Archive for the 'church' Category

Published by Brian Slezak on 15 Nov 2010

Wisdom from A Church Tech – Financial Stewardship

Over the years in my position at Church of the Resurrection I have come across some interesting facts that I felt were worth sharing. I wanted to start with a piece of wisdom from the FPU program (highly recommended) combined with the patterns of giving I’ve witnessed from my chair at Resurrection. Dave Ramsey [of FPU] says if you wish to be wealthy then adopt the habits of wealthy people or “do what rich people do.” Starting from that philosophy and applying that to the extremely consistent pattern of donors at Resurrection I can say, “when determining your tithe or regular offering to the church, estimate your pledge conservatively and give generously.”

Year over year those giving the most per household overpay their pledge by a surprising amount. Most likely this is because these families conservatively estimate their pledging and manage their funds very closely. Also a factor is the uncertainty in variable annual salaries, yet people pledge conservatively not liberally. I can say in my everyday personal finances I estimate conservatively and am always surprised by how much is left over, almost as though it were above what was possible. Luke 12:42-44

Year over year those giving the least to the church underpay their pledge. Lack of money management is a prime suspect but also likely are those that do not have a spirit of giving and thus no drive to reach their target.

Although not surprising to me, I am fascinated how clearly the scriptures explain these patterns.

For those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Matthew 25:29

Those that steward their resources wisely will find they always have more than they need, and those that do not will seem to have less than they need.

Published by Brian Slezak on 07 Oct 2009

RefreshCache Reflections

This week I had the honor to attend RefreshCache, the first annual Arena developers meeting. It inspired me to post on my blog after a long, long hiatus.

Inspired
Having the opportunity to interact with some of the most talented and God loving software developers and thinkers is beyond words. The event was inspiring in of itself, but there were some great highlights.

I was inspired by the hospitality of Nick Airdo and his family, and Nick’s leadership. Nick talked me into staying at his place rather than holing up in a nearby hotel, and I was blessed by that. Nick’s leadership within the Arena community impacts people deeper than he realizes, and we are all thankful for the spirit and energy he brings.

I was inspired by Jon Edmiston and the vision he brings to community software development. His gifts as a visionary are a blessing to this band of developers, and I wait in anticipation for the fruits the upcoming projects will produce.

I was inspired by each individual that attended, and by the sheer fact that God has stationed every one of us in this particular community, and with individual skills that combine to create something greater than each of us.

Learned
It was impossible not to take away a great deal more knowledge than one came with. One can not replace the power of physical presence and person-to-person interaction and learning. The off-the-cuff topics that spiral into deep learning opportunies are highly valuable. I enjoyed the ability to commiserate with my peers about common frustrations, as well as celebrate in successes. This was invaluable.

Thankful
I am thankful for the blessing and direction God has provided in my life, for how He has brought me across a path to this place, gifting me uniquely in the circles I now find myself.

I am thankful for the Arena developer community.

Published by Brian Slezak on 15 May 2009

Let the church Die

See this post by Tony Steward, and the accompanying TED video. That has essentially been my argument for building services that fit a younger demographic better. Churches are horrible at this though because:

  • They are staffed and driven by people that can only reach their own demographic really well
  • New services means more time commitments, more staff causing more expenses, or stretching thin of existing staff
  • Sometimes new ‘hip’ services are seen as threats which must be contained or jettisoned
  • Leaders are overly concerned with breaking from traditions that seem to ‘weaken’ or ‘water down’ the spirituality of the service in their eyes

In Howard’s terms, they are building plutonic services. “This is the best way this church can do worship services.” 🙂 That could be completely true. Then again, the church as a whole in the US dies massive deaths every day. If your church is declining, hey – thanks for doing your part.

Thankfully, the body of Christ is compromised of lots of church flavors and the new flavors are more and more readily available. I wish more young Christians had a calling to ministry. I am begining to settle into the belief that energy is better spent lifting up new young pastors, or new effective pastors of any age, than trying to turn around a declining church.

Published by Brian Slezak on 20 Aug 2008

Do Not Advertise Like This

A couple weekends ago we were driving home after a late dinner with friends, and we drove by a church which had a tell tale, hand-written sign on the edge of the church property, facing the street. (I wish I had a picture, but I was driving at the time.) The sign was a white backboard with large, black, hand written text that read, “Thinking about becoming Catholic? 816-123-4567”

<sigh> I instantly knew this was wrong in many ways, but after actually putting some thought behind it, here is why:

There is NO Audience for this Sign
C’mon. Seriously, who walks around with the thought, “I’d actually like to be <insert denomination here>. I wonder how I can do that?” No one does. This sign better targets squirrels, because squirrels like to sit on signs. Squirrels can’t even read.

