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Obama signs order to reform faith-based office
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President Obama has signed an executive order that reforms the White House's faith-based office in a bid to improve transparency and clarify rules for religious groups that receive federal grants. The nine-page order reflects numerous recommendations made more than six months ago by a blue-ribbon advisory council charged with streamlining and reforming the office created under former President George W. Bush. "The recommendations that they've put forth make really concrete and tangible improvements to the government's relationship with faith-based organizations," said Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. More

Tax uncertainty could hurt charitable giving
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Uncertainty over future tax rates and the end of a popular tax break for seniors could cause givers to postpone or reduce charitable contributions this year, putting pressure on charities already struggling with a decline in donations. The fourth quarter is traditionally the time of year when many large charities receive the majority of their annual contributions. In part, that's driven by tax considerations: Donors who make their contributions by Dec. 31 can claim the deduction when they file their tax return for the year, but political gridlock has turned that strategy upside down, charitable experts say. More

US dollar worth less, missionaries suffer the consequences
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The economic standing of the U.S. is directly affecting missions work. As if a national rise in downturns wasn't enough, the U.S. dollar could now be facing a significant depreciation. The devaluation of the dollar hurts the cause of American missionaries living in foreign countries. If the dollar-to-foreign-currency ratio is lower than these missionaries originally anticipated, the support they raised may no longer be enough. The weakening of the dollar comes at an already tough time for missionaries. Many, especially those funded mainly by ministries rather than personal donors, have already suffered as job cuts have forced some long-term supporters to cease giving. More

Doing More with Less
If you are still experiencing tough economic times or greatly reduced contribution levels, your church can still do more with less if wise budget measures are in place. For more info about maximizing your ministry, download the ACS ministry guide Setting the Stage for Good Stewardship. more

Dallas-area churches are tending to their flocks the new media way
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According to a recent Nielsen study, Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter — a 43 percent increase over the year before. Gradually, churches, synagogues and mosques have planted their flags in cyberspace, with profile pages teasing upcoming or past sermons, noting meetings and special events, culling for volunteers or simply posting a verse of the day. Such strategies are espoused by even Pope Benedict XVI, whom digital news source Mashable dubbed "the social media pontiff" for urging priests to use new technologies to bring people to the church. More

Alaska churches try energy audits to save money
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It's a sign of the times in religious circles: caulking and sealing parties. This new congregational activity will soon begin at Christ Lutheran Church and University Community Presbyterian Church. Both houses of worship underwent sanctuary energy audits recently, and as soon as they receive itemized reports, they will begin performing the simpler energy-saving tasks to reduce their energy consumption. Each church was motivated to take a closer look at its aging buildings for both stewardship and financial reasons. More

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Go forth and blog, tweet and post, US Catholic bishops told
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Roman Catholic bishops in the United States should go forth and blog, tweet and preach on the "new digital continent" of social media, a church leader has said. "The church does not have to change its teachings to reach young people, but we must deliver it to them in a new way," Bishop Ronald Herzog told the general assembly meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. "If the church is not on their mobile device, it doesn't exist," he said, likening social media to a new digital continent waiting to be evangelized. The biggest handicap facing the church is that many members of the clergy don't understand the culture of the unexplored continent and might even fear confrontation with the natives, he said. More

Homelessness: Growing demand vs. fewer donations
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A homeless shelter in New Mexico is bringing attention to the fact that a number of charities are feeling the brunt of the economic downturn. Jeremy Reynalds, founder and CEO of Joy Junction in Albuquerque, says the economy has had a huge impact on his organization's work. "It wasn't so long ago we were sheltering just 150 people a night. Now, we're sheltering as many as 300 people a night," he says. He notes that many people who find themselves under the meal wagon plan are facing a choice of paying their rent or feeding their families. Meanwhile, Reynalds points out that the economy is having a similar impact on homeless shelters and other charities nationwide, which are being asked to do more with less money. More
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PLAYTIME Awards More $250 Childcare Scholarships
"We were attracted to PLAYTIME by your creativity," says Norma Harrington, Centerville Baptist Extended Childcare, Chesapeake, VA. "The PLAYTIME scholarship money will be put to good use for the students enrolled in our Sunday school and weekday childcare programs." PLAYTIME awarded four childcare scholarships in 2010 and plans to award more 2011. Read more
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US bishops elect New York City archbishop as head
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New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an upset victory over an Arizona bishop with a moderate style who is the sitting vice president. It is the first time since the 1960s that a sitting vice president was on the ballot for conference president and lost. The outcome is the latest sign that the American bishops — divided over how best to uphold Roman Catholic orthodoxy — favor a more aggressive approach. More

