COMMUNICATION & Why/when you should publish church budgets in the bulletin.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. 3/I4/18.

I received the question (below) from a former student. It is followed by my answer.

Pastor: “In seminary I seem to remember hearing that it was a desperate move to publish weekly giving/need financial info in the bulletin. If a church is on mission and helping congregation members buy in to that then the finances will come in from the people. Rather, by putting them in it seems we’re advertising to new visitors we care more for their money than their hearts. I can’t find anything other than blog posts (research data or book quotes elude me) in support of this idea. I’m at (church name), and this idea came up at board meeting last night with fairly wide support. We already make the monthly budget summary available in print and digital, so this feels desperate since our giving is way down. The treasure can also nearly directly correlate the drop in giving with unfulfilled mission promises from church leader (namely raising money for a building that hasn’t been built/spent in over 5 years).”

I responded:

I don’t recall any research that has been conducted on this. But, usually when a church board makes this suggestion it’s because they feel it will increase giving if people know the church is in need. And that is true, it will do so among the people who are already committed to the church. And it will do so if these committed people have forgotten to give their offerings recently or have not given it because they thought the church is not in need.

But, most people (if they are moderately attached to a church) will know a church is in need when the church is encountering financial difficulties.  There may be uncompleted maintenance issues or paid staff being let go. Usually financial difficulties are easy to spot for regular, committed congregants. Therefore there is a rationale for this approach and it might help, But I believe only slightly so.

If the board members are aware of congregants who have not been giving because of the above reasons, then rather than an impersonal announcement in the bulletin which might be missed, a personal visit by a board member would be more productive.

Let the board know this reasoning and they will see that publishing the budget in the bulletin will probably create little increased giving. But it might be a little … and that could be helpful.

The downside, to which the student is alluding, is that people who are not yet strongly attached to the church may feel that the church is a “sinking ship.” And it appears that it might be the case here. Therefore, the logical thinking is that publishing the budget might scare them away.  And this might scare away some people, but mainly those who may be coming for the wrong reasons.

It is better in my mind to be forthright. In my consulting practice I have seen over the years that is best to be honest and forthright. Therefore publishing the budget may be helpful and even more so if it is prefaced with a short introductory sentence. Perhaps something that says: “We want to make our church family aware of our financial challenges and that we appreciate your prayers and input.”

Finally I’ve seen that putting a budget in the church bulletin can help newcomers understand where the money goes. Even a simple pie chart that shows the percentage of money that goes to staff, upkeep of facilities, outreach, etc. can help people see that an extraordinary amount of money is not going for personal or congregational purposes. However if it is, then that’s another problem you need to address.



SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Helping others navigate the evangelism journey #BiblicalLeadership

by Bob Whitesel DMin, PhD, 3/18/18.

…To describe evangelism as a journey reminds us that outreach is a bridge-building process, requiring time, patience, mapping and perseverance.

Bridge building requires a plan

A helpful metaphor for depicting this planned and purposeful process is that such bridge building can be thought of as a journey. A journey reminds us that outreach is a bridge-building process requiring time, patience, mapping and perseverance.

Sociologists James Engle and Wilbert Norton depicted this journey as a process of deepening communication. They noted that it took place over time with a variety of adaptations, stating “Jesus and His followers … always began with a keen understanding of the audience and then adapted the message to the other person without compromising God’s Word. The pattern they followed is as pertinent today as was two thousand years ago”[i]

Richard Peace, professor of Evangelism and Spiritual Formation at Fuller Seminary, looked carefully at the 12 disciples in the New Testament and concluded that a step-by-step process unfolds through which the disciples eventually have a transforming experience.[ii] Peace calls this “process evangelism,” summing up,

“The Twelve came to faith over time via a series of incidents and encounters with, and experiences of, Jesus. Each such event assisted them to move from their initial assumptions about Jesus to a radically new understanding of who he actually was. In his Gospel, Mark invites his readers to make this same pilgrimage of discovery.”[iii]

Esther de Wall, in The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination notes that the Christian life has always been viewed as a journey, stating,

“Life seen as a journey, an ascent, a pilgrimage, a road, is an idea as old as man himself. One of the earliest titles for Christians at the time of the Acts was “the people of the way’. We see the individual Christian as a pilgrim on earth having here no abiding city; we speak of the Church, particularly since Vatican II, as a pilgrim church. But we cannot think of life as a journey without accepting that is must involve change and growth.”[iv]

