Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Churches and Leadership

Of the books on leadership there is no end. Any bookstore in the land has a multitude of such books by authors famous and infamous, successful and unsuccessful, rich and poor, articulate and non understandable, general and specific. I will not attempt to compete with those who have laws a plenty or those with platitudes about how Jesus led or Lincoln won the war.

One key to my ideas is this:

Jesus you are not!

Jesus you will never, ever be!

In fact, you are not even Lincoln regardless of whether you were born in a log cabin and split wood for a living. Growing a beard is not the same as being born with Lincoln's wit, IQ and wisdom.

My ideas come from principles I learned from successful practitioners who passed on their ideas to me. They had walked the talk and I saw them in action, plus I tried their ideas and found they worked.

Second, I dislike the term "Leadership" and prefer influence.  have studied and led small groups and strongly believe that every member has a leadership/influence role. Think about the various roles each person may play in a group.

Time Keeper
Gate Keeper
Bible Teacher

These are all essential roles of leading in a group. If only one person is considered a Leader then the gifts, talents and roles of the rest are left out.

1 Corinthians 12 (The Message)

12 1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.
4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
wise counsel
clear understanding
simple trust
healing the sick
miraculous acts
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
27-31 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:

Over time people will discover and release even more gifts, talents and experiences. That is GOOD!

Gary Sweeten has many teachings like this

When it happens we have a Transformational Community.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Healthy Powerful Small Groups

Many churches are trying to develop something good but are confused about their goals. Are small groups supposed to deepen the fellowship, do outreach, bring healing, know scripture, make disciples, care for the hearts and souls of the members, or ALL OF THE ABOVE?

When I ask about the goals for groups I get all those items and sometimes more as the answer. In the groups themselves the leaders do not know what the goals are, they do not know what curriculum, if any, to use, and it is impossible to assess the success of the groups.

Write me an relate what the groups in your church are supposed to accomplish and how they are doing. I will pass it on anonymously. I will later share some ideas with you. I have a book on the topic. Healing Souls Touching Hearts.

If you could do anything with a small group what would it be?


Gary Sweeten

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Small Group Leaders

What is a leader and what is leadership? 

  • Have you ever been in a small study group or small task group a committee or board? 
  • Did it operated smoothly or did a few people dominate? 
  • Are you frustrated with small groups?

Think about this approach.

Too often we in the west have the idea that leadership is an individual trait that exists outside a setting. This implies that a leader can do it all, knows all and can accomplish all without the assistance, mutual interaction of others.

I think leadership is the ability to get everyone in the group to work together. Every person has a leadership function in the group/leadership team. Think of the human body and realize that it is a metaphor for the way we humans are designed to function most effectively. The brain is very important but not the only important member nor is it the only leader. If the brain decided that, since it is so highly evolved and so critical to all the body’s functioning, all other members are inferior, the result would be disastrous. The nervous system, heart, kidneys, liver and so on will atrophy and the body will die.

In a similar fashion to indicate that only one person is The Leader misunderstands the most effective way to lead. Leadership is the way the entire church and/or group functions together. No one part of the body is The Leader nor is any part more important than any other part. To “lord it over one another in an arrogant fashion is to negate the very thing we profess.

Think about a team or group and the people who have the gifts matching the following functions. I think that every group has all these gifts but no single person does. It is the task of the formal leader to make sure all functions are fulfilled by the group members.

A.    Conveyer-Calls the group together for work.
B.     Organizer-Structures times, places, eats, responsibilities, etc.
C.     Learner Focused-Makes sure the group is growing in the Word of God.
D.    Pastoral Care Giver-Tunes in to the personal, familial and relational needs of the members.
E.     Praise-Worshiper-Leads the group in singing, prayers and listening to God.
F.     Outreach Focus-Interested in evangelism, growth and expansion.
G.    Gate Keeper-Recognizes when it is time for quiet people to speak and talkative people to listen as well as when it is time to pray, nurture a needy person, etc.
H.    Time Keeper-Keeps the group focused on the schedule.
I.      Task Keeper-Keeps the group focused on the task. Works with Time Keeper and Gate Keeper to open and close the appropriate gates at the right time in the right ways. Often needs to challenge those focused on Learning, Worship, Pastoral Care and Outreach to stay focused on the group's priorities.
J.      Fellowship Guard-Tunes in to the ongoing needs to celebrate special times encourage the members and encourage the flock.
K.    Humorist-Dispels tension and gloom.
L.     Prayer warrior-A passion for prayer.
M.   Sabbath keeper-Makes sure the group rests and relaxes as well as works.
N.    Listener-Is great at being with people who need others.

