In a Latino trailer park, Terry Davis pays his blessings forward

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Part of The Christian Chronicle’s “One Nación Under God” special project.

A ‘bus ministry kid’ gives back (reporting from Norcross, Ga.): In a Latino trailer parkTerry Davis pays his blessings forward. 

NORCROSS, Ga. — Terry Davis found Jesus on a “JOY bus.”

Growing up in a housing project on Atlanta’s south side, Davis slept on the ground to avoid flying bullets.

“I still shake when it comes to bullets and sounds of the guns,” said Davis, now 43.

But the East Point Church of Christ’s bus ministry showed him hope and a better way of life, he said, recalling that “JOY” stood for putting Jesus first, others second and yourself last.

Now director of a faith-based nonprofit called Corners Outreach, Davis treasures memories of the faithful Christians who invested time and energy in him.

These days, he pays his blessings forward in this northern suburb of Atlanta — with a predominantly Hispanic trailer park serving as his mission field.

“What makes Corners Outreach incredible is the comprehensive way Terry Davis and his co-workers have immersed themselves in the community,” said Don McLaughlin, pulpit minister for the North Atlanta Church of Christ.

Related story: In Atlanta, technology brings together Spanish, English speakers

This story appears in the December 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Five tips that can help churches secure more favorable lending terms

Get a Loan in the ‘New Economy': Five tips that can help churches secure more favorable lending terms.

An emphasis on changing its culture to reach a younger generation has helped the Copper Pointe Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, quadruple in size in recent years.

The evangelical church — with ties to the Assemblies of God — has grown to more than 2,500 people at its weekend services.

Copper Pointe’s seeker-friendly approach has helped fill the pews but created a financial challenge, according to David Gaona, a longtime lay member who serves as the church’s treasurer. “You’re reaching out to a segment of the population that has no concept of tithing, for one,” says Gaona, a certified financial planner. “And secondly, they don’t have a lot of money.”

Despite lean coffers, particularly before the economy improved, the church was able to buy an existing warehouse and expand its facilities to accommodate the burgeoning flock. And this year, Copper Pointe renegotiated its mortgage to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest.

The church’s annual interest rate of 5.5 percent was lowered to an average of 3.45 percent for two bank loans negotiated by Nathan Artt, principal of Ministry Solutions, a consulting firm based in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Banks have really opened up,” says Artt, assessing the state of the church lending market in the wake of the 2009 recession. “The challenge the church has is getting the banks to understand their financial statements. But if you can do that, you’ll have a myriad of options available to you.”

Other experts interviewed by Church Finance Today echoed Artt’s positive assessment, with a few caveats.

This article appears on the October 2014 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.

5Q+1: From holy pig wrestling to Mass at a Packers game, Holly Meyer has Godbeat covered

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5Q+1 interview: From holy pig wrestling to Mass at a Packers game, Holly Meyer has Godbeat covered

GETRELIGION.ORG — Holly Meyer cheers for the Green Bay Packers, eats a lot of cheese and tells stories about northeast Wisconsin.

Meyer, a reporter for The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis., splits her time between early-morning breaking news and the Godbeat.

Her religion writing earned her the 2014 Cassels Religion Reporter of the Year Award from the Religion Newswriters Association. That award honors excellence in religion reporting at small-sized newspapers.

She grew up in rural Illinois and started her reporting career at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s student newspaper.

“That’s where I learned you can get paid to do this really neat job,” said Meyer, a 2009 graduate.

Her first professional gig was at the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota, where she spent about three years and covered everything from ranch families to police shootings. She joined The Post-Crescent’s metro team in 2012.

This analysis of media coverage appears online at GetReligion.org.

The introvert behind the pulpit

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The introvert behind the pulpit: For these preachers, devotion to ministry requires balancing need for solitude with passion for sharing God’s word.

No offense, but people drain Mark Littleton of much-needed energy.

Here’s what invigorates him: sitting in his church office — alone — with his Bible, study books, computer and a Diet Dr Pepper.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be around people,” said Littleton, pulpit minister for the Athens Church of Christ in Tennessee. “I don’t mind that, for short periods, when it’s balanced out by my ‘alone time.’”

Like a surprising number of preachers, Littleton feels much more comfortable standing behind the pulpit than approaching strangers at a church fellowship meal.

“I think I was in my 30s before I realized that most preachers in my experience were actually introverts,” said Bruce McLarty, 57, a longtime minister who serves as president of Harding University in Searcy, Ark., and describes himself as slightly more extroverted than introverted.

