Sunday, October 20, 2013

January 2014 Sermon Series Thoughts

Adam Hamilton is the lead pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. 

Hamilton suggests that we use the December time frame to advertise a January sermon series that specifically is designed to speak to the unchurched who show up at Christmas Eve and intentionally invite them back.  Advertise it all of December, but in particular, on Christmas Eve night. 

The idea is evangelism. 

Here are some ideas …

  • Reading the Bible for all the Wrong Reasons.  Would be based on a book by Russell Pregeant.  Chapter titles map the route: “Neither Fact Book nor Catechism,” “Neither Science nor Anti-Science,” “Neither Crystal Ball Nor Horror Show,” “Neither Rigid Rules Nor Billy Club.”   My guess is I would take four or so of those chapter titles and use them as grist for a sermon for that week.  
  • Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and Politics.  Too soon?  Might spend a few weeks getting to it but I expect it would end up roughly here from a review in First Things:  “Benne proposes an alternative to separationism .... critical engagement. He derives from the central claims of Christianity about the nature of God, creation, salvation, and man several politically relevant principles and explains how those principles may be applied given the historical, political, national, and social situations in which an ecclesial [church] community may find itself.”

Hamilton himself has offered the following ideas.  I think they are “good” … would put a Hilltop/Shaw/Utah (as appropriate) slant to them.  Here are some he has “done” and the link is provided if you want to hear a few.  My guess is you can get the idea of where he went from the title.  Again, I would not preach HIS sermon … but … it would be part of the material I would use to prepare.  

  • Love, Sex, & Marriage ( 2012 down at the bottom, I would do only four of them, not all 7, and even then, modify a lot)
  • Conversations with an Atheist ( 2007 down at the bottom … like with LS&M, would look at and pick 4 ideas, modify) 
  • Where Science and Religion Meet ( 2005 down at the bottom … like LS&M, and CWaA …. )
  • When Christians Get it Wrong ( – 2009 down at the bottom … like …)
  • Dave Ramsey also offers some ideas.  Life. Money. Hope ( w/Dave Ramsey is a reference but I am sure it is the Dave Ramsey 101 kind of stuff).  Hamilton also has some $$ oriented thoughts that have a Ramsey flavor to them. 
One I think is also “good” or relevant is a series on Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. 

Think – ‘if I were curious about what “the church” might have to say about my life and the life of my family, do any of these “excite” you?
Do you have any other ideas that can be unpacked for four weeks (like we did last year with forgiveness)? 

Give me your thoughts please by next Wednesday or so.  I need to start getting some thoughts down so we can plan musically as well as other worship elements.

Posts in comments please your most intriguing/possibly interesting, your 2nd most interesting/intriguing and your 3rd most.  I will “score them 5/3/1.  Here are the eight I mentioned.

1.     Reading the Bible for all the Wrong Reasons. 
2.     Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and Politics. 
3.     Love, Sex, & Marriage
4.     Conversations with an Atheist
5.     Where Science and Religion Meet
6.     When Christians Get it Wrong
7.     Life. Money. Hope
8.     Boundaries.

February will be a look at black music and the theology/ideas contained w/in them.

March is transfiguration Sunday and then we start our Lenten journey.  Easter is late this year.  That will mean Pentecost will alsos be later than usual.  

Might come back to this fishing idea post Easter … if you have an idea or three for that, let me know. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Abundance of the Heart, 2013

Hello Friends of Family Promise,

You are personally invited to the “Abundance of the Heart, 2013" a benefit for homeless families, October 25th, 2013, Friday, 8a-9a, at the Little America Hotel (details below and attached). The event is free to attend and all are welcome. To rsvp, please contact Tony Milner at 801-961-8622,,

This event is a time for us to celebrate the positive and life-altering successes of Family Promise, but more importantly, it is a time to spread awareness and highlight the crisis of family homelessness right here in Salt Lake.

This year, we are honored to have as our Keynote Speaker, Stacey Bess, local author of "Nobody Don't Love Nobody, Lessons on Love from a School with No Name," a teacher's account of educating homeless students; adapted into the 2011 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, "Beyond the Blackboard.”