Interested in more?

Get my book Healing Souls, Touching Hearts at our web page.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Family Health and What Churches Can Do

Family Dinners Boost Teen Mental Health

 Regular family dinners are good for teens, even those who say they can’t talk to their parents easily, a new study finds.

“More frequent family dinners related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction,” says Frank Elgar, an associate professor in the McGill University Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.Straight from the Source

The study, conducted by Elgar and colleagues at Queen’s University, examined the relation between frequency of family dinners and positive and negative aspects of mental health.
The researchers used a national sample of 26,069 adolescents aged 11 to 15 years who participated in the 2010 Canadian Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study.
The researchers found the same positive effects of family mealtime on the mental health of the young subjects, regardless of gender, age, or family affluence.
“We were surprised to find such consistent effects on every outcome we studied,” says Elgar. “From having no dinners together to eating together 7 nights a week, each additional dinner related to significantly better mental health.”
During the study, the adolescents submitted data on the weekly frequency of family dinners, ease of parent-adolescent communication, and five dimensions of mental health, including internalizing and externalizing problems, emotional well-being, more helpful behaviors, and life satisfaction.
The authors suggest that family mealtimes are opportunities for open family interactions which present teaching opportunities for parents to shape coping and positive health behaviors such as good nutritional choices, as well as enable adolescents to express concerns and feel valued, all elements that are conducive to good mental health in adolescents.

 Posted By Cynthia Lee-
On March 27, 2013

The results of this research are published in the Journal of Adolescent Health [1]. The Canadian Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study was part of a World Health Organization collaboration of 43 countries and was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Source: McGill University [2]

Article printed from Futurity.org: http://www.futurity.org
URL to article: http://www.futurity.org/society-culture/family-dinners-boost-teens%e2%80%99-mental-health/
URLs in this post:
[1] Read the original study: http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00317-5/abstract
[2] McGill University: https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/family-dinners-nourish-mental-health-adolescents-225489

What Can A Church Do?

As you read about Obamacare, what ideas do you have to foster better health and welfare among your family, friends and fellow Christians? Have you any ideas about ways you can increase the healthy behaviors, practices and habits of the people you love? What can you do personally to enhance your health practices?

The first thing is to understand what you are doing now to foster better health. List below what you are doing personally and what your family is doing to become healthier. Then list what your church, group, business or organization is doing.

Then post them to Facebook and this blog.

You can get some ideas from our web. There are many free videos there on healthy relationships.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Growth and Change in the Bible

What is the key to discipleship, equipping and growth?

What are the goals, the curriculum, the process, the outcomes expected?

How will we know we have succeeded?

What examples are there in scripture?

What churches, Pastors or Key Leaders Disciple anyone else?

Who discipled you?

What was most helpful?

See our web for suggestions for the journey

Gary Sweeten

Christians can Prepare for Obamacare!

The rules and regulations of Obamacare are upon us. Kaiser Permanente Company and Foundation in California has been on the cutting edge of planning for the new law for many years. They have developed a well designed plan for responding to it.

One section of the law, Part A., has to do with insurance, enrollment, fees, etc. This dictates to insurance companies who can enroll in insurance and how organizations and persons are to be treated. That is about 20% of the law. It will mean higher costs for every man, women and child and every organization in America. The original estimates made by the President and his assistants about saving money are wildly low. Those struggling financially today with finances will get no assistance from the new law.

This means that 80% of the law, Part B. has to do with how Doctors, Hospitals, Nurses, Surgeons, and all other health care specialists deliver care and how every person in America receives that care. Some 350 million people will have to adjust their habits and ideas about getting medical care and what to expect from the Doctors. Over 95% of the discussion about Obamacare so far have been about  Part A. Hardly anyone knows anything about Part B.

See my blog post for an example of the ways things will change in addiction treatment. 

