Author Archives: mpvilardo

Be S.M.A.R.T. About Generosity in 2016

Be S.M.A.R.T. in 2016 to grow generous faith among your church family. Using a “shotgun” approach of scattered messages you hope will hit a target somewhere and cause some in your church to grow in their generosity is proving to be less effective today. Instead, focus on a particular group among church members and create a specific plan to encourage their generosity. Could 2016 be the year to add 10% more pledges from millennials? Or, will it be the year to speak with major donors and grow their giving? Or, will 2016 b e the year you re-engage those who gave 2 years ago but not last year? Keep teaching Biblical stewardship to everyone through sermons and classes, but this year, focus on a specific group and be S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are a tool I use when helping churches and other ministries develop a strategic plan. Use them to create a S.M.A.R.T. Generosity Plan for 2016.

Specific—what singular activity, step or focus could you propose?

Measureable—what will be the measure of success? A percent increase in income? A number increase in pledgers/givers/supporters?

Actionable—what actions will be included to accomplish the step or focus for the year?

Realistic—how is the goal related to the resources available? Is funding needed? Who is involved?

Timed—when will this be accomplished?

Be S.M.A.R.T. about growing generosity in 2016.

World Choir Games Gospel Competition Fun and Uplifting

Marcie and I attended the Gospel Competition of the World Choir Games today and heard choirs from Canada, Germany, South Africa and the U.S. (New York, Wilberforce University, Fort Wayne, and Cinci). The music was beautiful, exciting and inspiring. It was fun! But what most inspired me was what I saw in the “Gospel Choirs.” Each one was a mix of races, ethnicity and genders and they were singing about faith and hope with incredible enthusiasm. I told Lowell McCoy (member of HPCUMC and former Professor of Homiletics at Hebrew Union Seminary) that the choirs were more a proclamation of what I believe God’s kingdom is meant to be than any words he or I ever preached or taught. He laughed with me and agreed.
Have you had any such moving experience in your life recently? Been inspired by a song or experience?
Hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Is Compassion for others who have less slipping away in the U.s.?

I read an article yesterday in “Christianity Today” that reported on a survey taken with 4000 delegates to an international conference. The conference was held in South Africa last October and attended by evangelical Christians from around the world.
This is what I found interesting in the report. What do you think? “81% of all leaders said the government must take care of very poor people who cannot take care of themselves. Only 56% of U.S. leaders agreed.”
Why this difference with leaders of the U.S.? Is it because there is the belief that the government has no place in caring for the poor? Or, do we believe non-profits can meet this need adequately? I find this puzzling.

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

A pastor of a church I worked with in Pittsburgh wrote about visiting with a member who was dying of a terminal illness. The man had a favorite phrase he used with his wife over the years. When they faced challenge or even frightening times he would say to her, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” You may recognize the phrase. In the “Wizard of Oz” Dorothy says this to her dog Toto when they are blown into a strange and frightening land. The man told his pastor why he used the phrase–“Dorothy and Toto were onto something. Most extraordinary experiences have been the frightening ones.” But, he explained, “the scary times are the ones when you learn the most about yourself.”
I see a lot of people filled with fear. There’s fear about the economy (job loss, mortgage payments, retirement years). There’s fear about what climate change means to God’s creation. Fear about the inability of government leadership to work together and lead the country forward.
What are we learning about ourselves? We are learning that some people look for others to blame, someone to label as an enemy, and then attack. Some become immobile and withdraw into a shell. Some, however, look at scary times and search for God’s presence, God’s guidance, God’s greater will. They seem to believe that there is One, greater than we, who seeks the redemption of all creation.
I’d like to think I am part of this last group. But, I know at times I can be found in all of them.
We’re not in Kansas anymore. But, “the scary times” are when we learn the most about ourselves. That could be a good thing. What do you think?

A Definition of “Enough”

This past weekend I attended worship at a church in Mississippi (it wasn’t as hot as in Cincinnati) where I assisted them in a campaign that built a wonderful multi-purpose building and classrooms. In his message the pastor recalled a mission trip he took years ago to the “Four Corners” area in the west. He told the story of meeting a leader of the Navajo people. They were a group who had many needs but had a wonderful spirit. This pastor asked his host what the definition for the Navajo is for success. The response was, “Success for us is to have enough to share.”
What do you think? I like that definition. It reminds me of something a financial planner told me a couple of weeks ago. She was meeting with one of her clients who was planning to give most of his wealth away. His wife was surprised by this direction. He told her, in the presence of this advisor, “I can keep it (the resources) and grow it and watch it grow, or I can give it to others, watch them grow, and see who they can become.”
When do we have enough to share? Do we feel successful when we do?

How Do You Remain Positive, Loving,Caring In Our Divisive World?

A friend and retired pastor sent me an email where he debated several of the claims made by a local “Tea Party” chapter about the place of faith, morality and politics. He points to Jesus’ sayings in the Beatitudes as the place he finds a moral center for life and society–even more than with the 10 Commandments. He writes, “If humankind followed (Jesus’s) Beatitudes, we would read and hear and experience a love and grace and hope and joy that would turn the world upside down.”
I began to wonder about where people go or what ways they have to feed their souls with what is positive and of God. I would agree with my friend that Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount are fairly comprehensive in presenting God’s grace and will for our lives. Yesterday I read this statement: “Surround yourself with chances to learn, serve, and worship that happen not just occasionally, but throughout the year. Open yourself to God not just at big events, but in daily life. Give those seeds (of faith) a chance to grow!” (Abby Thornton)
Share with me some of the ways you “give those seeds a chance to grow” in your life. All who read this will benefit.

Religion and the Church in America Today

I am teaching a class at Hyde Park Community UM Church for a few weeks about current trends in American religious life and what this means for the church today. The assessment of religion in America comes from the book, “American Grace” by Robert Putnam and David Campbell. They see both polarization and pluralism in our society.

“The nation’s religious polarization … has resulted from three seismic societal shocks, the first of which was the sexually libertine 1960s. This tumultuous period then produced a prudish aftershock of growth in conservative religion, especially evangelicalism, and an even more pronounced cultural presence for American evangelicals, most noticeably in the political arena.”

“The first aftershock was followed by an opposite reaction, a second aftershock, which is still reverberating. A growing number of Americans, especially young people, have come to disavow religion. For many, their aversion to religion is rooted in unease with the association between religion and conservative politics.

Polarization and pluralism characterize religion in America today. Do you agree? This paradox creates a very different kind of challenge for the church today than it faced 50 years ago before the three seismic shifts described in “American Grace.”