Give and take
We have sacrificed much in our giving ("Shame on us," Aug. 24). Our mailboxes overflow with requests for money and, when we comply, our confidential information is sold to other ministries without our permission, and we receive taped phone messages from ministry leaders. Phone solicitors pressure us if we won't give to their "immediate" need and resent being asked to mail us the material so we can pray about it. There is no end to the bribes of artwork, free books, and meaningless trinkets used to entice us to give sizeable offerings. The last time I tried to give a financial gift to a ministry, they wanted access to my credit card so they could deduct the amount on a monthly basis. There is no joy in giving when you feel as if you are being taken. - Lois Jordan, Coloma, Mich.
Kudos to Joel Belz. I've watched Americans pat themselves on the back for miserly levels of charity for far too long. As a church treasurer at a struggling mission congregation, I can only imagine what we could do if the congregation merely matched the Old Testament standard of tithing. Instead, like Americans in general, we imagine a pittance of 3 percent of our income makes us worthy philanthropists. The surprising observation that the poor in America give a greater proportion of their income than the rich only highlights our abuse of prosperity. - Eric Blievernicht, Terre Haute, Ind.
I was a frequent contributor to a major national ministry until a month ago. I attended its annual conferences, gave willingly, and even volunteered much of my time. Then I found out that it is paying its top two executives well over $100,000 annually, more than double what I make. This from an organization claiming it was in a major financial crisis and might shut down. When I am making more then these nonprofit executives, then maybe I'll return to my giving ways. - Phillip Woeckener, Ashburn, Va.
Blaine, Blaine, go away
In the sense that all schools teach and promote values, all schools, including government schools, are religious schools. When we get some judges who can figure this out, perhaps the Blaine amendments will be struck down. Then we might become free to use our own money to send our children to the schools of our choice, rather than being forced through the tax system to support financially government schools that teach and promote a religion that is contrary and hostile to our faith ("Ghost busting," Aug. 24). - Tom Tubbesing, Lee's Summit, Mo.
Games adults play
As a youth worker for all of my adult life, I concur with Gene Edward Veith's critique of the "gross out" fad in youth ministry ("Stupid church tricks," Aug. 24). I have avoided that approach, seeing it as contrary to my commission before God. Another example: A national youth organization's video curriculum for teaching youth to evangelize their peers included a segment where the rather wacky professor addressed the viewers while seated on the toilet (stall door closed) with his pants down around his shoes. However, I believe Mr. Veith is off the mark in saying that the game "Pull Apart" has "odd homosexual subtexts." There are no more such subtexts in "Pull Apart" than in football, wrestling, or any other contact sport. - Richard Nazarenus, Newberry Springs, Calif.
I feel that Mr. Veith's column misrepresented our ministry. TheSourceForYouthMinistry.com is helping overworked, underappreciated, and underresourced youth workers reach teens with the message of Jesus Christ. Mr. Veith focused his article on a small part of our website, the games that offended him. I would have appreciated at least a mention of the majority of our website, free resources for youth workers who have no budget and little time. As for gross games, they can be bad for ministry if they serve no purpose. They are simply a vehicle to reach youth. If the vehicle ever distracts from the purpose, it's the wrong vehicle. - Jonathan McKee, The Source For Youth Ministry, Sacramento, Calif.
I commend WORLD for writing about the youth-group problem. It seems that years ago youth groups were handed over to immature leadership and, if parents questioned, they were told they didn't understand what kids really wanted. One speaker told us lay youth leaders in training to have a water balloon in your pants and, while speaking to the group, slowly let the water out so it looks like you are wetting your pants. I see how ideas have become more inappropriate. Sadly, for many kids this damages their view of church and leadership. As my son told me many years ago, "Why would I want to go to a place where adults are trying to act like children?" - Donna Curran, Poway, Calif.
Mr. Veith can add bobbing for apples in a tank of leaches, removing gummy worms from a pile of earthworms with your mouth, and holding a goldfish in your mouth for two minutes to his list of revolting games. We used those during a "Fear Factor" event in which nine teens got saved. The game led to one question: What's the scariest thing of all? Living for eternity in hell without Christ. While I agree some youth pastors go way too far, there is a place for spam and sardines in youth events. - Deanna Weniger, St. Clair, Mich.
Thank you for "Stupid church tricks." From the very first time I went to my church's youth group I was shocked by the "games" and "ice-breakers" that were done in the name of God. I saw little difference between the activities at my public school and in the youth group. I finally became so disgusted that I left the youth group and have not participated in it since. - Kurt Douglass, Wichita, Kan.
I am 19 years old and have participated in the "drag beauty show" that you refer to. I never really thought about how it communicates a demented message to kids. I always thought about it as a fun idea to get kids to come to youth group. - Grant Haas, Worthington, Minn.
Looking for a sign
To Andrew Coffin's review of Signs ("Signs of meaning," Aug. 24), I would add that director Shyamalan lingered on images of details meaningful to Christians. For instance, in the minister's bedroom we repeatedly see an outlined cross where a crucifix once was. In the closing scene, the room is renewed by fresh paint and the outline of the cross is gone. But is it really? Gibson finally comes out, donning his ministerial garb, and behind him looms large the cross. Perhaps because I was looking for a "sign" that holds meaning and hope for me, I found it. - Susan Taylor, San Diego, Calif.
I was so excited to read that Hollywood is making two of my favorite novels, Tuck Everlasting and Ella Enchanted, into movies (Kids' novels, Aug. 10). If we did not get WORLD, I don't know how I would have found out about these soon-to-be films. - Lauren DeVries, 15, Pittsfield, Ill.
In mid-August WorldCom acknowledged that it improperly accounted for $3.3 billion (Aug. 24, p. 6). - WORLD Editorial Staff