Real Good Church: Real Good Book
I love anything that warms my heart. Like the season finale on Downton Abbey when love conquers all and even old(er) people are allowed to fall in love and (almost) have illicit flings. Go Carson! Go Mrs. (Who Has Never Been Given a First Name) Hughes! Go Violet Crawley! And Anna and Bates too! A thoroughly satisfying end to the season. I shall be living on the blissful memories for nine months ‘til it all starts again.
Real Good Church by Rev. Molly Phinney Baskette (2014) warmed my heart as well. No, it’s not a romance novel, though it could be a good title for one, but it’s a kind of love letter to the world about how Baskette’s church “came back from the dead, and [how] yours can, too.” Yes, add this to your long list of church renewal books…but this one is fun to read.
Baskette is from a liberal mainline denomination – United Church of Christ (UCC) to be precise. When she arrived at her Somerville, MA church in 2003, they “averaged 35 people in worship and had about $200,000 in the bank…[By 2014 their] giving has more than quintupled, and we went from six children in Sunday School to close to 100.” So breathe a sigh of relief, Baskette is not writing about becoming a mega-church. She is however, encouraging small congregations to take stock, build on strengths, make changes, and do business differently.
One of those areas is in finance and stewardship. When Baskette arrived, she made a change by talking about money. She and others in the congregation shared what they gave (as in how much) and why, they handed out a narrative budget, and segmented their stewardship mailings to go to “reliable old givers,” “people under 50, who already pledge reliably” but probably could give more, and “possible new pledgers.” (There are helpful examples of all three kinds of letters included.)
In addition, Baskette’s church has “stewardship confidants,” a small group of spiritually mature members who are willing to meet and pray with people as they discern what they should be pledging. Around the topic of whether or not the pastor should know the pledge amount of individuals, the question on their pledge card reads: “Please do not share with my pastors my pledge amount.” Baskette reports that, surprisingly, very few opt out. Those who do almost always are the old-timers who remember how things “have always been done.” Finally, Baskette takes time to preach about money – and she includes a couple of her sermons on the topic. (I must make mention that you can also read a couple of her sermons on sex as well…see, this could be a romance novel.)
Baskette’s breezy, easy style of writing makes this a quick read – but that doesn't mean it’s lite or inconsequential. This is one book from which you’ll be antsy to put many of the suggestions into practice. Real Good Church will make a real good contribution to your library.
First Time Visitor Follow-Up: In response to last week’s blog post, Rev. Jim Frisbie mentioned something he says during the announcements to first time visitors: "When the offering is taken, please feel no obligation to contribute. You are our honored guests. But we do encourage you to take one of the information cards, put down what you want us to know, and put that in the offering. We are glad you are here."
As he writes, “That says two things:
- to first time visitors it gives them a bye on the offering
- to members it says, when we do take up the offering it is not an embarrassing moment if they have brought a guest!”
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profits. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. She is sure the Dowager Countess of Grantham will find love in Season 6. Cesie's position with the Conference is generously funded through a grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.