The End is Near
More likely, this sign is a visible cry for help. Please be a part of our church, or we’ll die! Help!

You Will Talk to Us
Rather than provide a site url, allowing someone to experience the church before attempting anything in-person, they provided a number. That means even if I was interested, I’m gonna have to talk to someone and say, “Yeah I saw this sign with this number … so I called it.” Hmm.

That’s Some High Quality
A hand written sign plopped in the front yard? Oh no – you didn’t?! Printing out banners on 8×10 sheets of paper, splicing them together, and and covering the whole thing with clear tape – would be a step up from this. Think about that. How serious is this church about welcoming someone, if they either A. will not pay for a printed sign, B. don’t have the motivation to go through that trouble, or C. do not have the money. If C – then close the doors.

Please, please, if you are someone in a church that has this or other similar sign – take it down! Please don’t advertise like this. Squirrels appreciate it, but you are making rational people laugh, cry, or both.

Published by Brian Slezak on 02 Aug 2008

When I Use Electronic Payment

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I’d explain when I use electronic payment options over paper options. This is in answer Laura’s comment, because my comment got too long. 🙂

My wife and I regularly attend Living Water Christian Church, where Laura Guy, wife to my boss Clif Guy. We also give regularly, by check, even after the option became available to use PayPal. Honestly, I had told Clif that we’d be one of the first people to sign up for electronic transactions at Living Water. We haven’t yet, because of the reason Laura mentions in her previous comment.

My lifestyle, since I can remember having to pay bills, is to use electronic transfers. I haven’t paid a utility bill by check since about 1998, excluding the one or two months between moving and signing up for electronic transfer once again. The main reason is that I’m horrible at remembering to pay bills! Send me the statement or invoice, and I’ll make sure it is free from mistakes before you hit my account with an EFT, but don’t expect me to remember to send you a check at the right time. I want to pay it on time every time, and I feel horrible when I’m late to pay, but I’ll miss it many times per year.

The other part of my lifestyle, strangely enough, is that I’ll always pick the cheaper option. I refuse to pay $5-15 to electronically submit my income tax, when I can print everything out and mail it in for cost of First Class mail, currently 42-59 cents. (As a side rant, leave it to government to make what should be the less expensive option for them, more expensive for us! How about no? Process my paper!) I have a printer; I have envelopes, and when I go to the post office they sell me postage. 😮 I only use electronic submission when it’s roughly equivalent to the cheapest option, because only then does convenience begin edging out price.

So after I got the e-mail from Laura stating that PayPal was available, I thought, “Excellent. Lets do that.” Then it hit me. I paused. The reality that it was my money that was about to be trimmed, three to four percent plus a transaction fee going to PayPal, rather than all of it to the church; I suddenly didn’t want to do it. I had always known that fee was there, but when it was my money I thought about it a great deal more. We’re there every weekend we can be, and we have checkbooks, and when we fill out a check and put it in the basket, it fulfills our contribution.

Just this week, I was surprised to learn that Resurrection is stopping remote deposit because after using it for some time they’ve found that sum of labor, time, and frustration of remote deposit is greater than the ease of letting the paper check do its thing. This is mostly due to the inefficiencies and duplicated efforts of the process we are currently locked into, but it examples how electronic solutions are not inherently easier and cheaper.

Now I will openly admit that this is where Laura may trump my position on this. 🙂 If the cost of business though PayPal is less than the overhead it takes to manually process our check every month – my bad, I’ll sign up today.

Published by Brian Slezak on 16 Jul 2008

Back From Mission

Well, I’ve been back from my mission trip for four days now, and I haven’t had a moment to post about it yet. I last posted that I would live blog if I could, and I failed! There was cellular service, and I picked up the wrong cable before I left! I left behind all of the connectivity tools I needed to get online! I was so mad …. Anyway, I hope to write up my posts about the experience this week. I have something else to say first though, in my next post.

