There's a phenomenon when working in health care, social services and the like called "compassion fatigue." You basically get your empathy circuits burned out.
I am starting to get "This NEXT law/act/action/inaction of the government is going to end life as we know it" fatigue. My give-a-shit circuits are burned out.
The oil pipeline.
Kicking out all those dirty Occupiers and their garbage ("It's about garbage!")
Government funding extensions.
The list goes on and on. It's not that each and every one of those isn't important. It's that they're all important, and they're all happening all the time, at the same time.
And that's they're strategy. Because they know, they know, that they can just keep pushing stuff and some of it will get through. And over time the filth accumulates until it is uncleansable. Remember, folks - this is their full-time job, and they're good at it. There are entire industries aimed at doing to us just exactly what is being done to us - lobbyists and lawyers and legislators who make a life's work out of being good at all of this. Where a day of obfuscation, spin and power grabs is considered to be a good day at work.
It will never stop. Never. Give up the illusion of control, or even influence. You have none, except an angry "Fuck you!" vote every four years, and that's only getting to vote between Coke and Pepsi. Write, call, email, petition, complain to your congressperson all you want. They're in a waiting game, and they'll just shift course slightly, pretend to be bending to "the will of the people" and then start it up again a week or month later in another format, with another name, buried in another bill about something else.
As part of my annual file cleaning and reorganizing process I found (and deleted) letters I had written to this legislator or that over the past 18 years. And you know what? Every single thing I wrote against came true - not necessarily then, but sooner or later, it was passed anyway. It was as if I, and you, didn't even exist. Because we don't.
I can't begin to even come close to getting across how influential reading Tolstoy was to me this year. And one of the things he pounds home is that at some point, if you are participating in government, even by being the "loyal opposition," you are legitimizing it and all of its actions. All of them. Because there are some actions that shouldn't be accepted no matter what the majority thinks, or thinks they think, or wants, or thinks they want. And yet democracy is predicated that we all go along once the decision is made, because otherwise we're those sore losers, like the South when it seceded after Lincoln's election. And we've all been conditioned to believe that with that object lesson in our history, then the only other answer is to go along, no matter what.
Oh, sure, we get to "protest" - until they decide the park looks better without those tents. And we get to "vote" - once in a while. But in the end, it just doesn't matter. Because your job is to support yourself and your family, and that consumes a hell of a lot of time and energy. And their job is to screw you. You can only devote a few hours a week or month to letter writing and marching. They can devote their entire lives to screwing you. And they do. And we let them.
It's an election year, so I will be going on another news sabbatical (actually, I have already been on it). Like the one CEO who said he didn't read the news because he could count on the waiter telling him if something really big happened ("Didja hear? The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor!"), I'll just count on friends to tell me if something important happens. Note that I am now of the mindset, however, that SOPA and NDAA and the pipeline and government shutdowns and the election aren't "important." I mean, they are, but anything I think about them won't matter. They're important in a, "Gee, is it just me, or is that glacier closer to the village this year than last?" sort of important. Implacable. Irresistible. Need to know when to pull up stakes and move the village important. But not day-to-day or life-on-this-planet important.
So, if an asteroid is going to hit the planet in the next 48 hours, I'd like to know. If the Chinese bomb Pearl Harbor I'd like to know. Otherwise, let's talk about important things. Love. Life. Family. Friends. Because that's all we have in the end. And that's all we have with each other.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Since Pastor Dan is my blogging hero, I thought I would emulate him and write down some of my notes and thoughts about the MSR "Stewardship Strategies" class I was in the past two days. Like the evangelism course I took in November I was sort of dreading the class but it turned out to be excellent, and a lot of fun since many of my MSR friends were there. And the instructor, Ed Taylor (no, not this Ed Taylor...no, not that one, either...ah, here he is, if you scroll down a bit) has an obvious and infectious passion about the topic. The only thing that distracted me is that he sounds like Alec Baldwin - but I mean that in a good way! :)
The following list is obviously not complete nor in any sort of order, but are bullet points I wrote on the slide handouts so I wouldn't forget them.
- One overarching theme was not to use line-item budgets to communicate to members - instead, have ministry and mission stories and what those each will cost at a high level. Have a detailed budget available for reference (for those who care), but keep the main conversation on what we're trying to accomplish, not how much the electric bill will be next year.
- Many pastors won't talk about money because they think it's about their salary, or afraid that it will sound that way.
- Stewardship is about relations:
- with God
- with each other
- with "stuff"
- The goal is not to increase stewardship but to create stewards.
- What is the congregation's "story?" Is it a good story? Is it worth listening to? Participating in?
- We should talk about our objectives, not the budget. What are we trying to do? How will money help?
- Talk about stewardship as a faith issue, including our own struggles with our faith and growing our faith.
- Stewardship = my need to give to imitate God's generosity
- Fundraising = an organization's need for money.
- We need to talk about it directly. We need to let people know what is expected. For example, one church set expectations such as:
- 1-3 years attendance - giving 1-3%, attending 1+ Sunday per month, participation in Bible study, choir, or another program.
- 4-7 years attendance - giving 7%, attending 2+ Sundays per month, serving on a committee in a mission or area for which you have a passion.
- 8+ years attendance - giving 10%, attending every Sunday, leading something for which you feel passionate.
- "Tithing is too much of a burden for the poor and not enough for the rich." (I missed the attribution for this quote)
- In our culture at large our primary identity and purpose is "consumer." But it should be "steward." Our consuming habits should be shaped by being a steward; our stewardship should not be shaped by being a consumer.
- The offering is not an administrative task in the middle of service, it is allowing people to sacrifice and make themselves holy.
- "The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is community." - Paolo Friere
- Use a different name than "stewardship," since stewardship means different money (only) to many people, and means nothing to the unchurched/new members.
- One congregation printed up cards that allowed members to write what they had already sent via direct deposit or check to have something to drop in the plate on Sundays, so people didn't have to feel embarrassed by not putting anything in the plate. Another idea was to write hours of service on a piece of paper and put that in the offering - allow people with less means to still give of their time and talents. One church then publishes those hours given along with the amount of money given.
- What message does not putting anything in the plate (because we've given by other means) send to visitors? Other members? Children? What message does not taking the plate to the altar send?
- Is an endowment a silo (storage) or a vineyard (ongoing production)?
- The "language of scarcity" is used in too many churches. Need to change to a language of thanksgiving.
- Don't use apologetic language during offering or discussion of stewardship.
- "I have good news! It's time to receive the offering!" - Ed Taylor
- Can't use one type/form/language to reach all members. Ed's congregation sends out seven (7) different types of letters, depending on the member - young adult, young married couple with kids, etc.
- "If your church burned down, what would the community rush to replace, if anything?"
- Put financial reports last in stewardship committee agendas, otherwise they will eat up the whole meeting.
In the world of fund-raising, a maxim is "The easiest way to raise money is to ask people for it. All other ways are more difficult."