Lesslie Newbigin sums this up nicely, saying that “as a human race we are on a journey and we need to know the road. It is not true that all roads lead to the top of the same mountain. There are roads which lead over the precipice. In Christ, we have been shown the road … God has given us the route we must follow and the goal to which we must press forward.”[v] Thus, the journey metaphor accommodates the imagery of planned, deliberate and unfolding bridge-building across cultural chasms…

Read more at …


[i] James F. Engel and Wilbert Norton, What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), 35.

[ii] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999). Peace offers a helpful examination of Mark’s account of the 12 disciples and their conversionary experiences. Peace argues that they were not converted while traveling with Jesus as members of his apostolic band, but that Mark’s Gospel is organized in part to underscore that “were brought step-by-step to the experience of repentance and faith,” 12.

[iii] Ibid. 309.

[iv] Esther de Waal, Seeking God, 69.

[v] Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1989), 183.

STO LEADERSHIP & Are you a general or a colonel? What characterizes your leadership style? #video

What characterizes your leadership style? Dr. Bob Whitesel, professor of Christian Ministry and Missional Leadership at Wesley Seminary, discusses two leadership styles that are also found in the military. How will different leadership styles implement the goals and vision of your church and ministry? (Excerpted from the Society For Church Consulting’s Church Staffing Summit 2015.)

Video: Are you a general or a colonel?

by Bob Whitesel
What characterizes your leadership style? Dr. Bob Whitesel, professor of Christian Ministry and Missional Leadership at Wesley Seminary, discusses two leadership styles that are also found in the military.

STO LEADERSHIP & Learning from your leadership style: Are you a shepherd, a visionary or a combination of both? #video #SocietyForChurchConsultingSummit

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 1/15/17.

Are you a shepherd, a visionary or a combination of both? Dr. Bob Whitesel, professor of Christian Ministry and Missional Leadership at Wesley Seminary, talks about his leadership style and the pros and cons he found along the way. (Excerpted from The Society For Church Consulting’s Church Staffing Summit 2015.)

Video: Learning from your leadership style

Are you a shepherd, a visionary or a combination of both?

Watch more at …

CHURCH PLANTING & Starting a Plant in a Internet Cafe: The Sol Cafe in Edmonton, AB

By Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 15, 2006. This is an excerpt of the chapter on this innovative church plant I wrote for the Abingdon Press book titled: Inside the organic church: Learning from 12 emerging congregations.

Chapter 2: Sol Café, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

We’re a “coffee-stop,” an “information booth” along a spiritual highway.

“Worship leading is … ‘curating” (providing opportunities for engagement and free association). – Sally Morgenthaler, worship leader and consultant

First Encounters:

It looked like any other Internet café, with little indication a church gathering was about to take place. Feeling adrift, I made my way to the coffee bar. “I guess I’m the church greeter,” began Winston, the barista. “I usually don’t act so forward but you looked lost.” As a church growth consultant, I visit worship gatherings every weekend. But he was right, an unobtrusive beginning to this worship gathering had disoriented me. I didn’t know the bewilderment was so obvious.

“We usually don’t tell people a worship gathering is starting,” continued Winston. “We just let them get comfortable, have a coffee, and engage in conversation. Then the worship unfolds slowly … at an unhurried pace. We want to usher people into a spiritual encounter, we don’t want to announce ‘Hey, its worship time: in or out!’”

I wondered out loud if people get offended once they discover a worship gathering is unfolding. “Rarely,” replied Winston. “Most of the time people like the music, the unhurried atmosphere, patrons sharing their stories. It is a great way to do church, and it impacts people who have never been to church. They are slowly led into a church experience. It’s not dropped on them all at once.”

True to the forecast, the evening progressed deliberately forward, but at a leisured pace. People laughed, talked, introduced themselves, and generally turned this Internet café into an extended family. Instrumental music was played at first, but soon some people were singing along. Over time more joined in, and even reticent attendees soon sang. At first the songs had a reflective timbre, but as the evening progressed so did the songs’ Christian content, until finally I noticed many visitors were reflective and pensive. This unhurried evening would eventually culminate with a short interactive sermon.

