The Church Network Weekly Update
Feb. 20, 2015

Court upholds religious accommodation in Obamacare
Baptist News Global
A federal appeals court ruled Feb. 11 that accommodations in Obamacare are adequate to protect the religious freedom rights of employers who do not qualify for exemptions allowed for certain religious organizations, but object to contraception coverage in worker insurance plans on religious grounds.More

How to create events that wow your guests without stressing you out
By Deborah Ike
Most churches offer a variety of special events throughout the year. From couples' retreats to junior high lock-ins, these events require significant effort to pull off with excellence. Unfortunately, what should be a fun and impactful event often wears out staff and volunteers from all the last-minute chaos. So, how do we avoid the craziness and actually get to enjoy the fruits of our labor? Here are a few key tips.More

The church offertory: What's trending?
Managing Your Church
For most Protestant churches, the offertory is the time of worship where church members make financial gifts to God through the church. It may be combined with special music or announcements, but the central theme is giving to God. Here are seven major trends developing that are related to this aspect of worship services. The changes have been subtle, but noticeable.More

Hackers loyal to ISIS hit PCA church websites, others
World Magazine
Hackers claiming allegiance to ISIS have posted jihadist content on websites for several churches and organizations, and more web portals are vulnerable to the attacks. Jim Richter, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregation in Johnson City, Tennessee, learned about a cyberattack on his church's site Jan. 22 when a church member sent him an email. The member visited the website and saw "I love ISIS and Jihad," a violent video, and obscene language. The hackers claimed to be located in Algeria.More

US orders Alabama to license gay unions
The New York Times
A federal judge ruled on Thursday, Feb. 18 that the local probate judge cannot refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, potentially adding some clarity to a judicial quarrel that has roiled Alabama for most of a week. The order by Judge Callie V. S. Granade of Federal District Court came after a brief hearing and prompted cheers and crying in the halls of the probate court here, where several couples obtained licenses and were married before the license office closed.More

Why should they volunteer?
By William D. Pawlucy
According the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, "Volunteering in the United States — 2013," the volunteer rate from September 2012 to September 2013 was the lowest since the annual report began in 2002. The U.S. volunteer rate declined by 1.1 percentage points from the previous year to 25.4 percent, with 62.6 million people volunteering at least once for an organization. A nonprofit organization's volunteers are its most important asset, and this asset is in severe decline. Do we need to rethink the volunteer job description to attract high-quality individuals?More

LinkedIn volunteers tops 10 million
The NonProfit Times
The LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace has reached 10 million members, including 4.5 million in the United States, creating a volunteer gap between the number of skilled volunteers and the number of opportunities available to them. Some 10 million members of LinkedIn have now added the volunteer and causes section to their profiles on the online professional network, up from three million just a year ago. It’s been three years since LinkedIn added a "Volunteer and Causes" section to members' individual profiles.More

The best Easter strategy: Stay calm
Center for Church Communication
Next week, we'll be saying, "Easter is next month." Now, some of us — maybe four of us — handle this season with relatively little anxiety: calmly checking off to-dos, leaving plenty of time to make personalized, Pinterest-inspired gift baskets for everyone in the office. Yeah, well, this post is for the rest of us. The panicked ones. The I-can't-think-of-anything-creative ones. Here's the best Easter marketing strategy I can offer: Calm down.More

Martin Luther makes history, again, as Playmobil's fastest-selling toy of all time
It is a great and mighty day for Lutherans and plastic toy aficionados alike. The Independent is reporting that the new Martin Luther figurine has become the fastest-selling Playmobil toy of all time. The first run of the little figures — 34,000 tiny hammerers of theses in all — sold out in less than three days. The Independent says that the remarkable sales figures have been "confounding" to the toy company, which issued mini Martin in the run-up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But it’s now evident that demand for theology-themed toys is hot hot hot.More

Half of pastors believe faith will become online-only experience
Today 47 percent agree that at least some people will experience their faith exclusively through the internet within the coming decade. Is the prospect a problem? Theologically no, according to the nearly 9 out of 10 pastors (87 percent) who told the Barna Group it is "theologically acceptable" to seek "faith assistance" or "religious experiences" online. Nearly 4 out of 10 pastors (39 percent) say they now do so themselves, according to Barna's recent survey examining the online actions and attitudes of more than 600 pastors.More

Frequent church attendance highest in Utah, lowest in Vermont
Slightly more than half of Utah residents say they attend religious services every week, more than any other state in the union. Residents in the four Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas are the next most likely to be frequent church attendees, with 45 percent to 47 percent reporting weekly attendance. At the other end of the spectrum is Vermont, where 17 percent of residents say they attend religious services every week.More

Will millions of Christians give up Facebook and Twitter for Lent?
A 2014 survey by the Barna Group, a California research firm, found that 16 percent of those who observe Lent planned to curtail their use of sites like Facebook and Twitter. By contrast, some other well-known vices — swearing and smoking, for example — were cited by no more than 2 percent of Lent observers as their abstention item of choice. (Chocolate remained the biggie — 30 percent said they were banning the sweet stuff from their diet throughout Lent.)More

The death of religion and the rise of faith
Harvard Political Review
America is not a post-religious society, despite what sensationalist headlines may have us believe. While the general popularity and scope of organized religion are currently on the decline both in the United States and in Europe, the future will reveal very different trajectories. Just as religion has waxed and waned throughout history, so it will continue to do into the foreseeable future. The demographics are rapidly shifting, and as the next generation moves away from traditional sources to satisfy their spirituality, religious institutions will inevitably step up to a legacy of innovation that dates back to the nation’s founding.More

5 ways to lead your team more effectively
Most great leaders have a passion for building and leading an elite team. Who wants to lead a team based on mediocrity and moderation anyway? That would be a direct negative reflection on who? The leadership. But leading elite teams takes persistence and a consistent pursuit of personal and professional development. Constant personal reflection and taking action based on regular feedback.More

Your stress is harming your spiritual life
In a recent article at Relevant Magazine, writer Andrea Lucado addressed the issue of stress and how to deal with it. If you’re like most people, being an adult means never going back to the carefree days of childhood. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to have peace as you face bills, deadlines, difficult relationships, and a myriad of other pressures. In fact, if you don’t learn how to have peace through the storms, you’re damaging yourself both physically and spiritually, argues Lucado.More

How great coaches ask, listen, and empathize
Harvard Business Review
Leaders today still have to understand their business thoroughly, but it's unrealistic and ill-advised to expect them to have all the answers. Organizations are simply too complex for leaders to govern on that basis. One way for leaders to adjust to this shift is to adopt a new role: That of coach. By using coaching methods and techniques in the right situations, leaders can still be effective without knowing all the answers and without telling employees what to do.More

Why great leaders embrace uncertainty
Confidence goes a long way in leadership. No one will follow a wishy-washy leader. To solidify your authority, you need to make decisions — often without all the information you'd like — and stick to them. But when the stakes are high, smart leaders will embrace the uncertaintyMore