Based on the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test, Lance Bennett qualifies as an introvert.

However, a person visiting the Riverside Church of Christ in Lafayette, La., where Bennett preaches, might never guess it.

Related story: What role does personality play when hiring a minister?

This story appears in the November 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

October 2014: GetReligion

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In beheading case, The Oklahoman digs and uncovers the crucial, sometimes conflicting details. Published Oct. 1.

What is this? Long on excitement, short on attribution, USA Today declares gay marriage ‘inevitable.’ Published Oct. 2.

Holy ghosts in Hong Kong: Is there a religion angle on the democracy protests? Published Oct. 3.

How to write a sensationalistic headline: ‘Can these Texas churches survive Ebola?’ Published Oct. 7.

Ghost of Cowtown: That crucial missing question in Texas story on Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity. Published Oct. 8.

Reuters and religious freedom: When a two-sided news story really only tells one. Published Oct. 9.

5Q+1 interview: From holy pig wrestling to Mass outside a Packers game, Holly Meyer has the Godbeat covered. Published Oct. 10.

Beyond immigration: Story on Chicago’s new archbishop veers into abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception. Published Oct. 13.

Houston, we have a church-state controversy: Sermons, subpoenas and the First Amendment. Published Oct. 15.

Big scoop for Sarah: Former GetReligionista scores exclusive on Mark Driscoll resignation. Published Oct. 16.

‘Where’s the beef!?’ in TV station’s report on Oklahoma petition asking Muslims to ‘go home.’ Published Oct. 17.

As the Hillsong world turns, questions about sex, the media and what a pastor said. Published Oct. 20.

Religious liberty in Idaho: Going to the chapel, and we’re going to get married … maybe. Published Oct. 22.

‘Magic underwear’ is offensive term, but AP uncritically accepts church’s PR spin on Mormon undergarments. Published Oct. 23.

Southern evangelicals dwindling?: RNS blogger examines the numbers behind The Atlantic’s claims. Published Oct. 24.

5Q+1: Bob Smietana on the Godbeat, #RNA2014 and, yes, GetReligion

5Q+1 interview: Religion writer Bob Smietana on the Godbeat, #RNA2014 and, yes, GetReligion

GETRELIGION.ORG — Godbeat pros will convene in Atlanta this week for the Religion Newswriters Association’s 65th annual conference.

In advance of the national meeting of religion journalists, RNA President Bob Smietana did a 5Q+1 interview (that’s five questions plus a bonus question) with GetReligion. I’ll sprinkle a few #RNA2014 tweets between Bob’s responses.

Q: For our readers unfamiliar with you, tell us a little about your journalism career and your background in religion writing. And catch us up on how your beloved Red Sox are doing after winning a third World Series title in 10 years last season.

A: I’ve had a pretty fun career. I wrote a weekly religion column in college then decided to go out and save the world by working at nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity. Turns out I was terrible at saving the world.

So, in my mid-30s, I became a writer instead. I started small — my first freelance religion story paid $35 — and then landed a job writing for a small religious magazine in Chicago called theCovenant Companion, where I stayed for eight years. One of my big breaks came in 2001, when I got the chance to spend a summer at Medill, studying religion writing with Roy Larson.

Eventually I became religion writer at The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, which I loved. Spent six great years there. Now I write about research and church trends for Facts and Trends magazine here in Nashville.

This analysis of media coverage appears online at GetReligion.org.

No R-rated movies shown at this family-friendly drive-in

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No R-rated movies shown at this family-friendly drive-in  (reporting from Calvert City, Ky.): Kentucky church members stay true to their Christian values while operating one of the nation’s few remaining outdoor theaters.

CALVERT CITY, Ky. — As the sun sets in rural western Kentucky, the marquee lights shine at the Calvert Drive-in Theatre.

For many who enjoy the outdoor movie experience, the nightly double features stir nostalgia and fond memories of simpler times.

But for theater manager John Harrington and his wife, Paula — faithful members of the Calvert City Church of Christ — the 61-year-old drive-in represents more than a fading icon of Americana.

It’s a way of life.

“It’s a family business that was built by John’s grandfather,” Paula Harrington said.

As their Christian faith influences their business, the Harringtons refuse to show R-rated films.

“The last R-rated movie we ran was ‘Passion of the Christ,’” John Harrington said, referring to Mel Gibson’s graphic portrayal of Jesus’ final hours and crucifixion.

This story appears in the November 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.