18 Nov

Doubling Up at Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts is a veritable treasure trove for a “list” blogger. We’ve already covered the people getting milkshakes and pretending they’re coffees and we’ve probably already covered the idea of eating donuts(if we haven’t, we should.)

Anyway, I go to the Dunky D’s the other day for an iced coffee and a bagel on the way to work (on a Saturday — speaking of the list), when two events take place that make me Jesus to turn my hands into hammers so I can smash everything in sight.

First: two dudes discussing this Obammer v. the Cambridge Police thing. Dude A says the Big O was wrong to douche on the cops. Fair enough. Sensing another possible racist in his presence, Dude B puts it on the line: “the only thing I’ve seen since he got elected is more taxes and more blacks.” Aside from that dickhead’s taxes actually going down, what does that second bit even mean? Whatever. I was in Dunky’s, and this is the price you pay for bro-ing down with the common man, is it not?

Second: a dude strolls in in his saturday best(jean shorts and a tank-top) orders an iced coffee and asks for a styrofoam cup to put the plastic cup in. Thanks, bro. Think you can just dump your garbage in front of the store and idle your enormous truck for a few minutes? Maybe club a baby seal on the way out the door in case you haven’t destroyed the Earth enough for the day? Wouldn’t want your precious hand to get wet from that ice sweat though. Hey did you know back when I was a kid, they didn’t even have cupholders that would hold drinks that big? Yeah, weird one, right?

There you have it. There’s your average hockey mom or Joe the Plumber just gettin’ ‘er done for the American Dream at a Dunky’s near you. Should’ve stuck to Starbucks, which despite what you’re thinking, is NOT on the list.

18 Nov


I’m not a barber, I’m a hairdresser or “stylist” or whatever faggy-sounding thing you want to call it. I have a cosmetology license, and part of my beauty school training was in doing mani/pedis, applying makeup, doing up-dos and perms, all that masculine stuff.

My dad still has issues with calling me a hairdresser when people ask him what his son does. I think a typical exchange with him is something like: “My son cuts hair.” “Oh, he’s a barber?” “No, he’s a hairdresser, but he’s not gay.” Cutting hair in general seems to be a big Italian thing though for some reason, like Koreans do nails and Eastern Europeans do waxing, not sure why that is. My motivation for becoming a hair-person was that I graduated from an unremarkable state college with an unremarkable GPA in my English degree right around the time the dot com bubble burst, followed by 9/11, and trying to live off freelance writing jobs and entry-level publishing grunt-work kind of sucked, as did the administrative office job I ended up doing for three years while trying to figure out what to do with myself.

18 Nov

All I Need To Know About Ministry I Learned From Fly Fishing

All I Need To Know About Ministry I Learned From Fly Fishing
95 pages
Judson Press (www.judsonpress.com)
ISBN: 0-8170-1396-2

By Myrlene L. J.Hamilton

I have read that one sign of insanity is when you do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like the perfect description of fishing.

On an evening in late May, my husband, Ed, and I were fly fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware River in New York. Along with several diehards, we were flailing the water repeatedly, with no results. We kept doing it anyway. Late in the evening, an older gentleman came along with his fly rod and just sat down on the bank, watching the river. I wondered why he wasn’t flailing the water along with the rest of us. Bored with my own lack of action, I went over to speak to him. He told me about the big one he had caught the night before, right in that same spot. Then he pointed to the river. He said, “See that big rock out there? There’s a big trout lying right beside it. And there’s another one over there and another one over there. When it’s just about dark, I’ll have about a ten-minute window when they start to rise.”

Meekly I asked him, “And when they start to rise, what will they be taking?”

“Rusty spinners,” he said.

I went back to my fishing, but kept the old man within eyesight. For luck, I tied on a rusty spinner and resumed my flailing. A few minutes later, I saw a splash in the vicinity of one of his big fish. He was talking with someone else at the moment, so I kindly pointed out to him that maybe it was time to start fishing.

He took his rod, stepped out in the river, and cast a couple of times. Then he came back in and said, “No point killing myself before it’s time.” And he sat back down. I went upriver, keeping him in view. The sun went down, and the sky darkened. Finally, the old man unfolded himself, stretched and stepped into the river. He made one cast, and a fish rose, grabbed that rusty spinner, and snapped off the leader. I don’t know what the old man did then because I, along with the other flailers, reeled in and went back to the cabin.

In fishing, it seems that there is always someone who knows the magic–the magic spot, the magic fly, the magic time of day. And it’s always someone else.

In ministry, there are often similar frustrations. We keep doing what we do (sometimes ad nauseum) with marginal success, while our colleague down the street, or in the next town, reels in the big ones with seemingly little or no effort. Our neighbor’s creel is full, while ours remains pitifully empty.

But magic has little if anything to do with catching fish, or with being successful in ministry. In fly fishing, you have to learn the ways of the river and the ways the fish interact with their environment, especially the insects. You need to spend time, not just in books, but out on the river, watching, learning, flailing. In time, what seems like magic becomes almost second nature. In ministry, too, it’s not just book learning but education on the river that yields maturity and success. One whose calling is to fish for people must find the answers to some pertinent questions. What are people hungry for? What are their great desires? Where do they spend their time? How do they respond to various kinds of “bait”? More than that, the one who is called to fish for people must spend time out on the river with the One who created the fish and the bugs and the river itself.