Published by Brian Slezak on 04 Jul 2008

New Mexico Bound

Well, tomorrow morning I head to New Mexico, specifically Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle, for a week of mission. I hope to update my blog while I am there, but I have no idea if I’ll have Sprint service. We don’t know exactly what we’ll be doing there, other than serving the Native American community in any way we can. We are the last mission group destined there for the summer, and will probably batting clean up.

I’ve been looking forward to going on another mission trip, and I feel it is about time once again. I’ll be travelling there in connection with Living Water Christian Church, led by the senior Pastor Laura Guy, my bosses wife.

With luck, I’ll be able to quazi-live-blog the event, but I may have to do everything offline and post when I get back.

Published by Brian Slezak on 12 Jun 2008

Living the Gospel

For some time now, my wife and I have been attending Living Water Christian Church, in Parkville, MO. (About a 40 min. drive for us. Ouch!) This week’s e-mail from pastor Laura held my attention pretty well. In it, she relayed a conversation with her son:

My son Rob had a conversation with me recently, in which he was bemoaning the state of “organized religion.” He said, “People in churches can’t be real, they have to pretend to be someone they’re not.” I stopped him before he could go any further and said, “Living Water may not be a perfect church, but we have lots of people who have been honest about who they are and what they struggle with. We have made it clear that we accept and welcome everyone because all of us have baggage.”

That spurred this post, which is somewhat my own response to the Robs of this world. I wholly agree with Laura about Living Water, though I know where Rob is coming from, even though my “old guy” years give me a different perspective. For what I would guess is the majority, there is the life we live outside of church, imperfect, flawed, sinful, and via the human condition we simply accept this, and just drudge forward. Rarely we change our ways, or even acknowledge our failures. Then there is the life we live at church, where we are baptized in Christ, eat the bread and drink the juice, act as a better Christian for an hour or two, and try to befriend people we don’t know and build a community.

So what’s with the double-agent lifestyle? Where is the accountability? Why can’t we be like Rob and others envision, where if we say we buy into it … we actually BUY into it? To err is human.

This made me recall a conversation I had with Chuck Russell regarding accountability groups. Essentially these are small groups where individuals hold each other accountable to a very high degree for living a good Christian life. Why are these groups not wildly popular in every church? I think it is because people don’t want that. It’s to effective! “I seriously have to give up my sinful ways behind closed doors and live *that* life? For the love of God that sounds boring!” 🙁

For the love of God, we turn away, and are loved regardless by His grace.

Our flaw may be small, only a seed, or it may be a full grown tree with deeply set roots. Christianity is a walk – not a switch that is turned on and off. We accept Christ as our savior, strive to overcome our weaknesses, but we do not change overnight.

How does today’s church affect our lives in practicality? It may start with that person in the mirror.

Published by Brian Slezak on 27 Apr 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour – Day 2

In my previous post, I described my experience and opinions on day one of the Everything Must Change Tour that took place on Friday evening. Saturday morning, the conference began again at 7:29 am. I have to say that is really early to get postmoderns out of bed, but plenty were awake enough for good conversation. The morning started with break-outs, and we attended McLaren’s session on church plants. It was essentially just a gathering of people involved in church plants, young churches, or those trying to do something new in established churches. We sat in a circle of chairs and people commiserated about the difficulty of those tasks.

My wife and I connected with trying to do something new in established churches. Most people talked about how the old guard would work against them, and in some extreme cases just kick them out of the church. McLaren led the discussion and would interject his experience where appropriate. The conversation followed natural peaks and ebbs, and everyone seemed comfortable to participate. My wife and I agreed later that this was by far the best part of the event.

We talked about what “church” meant and how that differed from traditional ideas and the difficulty in reaching the unchurched. Brian used a phrase that stuck in my mind, “Leadership By Anxiety,” to describe using the natural energy around an idea to push through making a change. It reminded me of Adam Hamiton’s “Decision by Nausea” concept, which he uses to discern which of many paths he should to choose. The path that God leads you down is often the most challenging, and frightening.

Over all it was good, but here is my constructive criticism: The buzzword “narrative” was used quite a bit through the discussion. I don’t understand why we as people take simple things and make them complex in order to feel more enlightened. Other than that minor criticism, the only unsettling thing about the discussion was a strange quietness about what to call what they were doing. People used phrases like, “where we are”, “what we are doing here,” “how we were led to this.” To be honest, it made me feel like I didn’t really know what was going on, like I was sitting in some sort of cult-ish or secretive meeting. Kind of weird.

