Getting the puzzle to move

When my daughter was younger we bought her a traffic jam game.  It was a puzzle that had a red car that you needed to get out of a parking lot by moving other cars forward and back so the red car could get to the exit.  (I know that was the worst description in the history of civilization but you can go here to play it online, maybe it will make sense).

As we coached her on how to play the game we would remind her to start moving the cars that she was able to move and just see what shook loose.  Eventually the solution would become obvious but it might take dozens of moves for that to happen.

That game came back to me this week when I was talking with a pastor about the Five Star Stewardship Program.  He liked the idea but thought the whole program was more than his congregation was ready for.

So I gave him the advice from the Traffic Jam game.  Move what you can and see what shakes loose.

More than almost anything in the church, money is wrapped up in culture.  When you look at churches with strong endowment programs you see that planned giving is part of the culture and has been for decades.  The same is true with churches that contribute heavily to missions or those who are careless with their budget (if they even have one) or just pay the bills as money comes in.

No leader, no matter how dynamic, can unwind a century or more of money culture with a single sermon or one decidedly above average year-round stewardship program.

But they can move what they can and see what shakes loose.

If you don’t see any way that your church can earn those 150 points, don’t worry about it.  But you can preach about money every quarter.  You can do some analysis on giving trends and share it with your leaders.  You can even invite an outside speaker to come in and say thank you.  (Afterall, someone has to preach while you’re on vacation).

It is difficult for a seven year old girl to stick to a puzzle that takes dozens of moves to solve, just as it is frustrating for church leaders to beat their collective heads against an unyielding church culture of money.  But move what you can, see what shakes loose and keep moving toward the solution.

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