Fishing or Not

Let’s begin at the beginning. If the fisher of persons wants to find success in ministry, the first question to ask is, “Am I fishing or not?” Because we are preaching every week, visiting people in the hospital, and teaching Bible studies, we tend to think we are fishing. But we may just be dangling our toes in the water and getting a tan. Ed and I choose our fishing spots not just for the quality of the fishing but also for the quality of the environment. If we find a place we like, we tend to go back again and again. It becomes like a mini-home away from home where we go to get away from it all. On the first evening, we unpack and unwind. We may not get our fishing gear out until the next day. Sometimes we will go through a whole week without fishing very hard. We just like being there–being quiet, watching the river go by, letting down. And that’s okay, until someone asks us how the fishing is going. “Oh, it’s a little slow,” we might say vaguely. Truth is, it’s not going at all. We’re just coasting. Oh, we’ll get around to fishing, once we’re done with our loafing.

That’s okay for vacationers, but such coasting should not be confused with fishing.

What’s true for many ministers (both clergy and laity) is that we’re vacationing instead of fishing. We are very busy doing many things, and we are enjoying each other, enjoying the river going by. At the same time, our community is growing, the population burgeoning. The schools are overcrowded. “Why aren’t some of those people coming to our church?” we ask. Well, it just could be that we aren’t fishing. We’re just sitting on the porch, sipping sarsaparilla with our friends, having a great time.

When Jesus said to Peter, “From now on you will be catching people,” he wasn’t joking. That’s our job.

I don’t say that to spark guilt in those who live in declining communities or rural areas, where there are few unchurched people to reach. Not every church is meant to be a megachurch. But churches are meant to grow, both in spiritual maturity and in numbers. Something should be happening out there.

Fishing or Catching

There are lots of styles of fishing. You can fish with a bobber and a worm on the end of a long string; you can walk along a stream with a fly rod; you can troll your spinner behind a boat; out in the ocean you can let your line go way down deep with heavy weights and bait; you can use a dip net or a spear. You can fish with worms, or squid, or spinners, or flies.

While there is an endless array of fishing styles, there are only two types of fishing. One is where you go fishing and don’t catch anything. The other is fishing and catching.

Fishing and not catching is something I know a lot about. In fact, this kind of fishing is very popular with many people. And it’s easy to master. You don’t have to bother learning a whole lot about the environment or the equipment or the fish. Just go fishing and see what happens. Good luck.

In some ways, this is the best kind of fishing because you can have a nice day outdoors, and when you come in, there are no stinking, slimy fish to clean. At the heart, it’s a whole lot like not fishing–though you are out there making a good show of it. There are hazards, though. Just when you think you are going to make it through the day and not catch anything, there’s a tug on the line. Then what do you do?

A lot of churches are like that. They’re out there fishing, all right, but not much is happening, and when they do get a strike, they don’t know what to do. And more often than not they spook the fish. A church that we served a few years ago said that they wanted to get more young families in the church, and that was one thing that drew us there to serve as their pastors. The problem was that whenever a young family would come, they would get “the stare.” Sometimes, if they had a restless young child, they would even get “the boot.” “The cry room is upstairs,” one couple was told rather gruffly by an older member of the church. The young couple never came back.

Catch and Release

For those who are committed to fishing and catching, there is one more critical decision: catch and kill or catch and release?

Catching and killing is no doubt the more popular of the two because most of us want to bring home a trophy–and lots of us like to eat fish. If we were to translate this into our church work, we may think that we are gathering up all those fish for our own benefit, our own use. We want to catch more people because we need more money in the offering plate, or we need more teachers, or more whatever. I suspect that we have all seen churches that are really good at the catch-and-kill kind of fishing. They reel everybody in, sit them down, and then squeeze all the enthusiasm and creativity and life out of them–or else bore them to death. Someone once said that the only real heresy is to make the gospel boring. Amen to that! God is anything but boring.

Sometimes when we hear about fishing for people, we are afraid it’s the catch-and-kill type. I think this is one reason why evangelism is something that people tend to avoid. It has a predatory feel to it. But this is not the kind of fishing that Jesus invites us to participate in.

The kind of fishing that Jesus wants to teach us is catch and release. I started to learn about catch and release at about the same time I was learning fly fishing. A favorite fishing stream in Oregon, the Metolius, has beautiful native rainbow trout cohabitating with hatchery-raised planters. If you catch one of the natives, you are required by law to respect that fish’s right to life and let it go back into the stream. (Hatchery-raised fish have the adipose fin clipped off.) To make it easier on the fish, you have to use flies only and barbless hooks.

When Jesus spoke to Simon about catching people (Luke 5:10), the word translated as “catching” literally means to take them alive. Catch and release. Reel them in for Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, and then set them loose to become what God has called them to become. In our church’s vision statement, we say that we want to help people “meet Jesus Christ and grow spiritually.” That’s the fishing and catching part. Then we say that we want to “enable each person to discover and enter into the unique ministry God has given him or her.” That’s the release part. Each person is unique and is valued by God. Each person has a special calling from God. We don’t want to force people into molds because when we do that, we just get (excuse the old joke) moldy Christians.

This kind of fishing is risky business because people may not become what we want them to become, and we may not fill all the “slots” on our nominating slate. These folks may even create new ministries that we had never even dreamed of. God forbid, they may even take what they learn from us and go and join a different church!

Even so, I have come to believe that the chief end of fishing is catch and release. Our “fish” may not turn out the way we thought, but they’ll become what God wants them to be, and so will we.

Excerpted From All I Need to Know About Ministry I Learned from Fly Fishing by Myrlene L. J. Hamilton. ©2001 by Judson Press, Valley Forge, Pa. Reprinted with permission. To order call (800) 458-3766 or visit www.judsonpress.com.  ($12.00)

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18 Nov

Architectural Outlook 2007

by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

Architectural Outlook: 2007
Construction and Design Experts Discuss This Year’s 7 Biggest Trends for Churches

by RaeAnn Slaybaugh

Youth Facilities Still Top the Trends List

Bill Chegwidden: First, you have to take care of the youth. When you’re in middle school, you want an activity to do when you come to church. You want to throw a basketball or something. And when you’re a high school student, you want somebody to sit down and talk to. It’s about a relationship. You want a place to hang out. I think we’re beginning to understand how to design for those ages.

