Saturday, November 19, 2005

Can't Figure This One Out: A Bizaare Bazaar

I am liberal. Granted.

I find it difficult to agree with more conservative perspectives. Granted. But I usually understand conservative perspectives, even when I do not agree with them. But try as I might, I just don't get this one.

There is a group in my congregation who has over $5,000.oo to spend. They make money at an annual craft bazaar that they then use to purchase something for the church. This year, they are purchasing ... are you ready for this? ... a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree. Cost = $30.00.

Let me repeat the figures, just to make sure you are with me. They have over $5,000.00 in their bank account and they are deciding to spend $30 of it to buy an artificial Christmas tree. (Incidentally, the tree is designated to be used to display ornaments in next year's craft bazaar. Nice, huh?)

The church building currently has four bathrooms in need of tile, one bathroom that needs stall dividers, the main lobby area needs new carpet, the office needs a new copy machine, the library sure could use a new set of Bible commentaries, two classrooms are in need of new furniture, it would be great to have some new artwork on the lobby walls, we would like to have three more computers networked, yada yada and yada. ...

They bought a Christmas tree (for themselves). They have $5,000.00 in the bank. I don't get it. Surely this isn't typical financial conservatism, is it? There must be something else going on. They made the crafts in order to make the money so that it could be spent on something for the church, didn't they? They said they didn't make any other purchases because they didn't know the exact cost of some of the things we need, and so they didn't want to give any of their money toward them. (The commentary set, of which the exact cost was known, was voted down in a secret ballot vote and no explanation was offered.) Why not say that they would like to give $500.00 toward the cost of the bathroom tile, for example? Then if that doesn't cover it, they could decide to spend a little more, perhaps?

Let's talk a little stewardship, here. Let's talk a little extravagant generosity. These people would ask God for a receipt after offering the first fruits of all they possess.

"Uh, yes, Jesus, quick question - how much exactly will my discipleship cost? I want to know for sure before I decide if I'm going to make that kind of commitment or not. After all, its my life and I can decide to do with it as I please." And while that is certainly true, there is something intrinsically radical about being grasped by the presence of the living Christ that precludes any notion of careful deliberation. There is nothing conservative about discipleship.

Sigh. I know, I know. We are going to be just fine without the bazaar women's $5,000.00. They will spend it when they are damn good and ready to spend it, I am sure. I'm sure I'm just going overboard as usual. But sitting there in the "meeting" at which they made their decisions was one of the most bizaare experiences I have had recently. It really was a bizaare bazaar.


Trish said...

Oh,Andy.... patience, those bizaare bazaar ladies will give in and do the right thing, however your senitments are mine exactly. This is the frustration I find with our extrodinary congregation on a weekly basis, and you guide me to have a patient and positive attitude, so I am giving you the same advice. You dont't have to like them, just love them.... I am related to one of those bazaar ladies, and I argue every year about the snotty way the decide to give the fruits of their labor back to the church. It is for the most part the congregation of the church that buys the crafts they make. This is a group that holds onto the "control" of how it is given. VERY TERRITORIAL & conservative. Be patient. It will come.

EyeRytStuf said...

This reminds me of my true story: "How I Joined Tatler Review Committee at William Jewell to Give Them a Chance and Be Open Minded because Maybe I'm Wrong About the Whole Thing but Then Sadly Learned I was Right All Along". Remind me to share it with you sometime... although I think the title ruins the ending.

Short version: Everyone is insane, including me. This is an important life lesson.

Michael said...

I've seen this very behavior at almost every church I've ever been associated with. Someone the "Discipline" is used to justify precisely "whose" money it is; ie, this can't be used for that, etc.

I am only presuming that these bazaar ladies are elderly. If this is true, I try to remember that perhaps they are of a generation that learned the hard way how to stretch a dollar.

Feel better? Nah, neither do I .... ever!!

Randy said...

At my church, several years ago, our men's group decided to build a smoke house for smoking meats. So now we have a first-rate, restaurant quality smoke house on our parking lot. The building has a large room that could be used for various meetings, and we sure need the space, but the men won't hear of it. Only five men have keys, and they won't give a copy to anyone, not even the pastor. It's like their private club house. They smoke turkeys and hams for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the rest of the year the building stands pretty much unused. The men retain absolute control over how the proceeds from selling the meats are spent. They will not put it in the general budget, even if we need it. So, the money builds up in a low-rate CD somewhere, just sitting there, not even earning any significant interest. It's there for a rainy day, I guess, though when a rainy day arrives they won't consider using it, because things could get worse, I suppose.

Now, what should I do as a pastor? Do I demand a copy of the keys? Do I demand access and use of the building for church programs? Do I strongly urge them to use the money for general budget needs?

Nah. Not unless I want to make a lot of enemies really fast. I've only been here since June, and that's not a battle I need to fight right now. What I'm trying to do is build relationships with these men, one on one, and then, at some point, I may be able to suggest in a non-threatening way some ways to use the money and building.