No details now but get this point: It appears that no one will be paid for treating illness, broken limbs, surgery, etc. They will be paid for keeping people well.  How will that work? No one knows but it is an opportunity for churches, businesses, families and society to be involved in better health for themselves and their families and friends.

The emphasis will be on Prevention, Wellness, Health and Wholeness. So, here is a word to the wise: "Stay Well!"

Want to be well? Go to our materials on healing and growth. Books, materials, videos on ways to be healthy, wealthy and wise.

The key to wellness is found here!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Planning for Long Term Care Costs

The monetary cost of dementia in the United States ranges from $157 billion to $215 billion annually, making the disease more costly to the nation than either heart disease or cancer, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The greatest economic cost of dementia is associated with providing institutional and home-based long-term care rather than medical services, according to the findings published in the April 4 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The cost of nursing home care, and formal and informal home care comprise 75 percent to 84 percent of dementia costs.
The prevalence of dementia increases strongly with age and the analysis suggests that the costs of dementia could more than double by 2040 if the age-specific prevalence rate of the disease remains constant as the nation’s population continues to grow older.
The cost of dementia care purchases ($109 billion) was similar to the estimated of the direct healthcare costs for heart disease ($102 billion) and significantly higher than the direct health costs for cancer ($77 billion). However, the costs for cancer and health disease do not include the cost of informal care, which is likely to be larger for dementia.
The new cost estimates are lower than ones reported previously by the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers say the new study provides a clearer picture of the economic burden caused by the disease because it eliminates costs related to other illnesses suffered by dementia patients, accounts for variations in the severity of dementia and uses a better estimate of the incidence of the illness.
The new study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, is based on findings from the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing survey of individuals in the United States age 51 and older that began in 1992, and is supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. A subset of that study group received a detailed in-home clinical assessment for dementia as part of the Aging, Demographics and Memory Study, a nationally representative examination of dementia in the United States.
The survey included an assessment of whether people could perform daily activities such as dressing themselves and preparing their own meals. Participants also were asked about their out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for services such as nursing home stays, home health care and other medical services. Other questions asked whether they received help from others for their daily living activities. Medicare spending information was linked to medical claims for most participants.
The study, the most detailed examination done in recent decades on the costs of dementia, estimates that 14.7 percent of Americans aged 71 or older suffered from dementia in 2010, a number somewhat lower than what has been found in other, smaller studies.
The total economic cost of dementia in 2010 was estimated to be $109 billion for care purchased, and $159 billion to $215 billion when the monetary value of informal care is included.

Source: The RAND Corporation, April 3, 2013

What are you doing to prepare for this? As a church, what are you doing to support the elderly? Do you pray for them or pray for their care givers? 

Do you realize that few if any Pastors or Lay Pastor Ministries visit the sick or ask them what they need? We discovered that parents of children with special needs kids were ignored by the church. 

Gary Sweeten


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pastors: Obamacare Will Overwhelm Addiction Treatment

CHICAGO -It has been six decades since doctors concluded that addiction was a disease that could be treated, but today the condition still dwells on the fringes of the medical community. Only 1 cent of every health care dollar in the United States goes toward addiction, and few alcoholics and drug addicts receive treatment. One huge barrier, according to many experts, has been a lack of health insurance.