Doug Akers: Families have their kids in great preschools during the week. When they bring them to church, they expect no less than that — uniforms on the workers, pagers and so on. A lot of churches we deal with give out PDA’s with Wi-Fi cards in them! Parents can literally see their children through a camera in the room they’re in.

We’re seeing a lot of children’s theaters, whether it’s for children’s worship or for mid-week events. Sometimes Awana circles are built right into the carpet. These are spaces for innovative children’s worship.

Mark Hilles: There’s a sustained movement in youth and children’s facilities. Most of the pastors we talk to see these as vehicles to get families in their churches. They feel if they don’t have that, they’ll be bare.

David Evans: There’s recognition among churches that they have to have state-of-the-art, high-quality children’s spaces. They have to say to parents, ‘We care about your kids.’ A lot of kids are bringing their parents to church, so those spaces are big.

Multifunction, Multipurpose, Multi- Venue, Multi-Site

Derik Salser: Until you’re ready to build a big worship center, a multipurpose space is a great idea. When the time comes, a lot of old multipurpose buildings are turned into the youth centers. When the church builds its big, 2,000-seat sanctuary, the youth are going to take that old building, and they’re going to love it. They’ll put their bands up there on stage!

Akers: We’re seeing more and more moveable wall panel systems installed. So, a space may be an education building on Sunday morning, but on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, it can be set up for an aerobics class or a fellowship supper.

More and more churches are doing multifunction worship spaces. Not necessarily recreation, not so much a gym — but multifunction so they can do worship services in there. They’ll set up interlocking chairs and tables and do a seminar, or they can set it up for a banquet. If there’s a smaller fellowship hall close by and a commercial kitchen, they can use that space in multiple ways.

Viviana Varnado: The answer might not always be, ‘Let’s build a new church.’ In some cases, an evaluation and space assessment may reveal a different solution. We have encountered cases where we went into a facility which had 2,000 square feet of space that they were not using. An evaluation of your existing space based on your ministry needs is very important since it will clearly indicate deficiencies and opportunities. See what you have today, and work from there.

Erwin: The satellite church revolution will become a viable option. [Pastor] Ed Young’s comments are right on the money: You don’t have to spend a lot of money on these venues, but you have to do things well. That means no handwritten signs, fresh paint, making sure things are clean.

Doug Spuler: To meet the needs of different worship styles, churches are looking at implementing and using video venues. Multiple auditoriums with 1,000 to 2,000 seats will allow a church to offer more diversity in worship while delivering the same message to each venue.

Stephen Ferrandi: Architecturally, we have a couple of church clients that don’t want to look like churches at all. One is building a 2,000-seat sanctuary, and they’ve told me from day one they want it to look like a banquet hall. They’re coming out of a warehouse that looks like a warehouse, so maybe it’s just part of their process.

Erwin: With the pressure that prices are putting on churches, I believe we’ll see more functional buildings built, which means a lot more rectangular or square buildings. Churches can put more space for less money in a rectangular building. I think you’ll see multi-use facility — with flat floors and moveable furniture — become increasingly popular, certainly for first phases.

Evans: I think the worship auditorium environment is becoming a little smaller and a little more intimate. We’re sometimes seeing three or four small auditoriums on the same campus instead of one large one.

Churches Must Act Like Good Neighbors

Ferrandi: It used to be that if you wanted to build a church — not a megachurch, just a church — people didn’t fight you. And now, if you want to build a church of any size, you can expect it. I tell my clients to budget three years from the day they put down a contract to the day they break ground — to get through the entitlement process and a couple of public hearings. That gives them time to raise the money, hire the contractor, etc., ahead of time.

Akers: When working with churches in areas where there’s been a lot of construction, there are lots of nice new homes. Well, you can’t go in and put up a pre-engineered building because people just walked out of those beautiful homes! They’ll want a building that fits in.

Remodeling, Renovation On the Rise

Brad Eisenmann: Whereas before the mindset was, ‘We have this church that can’t be expanded because we’re in a neighborhood, so we’re going to move out to the freeway and build a new church,’ now — with the multi-site movement gaining ground — people are saying, ‘Lets’ stay here!’ Rather than selling the church and building a bigger one, churches are deciding to keep it, remodel it, renovate it, and then plant a second, third or fourth site.

Greg Snider: I’m noticing a huge awareness that facilities matter. There are churches in communities of half-million-dollar homes, but the church itself hasn’t been touched in 20 years. So, existing churches that aren’t growing are changing so they can grow. They’re making their facilities more relevant. Now more than ever, a lot of facilities are irrelevant in today’s culture. People are walking in and walking out.

Traditional Design Elements Make a Comeback

Hilles: I think there’s a collision of thought about contemporary, non-discrete, commercial-looking, seeker-sensitive churches. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of traditional pursuit of steeples and those kinds of traditional elements, but I do think churches are looking for an identifying point of interest or feature that gives people a reference point about what they’re doing — almost like a corporate branding.

Varnado: Newer generations are seeking more of an intimate environment — less the stadium kind of feel — when they’re at church. They want personal relationships, they want to get to know people. There are ways to do that it in a stadium-type venue, but some people are looking for something a little more intimate and not as large.

Chegwidden: More and more churches want some elements that have traditional flavor to them. A lot feel like they’ve gone too far and given up too much of that. And the people coming back want something they remember from their childhood — the ancient and the modern. We’re trying to find a new balance.