Like father, like son? It doesn't always work out in the ministry
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Family-line succession is biblical. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the high priest of Israel was to be a descendant of Aaron, the brother of the prophet Moses. Aaron was succeeded by a son, Eleazar, and the trend continued for several generations. Celebrity ministries often benefit from family succession because they tend to be personality-driven. Having a person familiar with the organization's leadership style and who has similar personality traits can provide stability for continued success. The main problem with family-line succession, though, is that descendants often are expected to continue their parents' vision rather than develop their own. More

Reading the Bible 140 characters at a time
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The Bible Works has unveiled a service on Twitter that allows people to receive the Bible via texts or tweets throughout the day. Lead developer Peter Coad says people can sign up to receive the New Testament, Old Testament, or the entire Bible. The site allows people to choose from 100 different versions of the Bible and 49 different languages. It is expected that people can receive the entire Bible via texts or tweets in 11 months. More

Love of God communicated best in multi-ethnic churches, pastor insists
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Churches in the United States are 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods in which they are located and 20 times more homogeneous than the nearest public schools, the pastor of a multi-ethnic church in Arkansas recently told a multi-faith gathering hosted by a Texas Baptist church. "An increasingly diverse and cynical society will not find our message of God’s love credible when it is preached from the pulpits of segregated churches," Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas in Little Rock, told the Global Faith Forum. More

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AGWM and BGMC respond to need for water in Africa through Africa Oasis Project
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Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC) recently partnered with Africa Oasis Project, launched by Assemblies of God World Missions - Africa, to respond to the country's critical need for clean and available water in their communities. David Boyd, director of BGMC, tells of the need for clean water in Africa. "Quite often people have to walk very many miles to get water and often times that water isn't good — so people are dying from lack of water, and sometimes they are dying because they got water that was poisoned, that was rancid, that had disease in it," he says. "The wells are surfacing as a way for us to meet the needs of the people, and doing it in such a way that the Christians become the passion and the arm in that area of the world," Boyd says. More

Make Sunday school worth it, conference speakers say
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"If Sunday school isn't good, isn't worth the time, how can we expect people to come back?" It's a crucial question, said Art Groomes, one of the speakers at the National Black Sunday School Conference sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. About 250 pastors, Sunday school directors, leaders and teachers attended the sessions at LifeWay's home office in Nashville, Tenn. Groomes, bivocational pastor of First Family Baptist Church in Antioch, Tenn., underscored the importance of great expectations for Sunday school. More

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Faith and farming: North Dakota church bolts over ELCA agricultural proposal
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There's a feud brewing on the prairie between faith and farming. Another church has voted to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but this time it's over a new stance the denomination's leadership plans to take. Congregation members at Anselm Trinity Lutheran Church in rural Sheldon, N.D., don't like the ELCA's proposed position on genetics — specifically in relation to farmers' use of genetically modified seeds, which are common in Red River Valley agricultural production. The congregation has voted to leave the ELCA because it feels the group's draft social statement on genetics is an attack on farmers. The situation puts a twist on local churches' recent rebellion against the ELCA's official positions on social issues. More

Jersey preacher commands straying spouses to log off
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An angry New Jersey minister wants an 11th Commandment that would bar married couples from using Facebook. The Rev. Cedric Miller is demanding that his church elders delete their accounts on the social-networking site because it is leading to too much sexual temptation and ruining too many marriages. Miller said that 20 couples out of 1,100 in his Living Word Christian Fellowship Church have hit the rocks after one of the spouses resparked relationships with old flames on the site. With this flood of Facebook-inspired trouble, Miller has given the roughly 50 high-ranking officers at the Neptune church until Sunday to log out for good. More

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