But that barrier crumbles in less than a year. In a major break with the past, 3 million to 5 million people with drug and alcohol problems -- from homeless drug addicts to working moms who drink too much -- suddenly will become eligible for insurance coverage under the new health care overhaul.
The number of people seeking treatment could double over current levels, depending on how many states decide to expand their Medicaid programs and how many addicts choose to take advantage of the new opportunity, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. The analysis compared federal data on the addiction rates in the 50 states, the capacity of treatment programs and the provisions of the new health law.
The surge in patients is expected to push a marginal part of the health care system out of church basements and into the mainstream of medical care. Already, the prospect of more paying patients has prompted private equity firms to increase their investments in addiction treatment companies, according to a market research firm. And families fighting the affliction are beginning to consider a new avenue for help.
"There is no illness currently being treated that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act than addiction," said Tom McLellan, CEO of the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute and President Barack Obama's former deputy drug czar. "That's because we have a system of treatment that was built for a time when they didn't understand that addiction was an illness."
But those eager for a new chance at sobriety may be surprised by the reality behind the promise. The system for treating substance abuse - now largely publicly funded and run by counselors with limited medical training - is small and already full to overflowing in many places. In more than two-thirds of the states, treatment clinics are already at or approaching 100 percent capacity.
The new demand could swamp the system before even half of the newly insured show up at the door, causing waiting lists of months or longer, treatment agencies say. In recent years, many rehab centers have been shrinking rather than growing because of government budget cuts for patients who receive public support.
"Advocates just get so excited, but at some point, reality is going to hit and they'll find it's not all it was cracked up to be," said Josh Archambault of the Pioneer Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research center in Boston.
In the coming years, treatment programs and medical colleges will face pressure to ramp up to create a larger system.
But until then, addiction treatment may represent an extreme example of one of the Affordable Care Act's challenges: actually delivering the care that people are supposed to receive.
Many with substance problems are waiting eagerly for January, when the new insurance will become available.
"It's the chance to clean up and not use anymore, so I could live a stable life," said 30-year-old Ashley Lore of Portsmouth, Ohio, who was jailed and lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter as a result of her heroin addiction. "If I get into treatment, I get visitation to my daughter back. And I get her back after I complete treatment."
Only about 10 percent of the 23 million Americans with alcohol or drug problems now receive treatment, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Shame and stigma are part of the reason but about a quarter of them don't have insurance coverage. That compares with the overall uninsured rate of 16 percent.
With money for treatment limited, slots in rehabilitation centers and hospitals are scarce. In Minnesota, which has one of the higher substance abuse rates in the nation - 11.6 percent of the population - there are slightly more than 3,900 inpatient beds for the 491,000 people who need treatment, according to federal data. Occupancy is over 100 percent.
Insurance can mean the difference between getting a spot or waiting indefinitely for publicly subsidized help.
Michelle Hines, an Illinois mother, had both experiences when her 19-year-old son became part of a disturbing new trend: suburban teenagers hooked on heroin. Because he was uninsured, the wait would stretch to a month or six weeks for a public bed. That may change and it may get worse.

Read more

Churches have an opportunity to help. Will they?

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Work with Obamacare?

I am trying to see what creative ideas will help our Christian colleagues work well with Obamacare. I downloaded a long Power Point show from Kaiser Permanente  last week that covers the major changes in  the laws.

There are two divisions of the law.

1. This part has to do with insurance, who is covered, what it will cost, what groups must pay and what groups will get money from the Feds, etc. In other words, the business side of the law. The changes are massive, confusing, costly and radically different from anything we have ever done before. No one really understands what to do but it is clear that lawyers, accountants and insurance agents will become even more important than they are now. It is also clear that it will cost an amazing amount of money to implement.

2. This part has to do with the delivery of services. It details what Doctors and Hospitals will be paid to do and what patients will be expected to do on their own. The changes are massive, confusing, dramatic, unknown and have never been tried before.It turns current health care practices upside down. Some of the changes can be very good and some are not so good.

It has many ways we Christians can be helpful to our friends, families and fellow citizens. However, it will require us to learn and change. But, if we make the changes we can be used by the Lord to be very important players in health care.

Of course, the law will change but we can get a sense of how it will impact every person, church, business and organization in America. Just imagine, there are some 350 million persons in America and every one will have to change his/her health habits starting January 1,2014.

Almost every time a person or group discusses Obamacare the focus is on #1. Business and Finances. That is critically important for the church. Churches will pay more for their health care coverage. Some say as much as 100% more. How is your budget looking for 2014?

Part #2. is also key. If you are not already working on how to thrive in ministry when 2014 comes you will be utterly lost and shocked.

(Experts tell me that 2014 arrives next January 1 no matter whether we are ready for Obamacare or not.)

Has anybody in your denomination or fellowship been discussing the new law and how to cope and thrive in ministry and in your budget? If so which part have you discussed, #1. or #2.?

 I have not spoken to anyone who even knows that most of the changes exist let alone discuss ways to minister more effectively.

What are your plans? What will you do to prepare your members for 2014? Do you realize how this will impact them? What will your church do to help them get healthier? (The key is wellness!) Are you preparing the business owners in your church about the new law? Are you prepared to add new programs and health care related events to your calender?

With whom are you consulting to develop a plan? 
With whom are you working to develop healthier people?
Where will you go to be a healthier church or business? 