Higher Land and Construction Costs

Ferrandi: The land cost dictates what a church can realistically build, so some churches are building sanctuaries that can hold 500 people on day one, but they have knock-out walls so they can be expanded later.

Akers: We have to be competitive with what people are seeing in their everyday lives, and that means our facilities must be competitive. That’s pushing up the cost of construction. We’re looking at about $20 more per square foot to build this year than in 2006. With technology thrown in there, it might even be 20% to 25% more.

Barron: There’s a healthy tension in the market right now because prices have gone up 25% over the last two years. You’re not buying the same amount you did two years ago. Fortunately, a lot of the giving patterns have increased along with the cost increase.

Building Community with Design

Varnado: One of the biggest design trends we’re seeing today is the sense of community people are integrating into their churches — foyers, large gathering spaces, coffee shops, cafes. Creating spaces that welcome visitors, the unchurched and members, making them feel comfortable, is a trend that we are seeing develop across denominations, for high church to very casual church groups. It is here to stay.

Snider: I’m seeing a major breakdown of the ‘institution’ — a lot fewer classrooms and four walls created for one specific ministry. It’s about creating a community area now, where we can spontaneously break into a small group in an area of the church that isn’t necessarily a classroom.

Eisenmann: A lot of churches are thinking outside their buildings. A great example of this is a church we built in a retail area and designed not to look like a church, but fit into the retail context. People come in to ask if it’s the library. When they find out it’s not, they’ll still sit down, get a cup of coffee, visit the bookstore, and interact with the personnel anyway. They connect. The ‘third place’ concept thing is becoming much more of a topic. The first place is your home, the second place is your work, and the third place is where everybody knows your name.

Evans: Connection spaces are a big trend — it’s the ‘third place’ concept of how we can connect with people, spawned from secular society. People can literally come to the church and hang out there all day. Connectivity is still really big and important, and I don’t see that changing.

18 Nov

A Need-to-Know Guide Pirates in Our Midst

by Ken Godevenos

Would you allow your staff members to attack each other, taking one another’s belongings without permission? Many would respond, “No way! That’s piracy!” — and they would be right. But in the late 20th century, the word “piracy” began to be associated with the simple “unauthorized use or reproduction of another’s work or product without their awareness and permission.” One common form of piracy is associated with the inappropriate use of software.

Also getting a lot of press these days is the related concept of “plagiarism,” which takes piracy one step beyond stealing to actually passing off the work (most often words penned by another person) as one’s own. In our preaching, most of us are quick to say, “I didn’t say that, Jesus said it,” or “the Bible says it – don’t blame me.” (This was a hot-button issue in one of my blog posts, “Whose Sermon Is It Anyway?”) But we are not as quick or as careful to give credit to others when we use their examples or arguments or make points they originally made.

A third area of concern today is violation of copyright. Most dictionaries define “copyright” as “the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or assignee (e.g. an author’s estate or agent or family) to print, publish, perform, film or record literary, artistic or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.”

So, do we have any pirates in our midst? Before we continue, it must be stated that this is a very complex area – there are no black and whites, and as we’ll see later, there are some exceptions, especially for nonprofit organizations. The law itself is not as clear as some of us would like it to be. Ultimately, it becomes a matter of ethical behavior and how we ourselves would like to be treated. Here are just some ways church staff may be acting like pirates, plagiarists and copyright violators:

•Plagiarism in our sermons, talks, presentations .Remember – you can use the work of others, provided you give them credit.

•The use of music or songs without paying royalties. Every church should be licensed through Christian Copyright Licensing International, which streamlines copyright issues surrounding congregational worship services.

•The use of lended technology, usually software, which has been purchased by an individual or a company other than the church for one’s own personal or business use.

•The unauthorized photocopying of pages from purchased books for sharing with the staff or those we are working with. People have been known to copy entire chapters of books each week for the members of various classes that they teach because the church does not supply – or members cannot afford or will not buy – the books for themselves. In some cases, entire books have been copied.

•The use of movie clips taken from our own purchased copies of movies for personal use or downloaded from the Internet. Worse still is the use of an entire movie in one of our programs (e.g. youth) that has been copied illegally or downloaded from the Internet …


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18 Nov

An Excellent ExampleWillow Creek Community Church is a Model of Multi-Site Expansion

Doug Turner

Every church leader wants to avoid problems — except the problems of church growth and expansion.

Pastors and church leaders are fortunate when trying to decide how to accommodate a healthy, expanding congregation. In the ‘90s, as a result of a church building boom, the overwhelming choice was to expand facilities to catalyze and accommodate the growth in numbers. Relocating or expanding the facility — attractive when land is available and the existing structure can be easily transformed — is still a wise investment for the local church. Today, however, churches face a greater complexity of ministry challenges than ever before. In short, the “build it and they will come” mantra is no panacea for obstacles to growth.

An emergent option church leaders are considering is choosing to be a multi-site church — one faith body (one staff, one board, one budget) worshipping in at least two separate locations. During recent years, the success of several high-profile churches – especially Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church — has caused a great deal of interest in the concept.

Lessons Learned

Leaders at Willow Creek Community Church engaged in a capital campaign to resource their Chapter Two vision, which was taken from Acts 2 as a model for the church and to communicate Willow moving into the next chapter of its history. Along with the need to build out the South Barrington campus, the Chapter 2 vision included executing a multi-site model in greater Chicago. The people of Willow Creek gave more than $80 million to that vision, in large measure because the multi-site model was passionately embraced as an exciting new initiative that was consistent with the church’s vision.

Partnering with Willow Creek during this campaign, we learned important lessons that have helped other congregations become successful multi-site churches.