I don't know what I'd do in your case, and unsolicited advice is seldom really appreciated. I suppose I'd celebrate the fact that they have raised so much money. I'd put it in the newsletter and the bulletin. I'd applaud their success during the announcements at worship, and say something like, "We are so grateful for the faithfulness of these women in raising money to support the ministries of our church, and we'll let you know when they've decided upon a good and worthy project that honors the Lord."

By the way . . . . do any members of your church read your blog?

Randy Graves

Anonymous said...

I have the same question Randy does about members of your congregation reading your blog. It's no fun to play politics in the church, but sometimes it is necessary to be careful what you say and how you say it for the ultimate good of your "extraordinary Congregation". Question - is the women's group an organized unit of UMW? If so, all they earn is technically required to be spent on missions. But that's an entirely different battle. Mom

Adam Caldwell said...

Why does it have to be aliberal conservative issue?...Can't we find a way past that lingo? It tires me out.

Why can't we lable it an "old and stingy" situation? Which, by the way happens at every church but is no less frusterating regardles of where you worship.

I feel for you Andy. I them the picture of when you were in the paper. All of their hearts will mealt and they will be putty in your hands.

That will work.

Andy B. said...

Yeah, In fact the first commenter in this chain is a church member. And no, they are not an official UMW circle. And it is highly unlikely that any of the bazaar ladies read my blog, let alone know what the term "right click" means.
Randy, your advice is very helpful, and I thank you for reminding me to celebrate the good stuff.
Adam, I am not trying to use our favorite labels here in a negative sense, but merely to be descriptive. Having a lot of money and choosing not to spend it is conservative. Good or bad, my point is I don't understand it. And I think it is more than stingy, there is something else going on there.

Erin said...

I totally understand your frustration, especially when there are such great financial needs in the church right now. But could this be a case of a group that was not really ready to have the meeting they were having. For example, maybe someone needed to be in charge of contacting the different ministries/areas of the church to find out what the needs are, then gather quotes of prices on the needs and present them to the group at large. It seems to me that maybe they just got together for lunch and forgot about the other part until it was time for the meeting. Perhaps they need some guidence as to how to manage money and how to best make decisions as to how to spend it. And after that they should meet again, being more prepared and ready to make an informed choice.

Andy B. said...

By the way, Adam. I fully acknowledge that picuture was taken at a moment in my life when my hair wasn't sure if it was going to be long or short, and my glasses were big enough for two people to look through. But I am glad you enjoyed it.

And Erin, as always, you are absolutely correct. I should always remember to let you read my blogs before I post them. You are my life's editor. Love, Andy.

Adam Caldwell said...

Andy...I really did like that picture, but you know me I am a sucker for long hair.

Just a thought...perhaps 'our' favorite president has 'succesfully' redefined the conservative standpoint on money spending. What's our national debt these days?

Tim Sisk said...

Clearly I'm missing something in the context. How on earth is this a liberal/conservative issue? It sounds to me like you are describing tightwad control freaks. Is that how you define conservatives? There must be something going on behind the scene that isn't clear in the post (or maybe my reading comprehension has dropped a few points).

At our church, we do not have "independently" controlled funds. That was the decision of our finance, church council, and trustees. No single group, regardless of the fund raiser has their own funds. This is an accountability issue not a conservative liberal issue.

And unless I have missed something in the context Andy, I'm kind of offended that you cast the post in this way. And worried for you if this is how you see the world.

Andy B. said...

The way I see it:

Conservative - as in wanting to conserve things (i.e. money).

Liberal - like wanting to
liberate things (i.e. money).

"Tightwad control freaks" - extremely conservative (at least when it comes to money) people.

I don't know, maybe I'm the one who has missed something here, Tim. Adam points out that our presumably conservative president has blown government spending sky high. Anyway, I think you get the broader point. Yes, it is absolutely an accountability issue and your policy in your church is a very good one. Thanks for the idea!
Andy B.

Tim Sisk said...

By your definition, you should be quite happy with our president. Methinks you are not!

It just seemed to me to be hitching the wrong wagon to the mule. The issue isn't conservative or liberal (particularly in political thinking) but accountability and control within the church. The fact that you made it an issue about conservative and liberal was either to goad, or score points, or something, bothers me.

Also, while I appreciated reading about frustrations you have with the church (it was welcome in the sense of making feel that I'm not alone in my frustrations--I particularly appreciated your sharing of the banners) is church your aware that you blog on these issues? Are they comfortable with you doing it? Should you be doing it? Is it healthy?

Anonymous said...

Good job, Ladies. There is only one word to describe how this chuch is handling their funds and that is ELEVATOR!

Anonymous said...

Think we have gotten spoiled by Frances B, ehhh? - Scott

Anonymous said...

You are in so much trouble! This is more lively commenting than if you would talk about inviting skateboarders to your dinners. Or have you already?

Shelly :)!