The gathering that evening was warm and sociable. “And we get even better attendance when its colder,” reflected Matt Thompson one of the leaders. “Edmonton is cold in the winter,” he continued “and the Sole Café provides a warm cup of coffee, good conversations, and time to reflect on life.” Though usually frigid in January, this day in Edmonton Alberta resembled a spring afternoon. Yet good weather did not seem to deter a good turn out at the Sol Café.[i]


Church: Sol Café

Leaders: Debbie and Rob Toews (now employed as the director of a Christian retreat center), Jacqueline and Winston Pei, Anika and Steve Martin, Matt Thompson, Dave Wakulchyk.

Location: Whyte Ave., an urban neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta.

Affiliation: Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada

Size: 30-55

Target Audience: college/postmodern thinkers, metropolitan residents, urban artists, immigrant families, blue collar families, people in their twenties into late-thirties.


A Fusion of Rhythms:

Shared Rhythms

The Rhythm of Place

“We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come and just sit around,” reflected Rob Toews, the founding pastor. Jokingly he continued, “a pub was another option, but we didn’t think the CMA[ii] was ready for that.”

Sol Café had begun in the basement of a nearby Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. However, the leaders felt that the catacombs of a local church would not adequately impact the postmodern thinkers in the neighborhood. “The church facility was a safe bet. It was available, and it wasn’t costly,” continued Rob. “But it also wasn’t very effective.”

Rob and another leader used a large portion of the denominational support to purchase a local Internet café. During the week they ran it as a business. Rob worked 2-3 shifts a week, selling coffee and conversing. Eddie Gibbs describes such risk taking as a characteristic of the organic church, where, “uncertainty becomes an occasion for growth, not a cause of paralysis. It is a church prepared to take risks, which learns from its failures and mistakes.”[iii]

As Gibbs forecast, mistakes followed risks. “The café was supposed to support the church, but the finances to support the staff weren’t there,” recounted Rob. “And the people we were reaching were too young or too underprivileged to make significant contributions. But the location was excellent for our mission … just not for our finances.[iv]

Read more by downloading the chapter BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – OC Chpt. 2 Sol Cafe.  But, if you enjoy the book consider supporting the publisher and the author by purchasing a copy.

And, find more examples of innovative and cost-effective church planing models here:

[i] Sol Café’s leaders appropriated their name from the book “A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Café” by Leonard I. Sweet and Denise Marie Siino (New York: Broadman & Holman, 1998). They also modified to fit the bilingual culture of Canada.

[ii] Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada, the denominational affiliation of the Sol Café congregation.

[iii] Eddie Gibbs, Church Next: Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry, (Downers Grove, Ill.: 2000), p. 235.

[iv] Subsequently, Rob Toews had to take a fulltime job at a Christian retreat center. “I think we will survive, but it will be difficult,” observed Rob. “We are on our own now. No support from the denomination, which can be a good thing. It will make us learn and adapt.”

And click here to download a flier from the Sol Cafe explaining a bit about their ethos and genesis: thesolcafe.

NEED-MEETING & Quote: “Christianity… is a willingness to selflessly serve others, rather than an insistence on being served” p.42

“John (Wesley) saw most religion as self-seeking, designed to focus on the Christian’s needs, comfort, and pleasure. He began to realize the New Testament Christianity (which he sometimes called ‘primitive’ Christianity) was more about restoring purity in the church and a willingness to selflessly serve others, rather than an insistence on being served.”

Enthusiast! Finding a Faith That Fills (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2018), p. 42.

BIBLE & 3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine


How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.

1. God makes the work easier for the leader. 

A viewpoint has risen within Christianity that believes if God is pleased with our efforts, he will make the work easier. Sometimes this is signified by a theology of abundance where a faithful leader should expect God to make the leader’s path more affluent and unproblematic.3 There are several flaws with this thinking.

Flaw 1: Blessings can overshadow buffetings.Often, churches are more familiar with the promises of blessings than they are with the warnings of buffeting. While there are scriptural promises that God will bless us, there are also warnings of difficulties that lie in following Jesus. Since prosperity writers often cite passages from 2 Corinthians,4 let’s look at a brief comparison of Paul’s thoughts in this book.