Play to your strengths. When churches explore the multi-site option, ministry strengths must drive that decision, not simply ride the latest growth fad. For instance, Willow Creek leaders looked first at the ministry strengths God had provided. Greg Hawkins, executive pastor, determined the multi-site option was a true fit for their strength of facilitating “transformational moments” in a group experience, not for starting new churches. Willow Creek could more effectively expand their “ministry brand” by pouring resources into what they do incredibly well: replicate an innovation culture in which the gospel will be relevant and convenient to the local culture.

Strengthen your mission.  Another consideration related to the multi-site option: Does this move strengthen our stated mission? The multi-site option creates challenges in preservation of the missional identity of your church. By meeting in more than one site, the impetus to make such a dramatic move should come out of a clear ministry identity of your church.

Willow Creek was founded with the mission of “turning irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.” Through the years, Willow has reached people as attendees invited and brought friends and neighbors with them to the services. The multi-site imperative came out of a clear understanding that when attendees lived more than 30 minutes away from the South Barrington campus, friends and neighbors wouldn’t make that trip often.

Don’t miss the point in this distinction: The DNA of Willow Creek is to influence the unchurched by equipping people to reach out to their respective spheres of influence. To no longer do so would not simply change an outreach activity, but alter the identity of the church. With a clear sense of identity, the church could move forward with the communication challenges that are a part of transitioning to a multi-site model.

Listen to the people, and open the channels of communication.  Considering a multi-site model for ministry must pay heed both to the community currently being served and to the community yet to be served. There’s a delicate tension to maintain between the people currently worshipping and those the church hopes to serve in the new site. Churches that successfully launch a second site have leaders who pay close attention to God’s guidance through prayer and conversation. Communication is critical.

Like many new ministry models, with initial success, the tendency could be to over generalize the approach. The multi-site model isn’t for every church who hits a down turn in attendance.

On the other hand, it could also be a great option to maximize resources to reach communities with a fresh, new ministry voice. Clearly understanding your present vision and priorities goes a long way in understanding whether or not this challenging and potentially rewarding step is right for your church.


Doug Turner is president of RSI Church Stewardship Group, fundraising specialists who have helped 5,200 churches raise more than $8 billion in the past 30 years. For more information, e-mail Turner at [email protected], or visit www.rsi.viscern.com.

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18 Nov

An Inside Look At Handbells

by Phyllis T. Hentz

Behind The Magic:
A Closer Look At Handbells And Handheld Chimes

by Phyllis T. Hentz

There is nothing quite like the sound of handbells and handheld chimes. Whether you
hear them accenting worship, accompanying a choir or in outreach beyond the church
building and whether the folks playing them are young or old, skilled or just plain
enthusiastic, handbells and handheld chimes speak with a sound of joyful praise. It is no
wonder that so many churches of all denominations have found exciting ways to put them to
use in worship, music, education and outreach ministries.

The following article features some thoughts about how handbells and handheld
chimes work, what to look for in a bell instrument purchase and making the most of
handbells or handheld chimes once a church has gotten started.

An Inside Look At Handbells

Before anyone even picks up a handbell, it is important to pay attention to some
strictly non-musical factors that can make a difference in the overall playing experience
such as the handle and handguard. For comfortable ringing and long life, the bell’s handle
should be smooth, scratch-resistant and reinforced to maintain its shape. It also should
be easily removable from the bell casting in case replacement becomes necessary. Between
the handle and the casting is a handguard. Sellersville, Penn.,-based Schulmerich Bells
recommends looking for one with a gentle curve to fit the hand such as the Master
Touch™ Guardian handguard. A choice of black or black and gold handguards can help
ringers identify their notes easily.

Inside the handbell ringers will find the yoke and clapper mechanism. More complex than
anyone may have imagined, it is designed not to let the clapper swing freely, but to
provide a controlled motion both before and after striking. Much of that control comes
from an elastothane spring built into the yoke. Schulmerich’s feature a special contour to
maintain maximum volume and clarity and include adjustable mechanical stops for precise
tension control. The clapper itself swings from an axle that must perform quietly and
reliably. An axle of stainless steel with nylon bearings should provide years of
trouble-free operation without lubrication.

At the bottom of the clapper is the clapper head typically made of synthetic rubber.
Clapper heads should be adjustable for setting each bell’s “voice.” The
adjustment range can be as simple as three increments. Quick-Adjust™ clapper heads
can be hand-adjusted to “soft,” “medium” and “hard.”
Infinitely adjustable heads, such as the Select-A-Strike™ clapper heads, offer more
tonal refinements, but typically require a screwdriver to change settings.

Believe it or not, the exact spot where the clapper contacts the bell casting has an
enormous impact on the sound of a handbell. The point of impact is called the “strike
point,” and ideal strike points can be determined through testing. Once identified,
manufacturers align the bell casting, yoke and handle locating pin so that the clapper is
positioned properly for the life of the bell. Finally, Schulmerich adds a bell-shaped
(campanaform) indicator on the handle to identify how the bell should be held to utilize
the strike point by the ringer.

An Inside Look At Handheld Chimes

Just as comfort is a key issue when choosing a handbell, it is a good place to begin in
choosing a handheld chime. The main component of any handheld chime instrument is the
sounding tube which functions as both the “bell” and the handle. Usually a
hollow, sturdy aluminum extrusion, the tube traditionally has been either round or square
in shape. To maximize ringing ease, Schulmerich’s engineers developed an octagonal tube
for the MelodyChime instruments that fits any hand–large or small–comfortably.