(A special thank you to our Event Sponsors: The American Express Center for Community Development, Wells Fargo, and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Salt Lake Chapter.)

Your attendance and support will truly make a positive difference in the life of a homeless child. We hope to see you there.
Also, at the event we will be celebrating “Family Promise Week!” Family Promise - Salt Lake, an Affiliate of Family Promise National, is proud to be part of a nationwide effort to help homeless families regain their stability in housing - and in life. 2013 marks Family Promise National's 25th Anniversary of serving homeless families across the country, and the week of October 20th - 27th, 2013, has been designated "Family Promise Week." Since 1988, Family Promise National has brought together over 6,000 congregations and 160,000 volunteers to assist more than 500,000 homeless men, women and children with shelter, case management, housing and other supportive services.

Posted by Pastor Dennis on behalf of
Tony Milner, Executive Director
Family Promise - Salt Lake
wk 801-961-8622

Getting Smart

We sometimes think of planning and visioning as a secular enterprise.  If we do indeed “sometimes think” this, we could be be missing a key theme of scripture.  For example, scripture gives us:

  • Proverbs 29: 18a (King James Version) “Where there is no vision, the people perish.…”
  • Proverbs 21:5 (English Standard Version) “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”
  • Habakkuk 2:2-3 (English Standard Version) “And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.’”

That is a lot of wisdom from our ancient words.  They tell us that we need to plan but at the same time; we need to exercise patience and self-control in this planning. 
We are asking the leadership of your church to generate planning goals by November.  We are asking for these goals to be SMART.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
I pray we are casting a compelling vision for the church in our growth within the framework of worship, discipleship, ministry to children, youth and their families, and our missional activity to the world around us. 
I pray the compelling vision we are casting will produce abundance, the type of abundance Jesus is speaking of in John 10:10 when he reminds the disciples he has come to give them life in abundance.  Abundance – abundance of fruitfulness for God’s kingdom; abundance of Holy Spirit qualities; abundance of discipleship.
I pray the abundant, compelling vision will be plain and allow us to run towards God’s transformative vision for His creation. 
I pray we can be patient, and certainly prayerful, in our development of that vision for Hilltop. 
I am proud to be the Pastor of this church:  A church that has a SMART vision of making an impact on the lives of God’s people. 
Selah, Pastor Dennis

This blog is my October newsletter article for Hilltop.  

Smart Creating

In my theme article of the newsletter I write:  “I am proud to be the Pastor of this church: A church that has a SMART vision of making an impact on the lives of God’s people.”  I want this blog to focus on how we might go about creating SMART Goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

Specific: A specific goal is much more likely to be accomplished than a general goal. Some questions to ask while evaluating a goal are: What should be accomplished? Why should it be accomplished? When and how will it be accomplished?

Specific goals show exactly what, when, and how much is expected. This means spelling out the details of the goal from start to finish. Keep in mind that simple goals are better. The easier it is to understand, the easier it will be to achieve.

MeasurableMeasurable goals are quantifiable. Establish a certain set of criteria for measuring progress toward accomplishing each goal that is set. Questions like the following can help identify if a goal is measurable: How much? How many? How will I know the result has been achieved?

Is there something observable that can be measured? When progress is measured, it is easier to stay on track, reach target dates, and achieve success.

Achievable:  For a goal to be achievable key people must possess the skills and have access to the resources necessary to accomplish the goal. Achievable goals should include flexible objectives and tasks to allow for changes in the church. Good questions to ask to establish whether a goal is achievable are: Is the desired result of the goal attainable by the team or the church? Do we need training individually or as a team early in the year to help achieve this goal? How challenging is this goal? How much direct control does the team or individual have over the goal? 

Keep in mind goals that are too high or too low are meaningless. Goals should be realistic and attainable; they should be challenging, but not so difficult that they result in discouragement. Goals should also not be so easy that they become routine and boring. To stretch is good, to break is not. Setting goals together within the team or the church will help ensure that the goals are achievable.

Relevant: Goals should be relevant to the church’s vision and mission, the committees’ specific function in the organization, and daily tasks. Think about this question when determining a goal’s relevance: How will the goal impact committee performance as well as the performance of the church?

