after an employee felt she was wrongfully dismissed for contravening that organization’s lifestyle clause.    But investigations into Trinity Western University (TWU) and Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) have no specific complainant.   Rather, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) feels that hiring committed believers to university teaching positions violates academic freedom.  (None of the TWU faculty are members of CAUT.)

Christian Week, Canada’s national Christian newspaper reports:

[CAUT] placed TWU on a list of institutions “found to have imposed a requirement of a commitment to a particular ideology or statement as a condition of employment.”

CAUT is also investigating the statement of faith policies of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg and Crandall University (formerly Atlantic Baptist University) in Moncton.

“In our view,” says CAUT executive director James Turk, “the role of a university is not to make disciples, whether of a religious viewpoint or an ideological viewpoint. They’re to create the context in which people can make their own decisions.”

Turk adds, “If a fundamentalist Christian were barred from working at a university because of their religious beliefs, we’d be every bit as outraged.”

[TWU President Jonathan] Raymond calls the move a “red herring.” He says the sole purpose of TWU’s statement of faith is to uphold the founding charter granted by the province in 1972 that allows the school to function as a Christian university. Hiring teachers who self-identify as Christians does not mean that their scholarly pursuits must all conform to biblical principles.

“We don’t insist on the engagement of Christian faith,” Raymond says, “but we anticipate a high probability that the choice of research topics, how one puts their syllabus together, the interpretation of theories, will be informed by a person’s faith just as a matter of course.”

[…read the entire story here…]

As with the Christian Horizons case, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, this country’s equivalent to the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals, is certain to weigh in on the matter.

The difference however is that some of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal case against Christian Horizons concerned the matter of who was being served; that is, that the clients of Christian Horizons represented a cross-section of the public at large.   That case can’t be made here, as both undergraduate and graduate students clearly make their academic choices most carefully and in full regard for the Christian institutions’  Christian heritage and practices.

However, in both cases, the larger issue is the right of organizations which don’t hide their Christian history and association to hire like minded staff, and to deliver a faith-based service using faith-based employees.   Committing to a lifestyle agreement or signing a statement of faith is one step toward having a staff that are all on the same page when it comes to motivation and spiritual ethics.

The EFC media release on the Christian Horizons is quite clear:

“This decision was shocking,” states Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel for the EFC. “It’s inconsistent with long-standing Supreme Court jurisprudence that clearly sets out that people of faith can choose to gather for ministry works and service – this has been confirmed as an extension of their right to freedom of religion.”

Without over-reacting, the bottom line is that it’s not academic freedom that’s currently under threat, but clearly it’s the freedom of Christians and in particular Evangelical Christians in Canada.

Where will the next battle be staging?

November 4, 2009

Hump Day Link List

I’m assuming most people have heard Wednesday referred to as ‘hump day;’ otherwise it probably sounds a bit rude.   The terms is rather widely used in Canada and the U.S.   …Here’s where my computer took me recently:

  • A Christian musician in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada is facing a first-degree murder charge for a crime that occured 16 years ago, according to this article at ChristianWeek.org.
  • Randy Morgan can’t help notice that among some pastors he knows personally whose churches have hit the 1,000+ mark in attendance, their messages have somewhat of a recurring theme.
  • This link is old — about six months old — but with all the talk about Rob Bell’s orthodoxy these days, this March video post at Viddler has Rob taking eleven minutes to spell out his version of the Christian gospel.
  • I’m not sure when and how I stumbled on the blog, Upwrite, but I like DP’s raw honesty.   A few weeks ago she kept seeing a guy around town who radiated a great sense of joy and peace, but he was not a Christian.   Not even close, as she describes.
  • I gotta be honest; I rather skimmed this one because of the heaviness, intensity and pain of the subject.   Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman discusses the recording of his new album, Beauty Will Rise, in the wake of the death of his daughter Maria; in a 4-page interview with Mark Moring at Christianity Today.
  • Hump DayHere’s a link to a website that directly addresses the issue of young people leaving the church, leaving their faith, or both.   CrossExamined  is a ministry headed by Frank Turek at crossexamined.org .
  • Jered Wilson at the blog First Things considers the idea that criticism of ChristianChirp — the Christian alternative of Twitter, as in, ‘Why tweet when you can chirp?’ — is just too easy.   He’s got a fresh perspective here, though I wish this post was twice as long.
  • I don’t agree with the header that John Saddington gave this video link, but this is the funniest 3 minutes and 42 seconds I’ve seen this week.  If you’re not Pentecostal or Charismatic, and find yourself in such a church unsure of what to do next, check out what was originally titled, How To Worship.
  • So last week the very edgy blog, Stuff Christians Like didn’t print one of my comments presumably because it was too edgy.   Actually it was just a play on words, but now that JA is a Zondervan author, I guess he can’t be too careful.   Still, I like this post about pastors who forget to tell the congregation that, “You may be seated.”
  • Speaking of rejection, Gospel Light became the first publisher this year to refuse a book review request.   If you missed it, Shane Claiborne has had a new book out for several weeks now, coauthored with the very like-minded John Perkins.   It deals with how to be both a good leader and a good follower and it takes a fresh approach to dual authorship.   But since I don’t actually have a copy, you can enjoy this review of the book, Follow Me To Freedom at the new blog, For Readers By Readers.   You might also enjoy this video clip about the book.

…Okay, let me spell it out.   Wednesday is halfway through the week, so once you reach noon, you’re said to be ‘over the hump.’   C’mon guys, it’s no fun if I have to explain it…

What amazes me though is that we’ve got so many new links since we did this last just a few days ago.   And there’s other links that didn’t make today’s final cut.  So where did your computer take you this week?

Portions of today’s blog were prerecorded.  Your mileage may vary.  No animals were hurt or injured in the preparation of this post.   Professional stunt driver; do not try this at home.

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