Other than the morning discussion we had a morning of worship. The songs were chanted, and very meditative. So much so we almost fell asleep. After we finished, we had to leave early to attend our nieces birthday party.

Overall, still just ok. Swag was good. :-/

Published by Brian Slezak on 25 Apr 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour – Day 1

This evening I attended the Everything Must Change Tour, presented (I supposed), by Deep Shift. I live-tweeted the event, if that’s what you call it, which was my first attempt at using Twitter. It was very one-directional, as I did it through my cell phone and didn’t have device updates on. New guy – my bad.

I registered for the event late last year after hearing of it somehow. My wife and I had heard Brian McLaren speak at one other occasion, knew he was associated with this, so we signed up. It wasn’t cheap – $75+ per person at early bird price, but if you got in on the early bird deal you got a copy of Everything Must Change, one of McLaren’s books. Oh, and it ended up you got a compact fluorescent after showing up. “Yeah. Check out my totally enviro-friendly bling, yo. 1200 lumens for only 20 watts dawg.” So you got swag for $75. Not all bad.

I had a creepy feeling about the event from the time I registered though because of some of the language surround the event. To be perfectly blunt, it felt very bleeding-heart, tree-hugger, all we need is love … ish. Oh well, at the very least it’ll be a good experience for my wife and I. This feeling was intensified after getting to our seats and thumbing through the handouts. Let me extend this feeling to you by way of quoting some of the material:

…. Therefore we will practice ‘listening one another into free speech,’ ‘building bridges of empathy,’ ‘creating safe spaces,’ and other strategies of revolutionary communication.

When I see or hear ___ I feel ___, because my need for ___ is/is not being met. Would you be willing to ___.

When you said ___, I felt ___. Can you understand why I would feel that way?

A short commentary: Umm – Wow. 1. Revolutionary? Really? Seriously? 2. I’m building my bridge of empathy to solitude, and I don’t care where your bridge goes. 3. If I “felt” that much all the time, I’d be in therapy, or I’d be a woman. (I do not mean any offense to women, I am just a guy that’s all. But if that made you feel ___ because it was ___, I would suggest ___. No ___ intended.)

During one of the discussion times, I met Al. Al asked me what I thought of this so far. (Thus far we had experienced good music, a Sierra Club video, and some speaking by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw.) I admitted I had little expectation, not doing any research about it beforehand, but felt “like it was a bunch of liberal stuff.” Al gave me a concerned look, a nod, and agreed.

Brian McLaren spoke. He’s a good presenter, and a good speaker, so you can’t go too wrong. One thing I like about Brian is that he loves circles. Two dimensional circles. The man can explain anything he needs using circles, usually three or four … and maybe a box. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but that was ok because I wasn’t supposed to. He told us that before he started, and I happened to agree with him about that, and some other things too.

We broke into another discussion time to talk about our thoughts and feelings, and Al turns around to me and states, “Yeah, I’m afraid you were right. He is off base, and just wrong about ….” Unfortunately, Al and I were on the same page. This wasn’t the McLaren we knew, and to my initial concern; McLaren was veering hard left toward the target audience.

Overall, the evening was OK. The music was great, McLaren wasn’t at his best, and the evening was much like a sub-standard worship service. If I didn’t get books and swag, I would have been very disappointed. My wife tolerated it. That is to say she didn’t go postal on me, but sternly said I owe her something in return that is better than ice cream. She and I agreed that the time progressed much like a mainline worship service. Singing, greeting, prayer, shake some hands, singing, listen to preaching, prayer, singing, benediction. There was more discussion thrown in than usual. Oh – we did miss communion, but it wasn’t the first weekend of the month. 😉

It may sound like I’m vehemently against the left, but I am really not. I have some liberal views that get me chastised, and I’m fine with that. I just take the extreme left less seriously. You kind of have to, because when they state in the materials that Brian will intentionally avoiding using male pronouns when referring to God because the bible reflects God in feminine images as well as masculine; you have to call that out. At what point were all those “He” references misleading? Did I miss it when Jesus pulled out, “whoops, I meant Mother, not Father. My bad.”

Regardless, we’re attending tomorrow’s morning session as well, and Pania (that’s my wife) is even going with me when I expected her to bail. If tomorrow is blog-worthy, I’ll post about my experience.

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