The clapper mechanism of a handheld chime instrument serves the same function as the
clapper of a handbell, and, therefore, it should be very similar in design. Remember to
check that the components in any handheld chime indicate a real attention to solid
performance and long life. For example, MelodyChime clappers move on the same lifetime
stainless steel axle in the same nylon bearings as in the handbell, and Schulmerich uses
the same hexagonal solid brass clapper shafts as well (although they are nickel-plated to
resist tarnish). Clapper heads, too, bear a strong resemblance to those on a fine set of
handbells. Look for fast voicing adjustments on the low and middle notes and flocked
rubber heads on the low notes for that full, rich sound. Finally, there is one more tool
for customizing sound: Be sure ringers can adjust the handheld chimes’ response easily
with a little rubber bumper mounted on the hexagonal shaft.

Although handheld chimes produce their tone a little bit differently than handbells
do–more on the order of a highly evolved tuning fork than a true bell–this does not mean
that hitting each instrument’s ideal strike point is not important. On the contrary, it is
crucial. The only way to be certain that it happens is for the manufacturer to
custom-tailor clapper shaft lengths on a note-by-note basis.

In addition to factors that affect comfort and sound, churches want to make sure that
their handheld chimes have a durable finish that can take plenty of abuse. Schulmerich
uses a baked-on powdercoating in white for naturals and black for accidentals. Note
markings must be clear and highly visible. Whether a church’s ringers are novices or
experts, they will appreciate it.

Where To Begin: How Many Bells?

The size of a church’s first handbell or hand chime set depends both on the budget and
on the number of students to be served. Although single-octave sets are available, the
practical minimum for making music and teaching an appreciable number of students is the
two-octave set, 25 bells from G4 (the G below Middle C) to G6. The maximum practical
number of students for a two-octave set is 15; the ideal number is seven or eight.

Bell sets grow by the addition of instruments on both ends of the set. A three-octave
set, for example, consists of 37 bells from C4 to C7. A set of this size can be rung by as
many as 22 students, but a more practical number–allowing each ringer to handle two
diatonics–is 11 students. Eventually, large or musically adventurous groups can work
toward playing sets as large as six octaves with 73 bells, from G2 to G8.

However, growth through acquisition of bells only is one side of the story; growth
through instruction, practice and commitment is the other. Even with a limited range of
bells, the devoted instructor and ringers can pursue complex music of an almost limitless
range. With the possible exception of the small, two-octave range, truly challenging music
is available for choirs of every size. It is worth pointing out that simple material is
available for choirs of all sizes as well.

Music teachers have little to fear when embarking on a handbell or handheld chime
program for the first time. Basic playing techniques are not only easy to teach; they are
simpler to learn from readily available training materials. There even is a complete
handbell curriculum for grades 4 through 12 developed by the Lima City Schools and
accepted by the state of Ohio (copies are available from Schulmerich Bells).

Where To Begin: Care And Performance Supplies

Handbells and handheld chimes are relatively self-contained instruments and need little
in the way of support equipment. They come with hard shell cases with individual cavities
for each bell or handheld chime and should be stored in their cases when not in use.
Although little maintenance is required, the proper care, handling and polishing of bells
should be carried out by students as part of the basic instructional program. Students
should wear clean, lint-free gloves when handling the handbells, and occasional polishing
with a good-quality bronze polish available from the bells’ manufacturer will help
preserve the bells’ finish and appearance. No such steps, of course, are necessary to
preserve the far-tougher finish of handheld chimes.

Handbell manufacturers offer a wide range of additional products to enhance care and
performance, but only a few are required for a new program. For example, special handbell
tables, built to the proper height for comfortable ringing and supplied in three-foot
lengths for easy configuration, are nice to have, but any sturdy tables will do for
getting started. However, table pads, typically of soft, four-inch thick foam, are
necessary both to protect handbells from hard table tops and to permit certain ringing
techniques like plucking, martellato and malleting.

Where To Begin: Resources And Support

Probably the most important element to consider in a handbell purchase is the
reputation and local presence of the instrument manufacturer’s representative. Look for a
supplier with a long history in handbell manufacture and support and a well-trained,
experienced representative in your area. It can be worthwhile to have someone nearby to
call on for recommendations and counsel regarding music, playing techniques, training and
so on.

Other key resources are the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers of Dayton, Ohio,
and Handbell Exploration International of Phoenix. Both offer fascinating seminars and can
be an entry point into the world of bell music.

Once You’ve Begun

The sooner churches start ringing, the sooner their choir will be wanting to perform,
so it is important to keep in mind the basics of managing any performance program, however
informal it may be.

First, establish and stick to a rehearsal schedule that is convenient for everyone,
ringers and directors alike.

Second, keep performances and rehearsals fresh by periodically updating the choir’s
music. This also is important for keeping pace with the ringers’ abilities. Hand in hand
goes periodic evaluation of your bell and chime selection with an eye toward possible
expansion as students become more advanced and the choir grows. Also, do not be afraid to
mix handbells with handheld chimes.

Finally, look for new ways to incorporate handbells and handheld chimes into the life
and work of the congregation. Church music leaders may want to investigate Handbells in
the Liturgy
, a detailed and inspirational handbook published by Concordia Press and
funded by a grant from Schulmerich Bells.

Phyllis T. Hentz is the music director for Schulmerich Bells headquartered in
Sellersville, Penn. For more information about handbells, handheld chimes, carillons or
any related questions, feel free to contact the company at (800) 423-7464 or by mail at
Carillon Hill, Sellersville, PA. 18960.

18 Nov

A New Bus –Lease or Loan

by Todd Loudis

By Todd Loudis

Most business managers cringe at the thought of a new bus acquisition for
a church. The congregation gets excited and the pastor knows that a new bus will present a
better image of the church to the community. But when it gets down to the question of how
a church can afford it, the bus acquisition often becomes a worrisome proposition.
Business managers should consider two financing options when a new bus acquisition is
planned: traditional bank financing through a local bank or vehicle leasing through a
finance company. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Loan and lease both offer the ability to pay for the vehicle over time with normal
length of term financing covering 24 to 60 months. Fixed payments over time allow the
church to plan for a monthly payment of a certain amount. In a normal business operation,
there are tax considerations available with each option but in a church setting, these
considerations will not necessarily apply.