See our free videos at the web page

Gary Sweeten

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Healthy Love Heals

I have been posting about healthy and unhealthy love and care. Right now the church and world both seem to focus strongly on being nice. I did a bit of research on how to help my church become a healthy place for everyone in every way. Today it is called Wellness inf every way and the experts point to various parts of life that need to be in balance.


In reading about these ideas I came across some old books and articles that discussed how to design an in-patient psychiatric hospital to be a healing community. It jogged me memory of a comment that O.H. Mowrer made in my presence in 1969. "The early Christian church was the most powerful healing community the world has ever known."

That comment impacted me and I decided to focus on accomplishing it in a local church. Then I read the books on that topic applied to a psych hospital when I was about to open a psych in-patient unit here in Cincinnati.  I was quite insecure because I had no idea what to do. People like these men  were addicts in desperate need for healing and growth. 

What could we do. The most distressed people in the region were coming to us for help. Regular counseling and pills were not enough. Most of them had been in treatment programs before, some several times.

In the Life Way part of the hospital we tried some new and risky things. We were really ignorant of how to run a hospital and that may have been the best preparation because we were not burdened by all the bad models that do not work. I read everything I could about developing a healing community and the results were amazing. Of course it is not amazing to God and His Bible.

These three remain, faith, hope and love but the greatest is love. I CO 13 But how will it work in a Psychiatric Hospital

 What are our options? 

1. Do what the rest of the hospitals do. Have a safe place with a lot of medicine and a little counseling. 

2. Do in the hospital what our church did.  We attempted to build a healing community of grace with God's Truth, His Love, His Gifts and His Power. We chose to do the same in our little Psych Wards.

 We taught the residents about building great relationships through better communication, problem solving, renewing the mind, family of origin thinking, prayer, etc. The family unit is the most basic building block in human life. Many times distressed adults had, for one reason or another, a cracked foundation. We charged nothing for the parents, sibling, friends, small group, Pastor, Priest, dog and cat to attend Family Healing sessions. These sessions were very exciting and healing.

The residents loved it. They were treated like students not like crazy people. For example, we discovered that about 95% came from homes where there were no table games played. No cards, no Monopoly, no checkers, no chess.  Those games are the best educators in teaching relational skills that exist. So, we bought games and taught all the people to play. It was a riot! Imagine! Christians having fun.  

All in all we had a therapeutic community with truth and love mixed with prayer, hugs and accountability.  These folks needed Jesus. they needed the Holy Spirit. They needed a loving, merciful, gracious God.  We worshiped and worked; prayed and took medicine; loved and confronted.

You can do the same thing at your church. That is where we learned how. The church must learn how to heal and grow Christians into healthy adults. You can read about it in our book Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty and also in Healing Souls Touching Hearts.

More later!

Gary Sweeten   

Want to show God's love in a practical way? Start a hospital!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Immature Loving and Caring

People who are immature in love are the most likely people to develop unhealthy styles of interacting with people in pain. Many of the immature fall in to roles that are either too soft or too hard. The Bible tells us to be careful when trying to assist a person in sin and pain lest we too fall into temptation.  

Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Galatians 6:1

This verse is another example of the wisdom of Biblical Soul Care. First, it says that only those who are spiritual are capable of helping a person grow through and out of the situation.  What, you ask, does spiritual mean? It means to be spiritually mature. 

A spiritually mature person has been carefully described in chapter 5 of Galatians as have those who are spiritually immature or those who live in the flesh. My concern is simple. Let us redouble our efforts to equip our people so the Holy Spirit within them is unleashed and the fruit of the Holy Spirit can come through. 

I frankly see very few churches that even give lip service to the Spirit's fruit listed below. Have you ever been in a church or small group that focused on developing the SKILLS that illustrate these fruit? 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. 

Our books are designed to help you abide in Jesus in ways that the fruit grow up and thrive. At most, Evangelical churches preach on ways we should live like Jesus but nothing very practical. Let's get practical.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hiring People of Faith Will Lower Your Business Costs



Businesses and government want Americans to engage in a host of healthy behaviors. Though controversial, practicing religion could be included in those behaviors.

by Frank Newport
Adapted from God Is Alive and Well
Religious Americans are healthier and happier than those who are not religious. This finding is important because it potentially connects with one of the major social and economic problems of our time -- a hugely expensive healthcare system with costs that reflect in part the nation's unhealthy lifestyle choices. Religious Americans exhibit more of the types of behaviors that those interested in the health and well being of the nation want to encourage. If Americans were to become more religious, it is quite possible they would be happier and healthier, and the cost of healthcare in this country would decline.