Goals should also be relevant personally; a goal should represent something the team member is both willing and able to work toward.

Timely:  Setting a realistic time frame to accomplish a goal will result in continued progress towards achieving the goal. I want us to focus on goals for 2014 this time around with the understanding that those goals should support our Hilltop 2020 Vision. Goals without time frames will often be pushed aside by the day-to-day time wasters that are a part of most organizations. It is easy to forget about a goal when there is no deadline for completion. Meeting a deadline helps keep goals properly prioritized. It also creates a sense of urgency that will help motivate one to complete the tasks necessary to reach the goal. For goals with many steps or action plans, it is helpful to break down the goal into manageable stages. Work out a time frame for the accomplishment of each stage and add in time for unexpected delays. The deadline will be the date by which all stages are complete.

Here are a few examples of some SMART goals I am thinking are good for me. See how these might work for you within your leadership responsibility.

  • In order to improve the annual average worship attendance at Hilltop I will ensure all families who do not attend three weeks in a row, six weeks in a row and nine weeks in a row are contacted by me through email/phone call, at three weeks handwritten note at six weeks, and finally a personal visit at nine weeks so as to contribute to the raising of our average by at least 10 percent by the end of 2014.
  • In order to raise congregational giving at Hilltop I will monthly review congregational giving and report on our achievement as a direct result of that review so as to contribute to the raising of our congregational giving by an average of $5,000 a month for 2014.
  • In order to celebrate the impact of time and talent given to Hilltop I will recognize parishioners for their service by at least ten handwritten notes and a leadership coin per month so as to recognize volunteerism with the desired impact of raising overall volunteerism at the church by at least 10 percent for 2014.

These are examples, and I will work with key leaders in our church to determine if they are SMART goals for me. How might setting a SMART goal or two for yourself, independent of your participation in a committee improve our life at Hilltop?

Selah, Pastor Dennis

I harvested and edited material from the internet to create most of this article.  

Monday, October 07, 2013

Hilltop Stewardship

I spoke to the congregation in June about our finances. Here is where we are now in comparison with where we were, by month, in 2012.  

Hilltop Monthly Congregational Giving
2012 and 2013 to dat
The key point about the above chart is that for May through September for 2013 we are ahead of all the same months in 2012.

When I mentioned this on October 6th during worship Roberta said "Praise God!"

I agree with Roberta and I also compliment the congregation for stepping forward and up and addressing this element of our Stewardship.

There is a lot to celebrate in this chart.

Our plans for 2014 are still in development but over 75% of our income comes to us from members of the church.  About 25% comes to us through Hilltop Christian School, the two Cell Towers, the Best Property and our Mother's Morning Out.  Please note that Mother's Morning Out posts a positive balance to our ledgers.

This next chart tells the story of congregational giving with a look at the last twelve months at each column on the chart.  For example, when it shows January, 2012 it shows the giving for the last eleven months of 2011 and the first month of 2012.  That logic is repeated for each month of 2012 and 2013.  The month in question plus the last eleven months before that.  It has a way of showing us cumulatively how we have done for the last year.

Congregational Giving Since December, 2011
Shown as a Moving Total of the last 12 Months
I show December in 2011 and 2012 in red only to cause it to be clear.  Those two months represent the end of year position for congregation giving for 2011 and 2012 respectively.  We lost about $30,000 in giving in 2012.  I think the low of January, 2013 was a function in part of the departure of several key financial stewards of the church for various reasons.

I see the gradual upward trend since January as a return to more stable finances.

As I mentioned during worship on Sunday, I pray that when people submit their pledges for 2014, they also consider that adding an element of their time and talent to their treasure invested in Hilltop.  While there are many opportunities to serve, I specifically addressed three:

  • Financial Secretaries (more than one more), 
  • Assistance with the Management of Worship and 
  • Children's Ministry.  

That said, there are many chances to serve.  I invite your careful exploration of your pledge opportunity that you received in the September meetings or will receive through the mail or in your mail box in the Fellowship Hall.

We hope to place our commitments to the church on the altar during worship on October 27th.

Pastor Dennis