What’s the difference then? Should the business manager not just shop for the best rate
and go from there? The differences lie in the programs each outlet offers the church.
Please be aware that we are discussing the typical transaction. Each transaction may vary
among all banks and lease companies. By knowing what to ask and what is required, the
business manager can make a more informed (and hopefully the best) decision about the bus

Bank financing

A local bank knows your congregation and, quite possibly, a member of the church works
for the bank. They know your history and would like to share in your growth. Bankers love
the fact that they can drive down the street and see your bus in the parking lot, knowing
they had a part in helping you finance the vehicle.

Banks are governed by rules that allow them to make loans based on their own portfolios
and certain ratios. They are often tied to specific programs that allow their loans to fit
into these ratios. Therefore, a local bank may tend to be more conservative in their
operations. Business equipment loans from a bank often require a significant down payment,
usually from 10- to 20-percent of the equipment cost. On a $40,000 bus, this may be an
$8,000 cash outlay. Yes, your payments then become less, but that initial cash outlay may
pose a problem. A bus is a depreciating piece of equipment. Banks are often leery of
committing to a loan term of over 36 months for these types of vehicles as the maintenance
and hard use depreciate these vehicles quicker than an automobile. Used vehicles may also
be financed through your bank, so check with your lender on their programs.

Your church may also have a credit line established at a bank. This essentially says
your church has a certain amount of dollars that it may borrow for whatever reason. This
is a great safety net if, for example, a heater or air-conditioner needs to be replaced or
that piece of property next door becomes available. Tapping that bank line for a vehicle
purchase reduces this available credit. The best function of this bank line is to use it
or preserve it for operating expenses. The perfect example is during stormy weather season
when collections are not as strong because attendance has fallen and your bills are still
coming due.

Lease financing

Lease financing funds are typically provided by insurance companies, holding companies
or businesses that invest their available cash to leasing portfolios. They are limited
only by their own funding requirements in regards to ratios and compliance. Although it
may not know your church the way a local bank will, consider also that it is not
prejudiced by what is known about your church and congregation.

Leasing uses the financial principle of “Pay for the part of the life of the
equipment that you use.” A fair market value lease or operating lease determines at
the end of the lease term what the piece of equipment will be worth. Subtracted from the
purchase price, you are paying for what you use of the equipment. An example, a new bus
sells for $40,000 and it is determined after 48 months, the bus will be worth 25% of the
original value or $10,000. Your payments are based on the $30,000 difference. At the end
of the lease, you may have several options. You may return the bus and owe nothing more.
You may purchase the bus for the fair market value ($10,000) or you can continue to lease
the bus based on the $10,000 price. You have, in effect, paid for the portion of the life
of the bus that you have used. Because of this, your monthly payments are less because you
are paying for less of the bus. Another benefit of leasing is that at this time, you may
upgrade your current equipment without the disposal hassles of selling the bus to someone

A finance (or capital) lease works the same as bank loan. At the end of the lease term,
you will own the bus outright. The difference between a finance lease and a bank loan is
the required down payments. Typically, a lease will only require the first payment in
advance or the first and last payments in advance. In the case of a 48-month term, this is
4% down or in our $40,000 example, $1,600–quite a difference in out-of-pocket cash. Lease
companies will also provide financing for used vehicles.

A lease is often non-cancelable. Herein lies the biggest drawback in that you are
committed for the term of the lease. Some lease companies will offer a buy-out after a
certain amount of time, but be prepared to pay a cancellation fee.

Credit review

Because no one owns a church, it is usually incorporated with a Board of Directors
acting as the managing body. Most banks and leasing companies will accept this as a
corporate-only transaction. No one with the church will be personally held as the
guarantor of the lease/loan. Because of this, you will need to provide audited financial
statements for a minimum of two years or tax returns if the financial information is
unaudited. This will prove to the institution whether, based on past performance, your
church will be able to handle the payments. You will also be asked for credit references
that you have charged with currently or in the past. Documents are then executed for a
managing director to sign.

Special considerations

Maintenance needs to be performed on all vehicles regardless of age. Some equipment
dealers provide a maintenance contract as an addition to the sales contract. Lease
companies will finance this contract amount with the bus lease. This is important to
consider because your church will be responsible for maintaining the bus in proper and
safe operating condition.

When acquiring a new or used vehicle, it is important to have the proper insurance
coverage. It does not take a large accident to exhaust the limitations. Because a lot of
churches do not have full-time drivers and rely on volunteer help or part-time drivers,
safety factors come into play. You are urged to check your existing policies for proper
coverage. Most lease companies will require a minimum $1,000,000 liability policy.

There is no easy answer to the question of leasing versus buying a church bus. Because
there are no real tax benefits, the answer should depend on the cash flow situation of the
church. Do you want to pay more up front or pay more on the back end?

Todd Loudis is the Director of Sales for Capital Funds Equipment Leasing in Joplin,
MO. Any questions may be directed to him at (800) 653-5327 or [email protected]

Down Payment First and Last – $1,640 10% – $4,000
Monthly Payment $820 $897
Total of Payments $39,360 $47,056
Residual Value $10,000 $0
Down Payment First and Last – $1,500 10% – $4,000
Monthly Payment $750 $750
Total of Payments $45,000 $49,000
Residual Value $6,000 $0
you can see, up-front expenses are lower with the lease option. A business manager will
have to decide which program fits the church’s cash flow needs.
18 Nov

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

QUAKERTOWN, Pa.—One of Harvest Community Fellowship’s core values is building “a community of grace,” a concept the church continually seeks to demonstrate. Harvest’s latest adventure, 40 Days of Grace, allowed them to put their faith into action through a series of weekly challenges and special outreach events.