It's a reasonable, although not totally proven assumption, that becoming religious may lead to better health.
The explanations for this relationship are not yet fully understood. It's fairly clear that becoming religious may cause people to be happier and to feel better. And it's a reasonable, although not totally proven assumption, that becoming religious may lead to better health.
Despite the enduring controversy that usually surrounds matters of religion and public policy, those entrusted with improving wellbeing and health outcomes and lowering health costs will eventually have to focus on taking advantage of the widely confirmed religion-health connection. Average Americans, seeking ways to improve their health and wellbeing, may also increasingly turn to religion for these same reasons. The apparent power of religion to help achieve one of the nation's most important social and fiscal goals -- increasing wellbeing and lowering healthcare costs -- will be too significant to ignore.

Highly religious employees will cost a company less over time
This is where business and government come in -- albeit controversially. Both entities want Americans to lose weight, exercise, stop smoking, and engage in other healthy behaviors. This is based on the proven connection between these changes and a lowered cost burden on the healthcare system. Indeed, businesses and insurance companies increasingly use incentive systems designed to reward activities related to less use of healthcare dollars -- exercise, smoking cessation, and regular preventative health screenings.

Here's the controversial premise: Religion could be included in this list of behaviors. The basis for this would be an assumption that highly religious employees will cost a company less over time. Businesses could provide health insurance discounts to employees who demonstrate that they go to church -- similar to the programs now in place for other healthy lifestyle practices like going to the gym. The idea would be to sustain religious involvement among those who are already religious or to foster an increase in religious involvement among those who are not religious. This would lead to healthier employees and not incidentally, lower an organization's overall health costs.

I know of a hospital that stopped hiring smokers in 2007. It also gives incentives for participation in exercise programs, gives big discounts for developing healthy living plans if the employee is overweight or has other signs of pending excessive use of healthcare dollars, and has banned unhealthy foods from its cafeterias. I don't believe that this hospital yet gives incentives to its employees who are highly religious. But this could in theory be just around the corner.
The federal government, including Congress and the executive branch, are now the prime movers in the attempt to lower overall healthcare costs. Of course, the government cannot constitutionally get involved in promoting any specific religion, even if for socially desirable reasons.
The federal government does, however, provide information to its citizens, which in turn they can use to make healthier decisions. The government has mandated that tobacco products carry large warning labels about the deleterious effects of using them; has spent a great deal of effort to require that food packages list ingredients and contents; promotes various easy-to-use representations of food groups and their place in a healthy diet; and under the aegis of its health branches, publishes an enormous amount of data about the health effects of various behaviors and lifestyle choices.

Positive effects of religion are too strong to ignore
I remember the major emphasis that the Kennedy administration put on physical fitness, including promoting the 50-mile hike. First lady Michelle Obama more recently has become involved in a major effort to promote fitness and weight loss among the nation's young people. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg required chain restaurants in his city to carry dietary labels, and most recently, mandated a ban on the sale of large sodas in certain businesses in his city. (A New York state judge invalidated the ban; the city plans to appeal.) The Affordable Care Act of 2010 included a big section focused on increasing the healthiness of Americans before they are ever exposed to the healthcare system. So in theory, the U.S. government certainly could include information about the proven connection between religiousness in general (not mentioning any specific religion) and wellbeing and health in its communication efforts.

All of this is highly controversial. Many people recoil at the idea of business and government encouraging any type of religion or dealing with religion in any way. Religion is a touchy subject. Still, I think the positive effects of religion are too strong and too universal to ignore, especially when billions of dollars are at stake. I believe there is the real potential that those with a big financial interest in the wellbeing and health of the nation's population are going to have to talk directly and deeply about religion.

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is Gallup Editor-in-Chief and author of God Is Alive and Well. One of the nation's leading public opinion analysts, Newport has spent the major part of his working life studying public opinion -- much of that opinion about religion.