NACBA Weekly Update
Dec. 16, 2011

Advent a make-or-break chance for churches, visitors
Religion News Service via USA Today
Deck the halls and cue the pageant! Advent has arrived in American churches, which means the lapsed and the curious who seldom darken the door just might drop by for a taste of the season's spirit. But if visitors briskly come and go without considering a commitment to join or get involved, then churches will have missed a golden opportunity with huge implications for the future. Part of what's at stake, researchers say, is the survival of congregations. More

Church on Christmas morning? Of course
Baptist Press
The Grinch has finally stolen Christmas. Funny thing is, it turned out to be an inside job. Just weeks after Christians joined forces in a chorus of boos for retailers who refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season, churches across the country have decided to take the Christians out of Christmas instead. No, they've not given up on the holiday. They're not refusing to say "Merry Christmas." They're certainly not buying "holiday" trees. They've just decided to stay home for Christmas. More

Churches balance reality, reverence when Christmas falls on Sunday
Associated Baptist Press
“You mean we have to go to church Christmas Eve and Christmas morning?” Many worship leaders know their own children likely will ask that question this year. They also know quite a few families in their congregations will answer, “No.” So, some churches struggle with how to balance reality and reverence when Christmas falls on Sunday. Even the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” guideline fails to provide much help for some churches. “Because Christmas is on a Sunday only every six years or so, it seems we forget what we did the last time Christmas was on a Sunday,” said Allan Aunspaugh, minister of music at Second Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo. More

3 essential Christmas promises to your congregation
Church Central
Doing Christmas is common in most churches—so is having Christmas. Rare, however, is actually celebrating Christmas. That sort of all too infrequent commemoration requires more than handbell concerts, decorations, and warm feelings. Here are three essential promises that the author of this article has always made to the congregations he's served. More

Strategies to help religion 'stick' to young people
Seattle Times
At first, there didn't seem to be much an eighty-something grandmother could do to help her church's college freshmen wrestle with the trials and temptations of their first weeks away at college. After all, she knew very little about Facebook, YouTube, online homework, smartphones or texting. She did, however, know how to write letters. So that is what she did, writing personal letters to each student to let them know that she was praying for them, wishing them the best as they searched for a college church and looking forward to seeing them at Thanksgiving and Christmas. More

10 resolutions guaranteed to improve your ministry
The best leadership comes out of the resolve a leader has made in his or her heart. The resolve of a leader is the pre-determined approach a leader will take when carrying out his or her leadership. These are personal convictions that shape the way a leader leads, responds to others, and the choices a leader makes. Most often, these resolutions are made even prior to being in a leadership position. The resolve of a leader is powerful. In fact, if a leader wants to improve his or her leadership, he or she must often improve first their personal resolve. So do you want to improve your leadership? More

Churches 'essential' to fighting child homelessness, expert says
The Christian Post
Churches are "essential" to the success of antipoverty programs, says an expert on poverty and child homelessness. Dr. Ellen L. Bassuk, president and founder of the National Center on Family Homelessness, said that churches serve an important role to combating poverty "at the grassroots level."More

When the zoning board closes your church
The Wall Street Journal
What counts as a church? Chuck and Stephanie Fromm recently found out. After hosting several periodic Bible studies for up to 50 people in their home in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., the Fromms were fined $300 for violating a city ordinance that prohibits groups of three or more people from gathering without a permit. The couple appealed and city officials agreed last month to reimburse them and re-examine the ordinance, but the case created a stir in religious circles. "It struck a deep nerve. Bible studies in people's homes have been a long part of American culture and heritage," says Brad Dacus of the Pacific Research Institute, which took on the Fromms' case. "We're concerned that other cities will try to get away with the same thing." More

How are you handling your church insurance needs?
If you are responsible for any aspect of a church, you know that finances can be an unfortunate burden, dampening the otherwise spiritual movement of the church. But one of the responsibilities a church, whether in native Indiana or anywhere else, is to protect its congregation by providing insurance for the grounds of the establishment. Just as with any other physical structure or building, churches are subject to damage from extreme weather, fire, malicious damage, and other external events. The difference with churches is that many parishioners are reliant on them, and churches can have very different and specific assets. More

A new spin on the gym
Worship Facilities
As 2,500+-seat megachurches give way to multisite concepts and smaller community churches with congregations of 500-2,000, the definition of a sports facility is changing. A hardwood floor and basketball hoops on either end is no longer enough to meet the needs of most churches, many experts say. “The days of saying, ‘We’re just going to drop in a gym, throw in a few basketball hoops, and call it good’ are over,” says Doug Pasma, principal of Pasma Group Architects, a Chicago-area architectural firm specializing in house of worship design. More

Over morning coffee, five friends inspire "Merry Christmas" billboards nationwide
“As Christians, we were offended,” the five told the morning news shows. Over coffee, Joanne Brown, Linda Bennett, Judi Hanna, Laurie Kramer and Pat See, all of the Youngstown, Ohio, area — lamented Americans’ increasingly “politically correct” pressure to mumble “Happy Holidays” rather than risk offending someone by saying “Merry Christmas.” What could they do about it? They came up with the idea of billboards. Within weeks, they had raised enough money for two billboards reading, “I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas” and “Why have you stopped saying Merry Christmas?” Both were signed, “Jesus.” More

Ministry raising dough for Haitian bakers
The Christian Post
If you teach a man to bake, he’ll have bread for life. For husband and wife team Rick and Debbi Sands, this philosophy is part of the ingredients for their new mission to help feed the hungry in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. The Sandses, who own the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Stow, Ohio, have bread in their blood. But Rick said last year he felt like God was calling them to build a bakery in a third world country. He wrote in a blog post, “I have always had a heart for world hunger and felt called to step up and take a stand.” Their bakery idea took off when their home church in Hudson, Ohio, held a meeting about a vocational school in Haiti called Institution Univers. The Sandses met with the director and founder of the school, Hugues Bastien, and began discussing where their bakery might fit into the school’s vocational programs. More

Church takes up a collection of DNA from the faithful
News & Observer
First Presbyterian Church of Durham, N.C., made the notion of giving of one's self a literal one this holiday season. The downtown church on Sunday held a drive that signed up 49 people to a national registry of bone marrow and stem cell donors. Congregants of several downtown Durham churches paid a visit to First Presbyterian to register for the National Marrow Donor Program and to stick four cotton swabs in their cheeks to collect stem cells. "At Christmas, we ask the question, 'What can I give for others?' " said the Rev. Joe Harvard, the church's pastor. "Well, you can give of yourself." More

St. Louis church channels anger over Pujols for good
Religion News Service via USA Today
As members of The Gathering began to hear of the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments after Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols had signed a $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, they decided to act. "We heard people were burning their Pujols jerseys, and someone said, 'Why don't we ask them to donate the jerseys, and we'll give them away?'" said the Rev. Matt Miofsky, the pastor of the United Methodist church. The 5-year-old church christened the effort, the "Recycle the Five Drive," a play on Pujols' jersey number. It began Facebook and Twitter campaigns to let disappointed Cardinals fans turn their anger into a positive. More