As I've said before, one of my big blessings comes from seeing and sharing practical ideas.
Baby Bonds. When parents bring infants for dedication, Sligo school principal Ruth Satelmajer (Takoma Park, Maryland) presents a "Baby Bond" good for three months' free tuition, to be used when the child enters school. This gift firmly cements the importance of planning for Christian education years before formal schooling begins.
Sabbath morning breakfast. Hoping to increase attendance at Sabbath School and recognizing that most adults cannot concentrate when they are hungry (even more so children), the Palm Springs Church schedules fellowship breakfast prior to the scheduled time for Bible study.
Christmas in July. Albert and Elaine Ellis enjoy holiday greetings twice: first when cards and letters arrive, and then when they review them throughout the year. They select one or two cards a week as part of their daily devotions, review the greeting, reflect on special friends, and lift up that family in prayer. They say, "It's almost like a face-to-face visit as well as a second time to enjoy these holiday remembrances!"
Three years to prepare a sermon. In the latest issue of Preaching, Lloyd John Ogilvie describes his three-year cycle for preparing to preach a sermon series. After selecting a portion of scripture, he spends a year with that section as a devotional exercise. The next year, he does an in-depth expositional study coupled with reading great expositors. In the actual year of preaching he out lines the presentations and prepares a folder for each week of the series—one folder for each sermon ready to receive the illustrative material that will go into them as he reads, interacts with people, and experiences daily life.1
Photo business card. Recently a contribution arrived for a ministry project which included a short note on the back of Tom and Brooke Stafford's business card. The check was appreciated, the note was encouraging, but the business card came to life because it included their photo. Realtors and other entrepreneurs long ago learned the value of connecting their name and face. You may want to try a new design for your personal business card.
Cafe church. Determined to reach secular society people who might, otherwise, bypass church, Adventists in Helsinki have planted a cafe church where attendees gather casually around tables and refreshments to study Bible topics, fellowship, and interact. Before you dismiss such ventures as "not church," reflect on the way most New Testament house churches functioned. Cafe church may be more closely aligned with Scripture than fifty pews lined up in rows.
Pass on the bonus! When a struggling, small congregation in New Hampshire received a $1000 contribution for their building fund from another local congregation almost three thousand miles away, they wondered what prompted such generosity. Then they learned that they are among several churches each year which receive a boost from the donor congregation's "Brotherhood Fund" to boost big projects in small places. I will not reveal the donor congregation; you cannot apply for their generosity. But when they discover a need, they generously share. Try following their example and lead your church to assist some project some where else.
Picture worth a thousand words. Try illustrating your confidence in Bible themes through art placed in your lobby or office. At the Ministerial Association we display two original oil paintings by Elfred Lee, The Truth as It Is in Jesus, which highlights seven significant doctrinal themes (salvation by grace, sola scriptura, sabbath, second coming, state of man, sanctuary, and spiritual gifts) and The Way of the Cross Leads Home, which portrays the joyous return of Jesus to His Father following His second advent. See ad on page 31 to obtain posters or limited-edition, artist-signed prints of these remarkable paintings.
Simply Speaking. Former U.S. presidential speech writer, Peggy Noonan, relates insight she learned from novelist Edith Wharton who said, "No matter what the gift of the writer, whether genius or dunce, the language of love is always the same: 'I love you, I love you, my darling, you are so wonderful . . ." Noonan says, "The language of love is simple because love is big. And big things are best said, almost always said, in small words."2
1 Lloyd Ogilive, "Preaching to Power," in Preaching, May-June 2002, 4-6.
2 Peggy Noonan, Simply Speaking (DIANE Pub Co, 1999)