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can come to expect privilege, with a right to ease and com- fort. King David’s temptation with Bathsheba occurred after he dodged his king- ly duty of leading his men into battle, staying behind because of feelings that he deserved this luxury. Theologian Joyce Baldwin observes, “While others spent themselves and risked their lives, he was ‘killing time,’ acting like one of the kings of the nations round about, and exercising a kind of ‘right of a lord’ ” (to do whatever he pleased).8 As we see from David’s story, if leaders expect God to always make their work easier, a false sense of privilege and entitlement can blind leaders to their duty and even to temptation.

Flaw 3: Modern leaders can question God’s participation if the work does not get easier.Prosperity thinking can thwart perseverance and persistence because a leader might conclude that if the route is not easy, God must not be in it. This thinking can leave leaders like Joan unprepared and confused by the onset of hardships. Criticizing his generation, Thomas à Kempis wrote,

Jesus hath . . . many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. . . . All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. . . . Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen. Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.9

All three flaws remind us that although God promises to bless his people (2 Cor. 4:18; 8:9; 9:10-11), there are also buffetings that accompany the mission (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 11:23-28). The modern inclination that God principally makes the work easier for the leader is not only unbiblical but also potentially debilitating.

2. God’s presence is a sign of leadership.

Another peril is that modern leaders will allude to the presence of God as a sign of validation for their ministry and/or vision. This manifests itself in several ways.

Flaw 1:Modern leaders may believe visions and dreams validate their leadership and will inspire followers. Supernatural revelation is a way that God can and does reveal his
will (John 16:13), but many modern leaders overly apply and misapply this to
buttress personal vision. Oral Roberts infamously declared that unless $8 million was raised, God would “call him home.”10 Whether Roberts felt God’s warning would validate his plea for funds, inspire more giving, or was just a personal warning, to state it so publicly became self-serving. Modern leadership sometimes mutates into a view that because God has blessed and set apart the leader, followers should follow her or him (and by extension bless the leader too). Henri Nouwen warns pastors this is leadership based on “the temptation to be spectacular,” a temptation the devil offered Jesus when he bid him to throw himself from the temple.11

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can believe that because God’s presence is so pervasive in their lives, God excuses them from corporate worship and prayer.Modern leaders will often feel that because they have so much personal time with God, they do not need congregational times of prayer, worship, and fasting. In a large and thriving church, leaders who were once actively involved in public worship will often be found backstage chatting during worship and prayer.12

God’s presence is certainly needed for church leadership. But when leaders rely primarily on status and not fruit, they ignore Paul’s advice:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. (1 Tim. 3:1-3 THE MESSAGE)

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission. 

3 For an overview of the prosperity movement and its influence on modern church leadership see Simon Coleman, The Globalization of Charismatic Christianity: Spreading the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). And, for an interesting examination of prosperity in African-American congregations see Stephanie Y. Mitchem, Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching in the Black Church (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2007).

4 C.f. Kenneth Hagin, Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 2009), Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1996), Frederick K. C. Price, Prosperity (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007).

5 The Amplified Bible is customarily cited by the prosperity movement because its amplifications emphasize the eminence of the blessing, c.f. Joyce Meyer, Prepare to Prosper: Moving from the Land of Lack to the Land of Plenty (New York: FaithWords, 2003), p. 10. Meyer rightly notes that when God bestows his bounty it is usually accompanied by a responsibility to help the needy (p. 23). But, charitable opportunities and tactics are not addressed to any great degree in this book.

6 For a comparison of blessings and buffetings in 2 Corinthians see Alan Redpath’s Blessings our of Buffetings: Studies in II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985).

7 Whether buffetings are sent by God, allowed by God or autonomous work of the devil is beyond the score of this book. Readers who want to study this topic further may wish to start with: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper One, 2001), Philip Yancy, Where is God When It Hurts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) and Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Boston, MA: Dutton Adult, 2008).

8 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), p. 231. Baldwin describes David’s actions with the French term droit de seigneur, a feudal right that allowed a lord to justify doing whatever he pleased.

9 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1980), pp. 114-115.

10 Richard N. Ostling, Barbara Dolan and Michael P. Harris, “Religion: Raising Eyebrows and the Dead,” Time Magazine (New York: Time Inc.), July 13, 1987.

11 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989), p. 51-53