Each week, the congregants were asked to keep an outward focus of grace, whether that meant taping a $20 tip to the garbage can or forfeiting a guilty pleasure, such as a fancy coffee, and instead, giving the treat – or the money to buy it – to someone else.

Individual acts of grace were only one component in this spiritual campaign. A desire to unite in gracefully reaching the community prompted several other events, such as a Black Friday Community Shopping Day, where those in need could shop for free new items (donated by church members) such as food, toys, clothing, appliances and furniture. A complimentary Thanksgiving feast was also held for local residents.

Senior Pastor Geoff Stevens credits the entire staff for developing the idea, which he says God dropped in their laps. “In our area, people are tired of hearing the words of the Gospel, so in order to reach them, we need to demonstrate the actions of the Gospel,” he shares. “In the Northeast, people are very skeptical of Christians. The unchurched up here all seem to have some horror story of how a church burned them, so now they won’t come near. We have had to face the brutal facts that, by in large, we – the Evangelical church – have done a miserable job showing the world that God loves them. The world can often be more gracious than uptight, lily-white Christians. We have been way too tied up in our fancy buildings and judgmental and critical attitudes toward those who struggle.”

For this reason, the church is committed to offering “real help for today’s real world.” Stevens explains his concern that we live in a world full of pain, suffering, hate and violence, where people often hurt one another and do whatever’s needed to get ahead. However, he continues, this is contrary to God’s nature, as He “hardwired us for grace” – the very same love and acceptance He shows to each of us. Because of this, he says, “when someone touches us with grace, it moves something deep within us.”

Open for a little more than a year, and with an average weekly attendance of 300, Harvest’s leadership is committed to seeking creative ways to connect people with God. “We want to transform our world,” Stevens admits. “All of us have influence, and we want to change our corner of the world by doing little acts of grace in the community. Hopefully, we’re helping people see and feel God’s love for them.”

— Karen Butler

Is your church doing anything to reach out? Send your outreach story ideas or news to [email protected] 

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18 Nov

A blog by Whitney Kelley

While I was originally thinking of this title, “cross-training,” as referring to people in a church who serve in multiple places, I realized the double entendre as soon as I typed it: a sports term and a reference to the biblical cross. It works both ways; let me explain.

I was walking out of church on Sunday when I saw my friend Dennis out in the parking lot. He was wearing his orange vest, directing traffic. This wasn’t such an unusual scene except for the fact that Dennis typically serves as a guitarist in our worship band. The spiky-haired, ear-pierced dude is known for his amp that says “BadCat” and his expressive method of leading worship through music. It was jolting to see him in a different role.

It was also surprising for me to one day see Julie, our drama-team member who does the most hysterical Mary Catherine Gallagher impression I’ve ever seen, leading a small group in the children’s ministry. “Wait a minute,” I thought. I did a double take as I said to myself, “There’s no drama in that classroom.”

Over and over I see friends and acquaintances in various roles at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, our 5,000-member church, and it occurs to me that I am privileged to work and serve alongside an amazing group of individuals. These are people who are gifted in a unique way – whether it’s for music, drama, administration, teaching or visual arts – and yet their real desire is just to serve. Yes, serving may mean singing or playing or acting, but it also means stepping in and filling a gap. It means meeting a need that would otherwise go unmet.

These are people who are interested in cross-training in the traditional sense of learning a new skill, of being versatile across disciplines. But cross-training can also mean something completely different. It can refer to our desire to take every opportunity to hone our servant leadership skills under the shadow of the cross and the One who served in every situation presented to Him.

So, having said that, I’ve got to run. I need to go get started training.

Whitney Kelley is the director of account services at A. Larry Ross Communications, a Dallas-based media relations firm specializing in cross-over communications between faith and culture. She and her family are also members of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, Texas, and serve in leadership roles in various ministries at the church.

18 Nov

11 Steps to Productive Ministry Performance Reviews

11 Steps to Productive Ministry Performance Reviews

Leaders in ministry are similar to leaders in the business world in the sense that evaluating employees is necessary toward meeting goals and fulfilling the church’s vision. But because the nature of church relationships can be very personal, friendly and compassionate, sometimes the performance reviews that supervisors conduct lack the objective honesty necessary for them to be productive.

Chuck Olson of Lead With Your Life identifies 11 objectives managers should have when conducting performance reviews:

  • Check your motives.
  • Think about stewardship.
  • Write everything down.
  • Emphasize affirmation.
  • Be honest.
  • Invite input.
  • Prioritize self-evaluation.
  • Establish benchmarks.
  • Keep a tight focus.
  • Stay current.
  • Look for patterns.

To read a full explanation of all of these points, check out the source.


Monday Morning Insight: Conducting a Responsible Ministry Job Review

Related Content:

Culture Test – What Makes A Great Staff?

Orienting Your New Staff

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18 Nov

Assemblies of God Church Reports Membership Gains


For the 19th consecutive year, the Assemblies of God denomination is reporting growth. It now has more than 2.8 million followers, according to the Annual Church Ministries Report.

The 1.3 percent yearly growth comes in contrast to mainline Protestant denominations and even some evangelical groups. The Southern Baptist Convention reported a rare decline in baptisms this year.

A spokesperson for the Assemblies of God commented that the U.S. population grows 1 percent per year, meaning that Assemblies of God churches are keeping up with and surpassing population growth.


Church Executive: Pentecostal Denomination Reports Membership Gains

Related Content:

Crunching Numbers

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