The question: How much, minimum, would you need, for a family of four, to be reasonably healthy, happy, and safe? Some edited reponses to Kamp Krusty:
SoFla - $50K - bare minimum to cover an average mortgage, windstorm insurance, 2 cars, health insurance, groceries, etc. Add another $10-15k if public or home-school is not an option.
Central Illinois:For a family of 4 in middle America?$45KFor a family of 7, like mine, in middle America? 55K
Small-town Canada: (nationalized health). Making it on $33k, but only with gov't intervention.
SoFla:$100k minimum. $50k more to be comfortable.
Small town Illinois:We are a family 5 who are reasonably healthy, happy, and safe.And we bring home after taxes around $25,448 a year. (ed: "around"?)
Illinois: Our lowest household income since becoming a family of 4 was just over $30kHowever, this level of income qualified us for WIC and a free medical card from the state, so it's hard to judge the monetary value of those contributions to our total.
OC California: 80k with insurance100k/yr self insured and this really won't be enough to buy a house but you could make it.
Small-town Illinois:$35k, plus health insurance
with reasonable health insurance through the employer and one can live well enough.
Geography Unkown:$30k a year, with health insurance.
North Texas:$43k - no need to post. (ed – wups.)
Geography Unkown:A family of four, reasonably healthy and safe, I'd say $36k. Having said that, i make more than $36,000/year and feel a strong desire to make more. What the hell's wrong with me?
SoFla:Healthy, happy, safe, but not necessarily well-educated or entertained or transported... $40k?Maybe $30,000?with benefits.
Geography Unknown:I read somewhere that the average number people quote for this is $74K. I would put it somewhere south of that, maybe $45-50k.
Geography Unknown: My salary this past year was a tad over $21k with 13 paid holidays/vacation days.But there were no benefits besides those.The Lord has given us a very good deal on our house, and it is only my wife and I (no kids now).But I would say for this area that a family of four can easily get along with $30k a year.
Central Illinois:We were a family of 4 living on $20 - 22K. We were healthy and safe. We were not particularly happy--but I think that there were a lot of things that figured into that more heavily than the dollar amount. And, if it helps, we had full coverage.
Suburban Indiana:For a family of 6 (you didn't ask, but i'll tell.)We have lived on $28K per year with a $1000 per month mortgage, no insurance etc.I think we were comfortable.
SoFla:I don't think I could survive with a family of four with an income of less than $80k
Geography unknown:I've done it on under $25K a year. No debt. No car payments. No health insurance.And not in South Florida. Although, I've done it in South Florida with health insurance for between 30 & 40K with health insurance, but again, no debt and renting.
Geography unknown:I want to include some savings for children, money for giving, house payment, no car payment, some savings for big purchases...I'm going with $36k.
Various comments, with responses, from our little survey:
Depends on what your purpose is. Being much smarter than me, I'm sure you know there's no real answer to this.
Being much smarter than you, I just spent three minutes trying to get my key to work in the front door...of our next-door neighbor's townhouse. Truly, the question is coherent, and the answer needn't depend on my purpose, whatever that was.
I found your question difficult to answer. What is "reasonably healthy, happy, and safe"?
Retiring...that's a whole different ball of wax, requiring one to gaze into the future and predict how social security/medicare are going to end up 40 years from now. Will we end up with huge tax increases or will benefits be slashed?
Huge tax increases.
Reasonably healthy, happy, and safe...in this country??? Tough question. I've got a lot of disclaimers.
Everybody did. Turns out the readers -- at least, responders -- of this blog are people who are a) very thoughtful, reflective, and thorough-going, and b) cantankerous.
This is a very loaded question.
That's what I hear. Repeatedly. And that, in itself, is interesting.
You have visited some of the poorest places in the world and will probably be shocked by the answers we give.
I live in Palm Beach County, Florida. I'm unshockable.
You could live with Jesus People USA (JPUSA) for about $24k a year.
If I let my hair grow much longer, JPUSA will offer a scholarship.
Final answer: Any number I could give you is wrong.
Irony: That's wrong.
Each of us gives a version of our real answer with our own earning, and our own spending.
I figure it's worth 1:05. It's a little girl our group met in Kenya, named Arafa. You'll hear this little Muslim girl, with her social worker from Compassion International. Somebody in America sponsors Arafa for $32 a month. She's what's known as -- where I come from -- pretty dang smart.
Arafa makes me think about sacrifice, and the church, and true peace.
Here's what her social worker had to say just before the clip you'll hear:
This little girl here in known as Arafa. Arafa is a Muslim. Being a Muslim, their parents have been so cooperative to us. And whenever we need them, whenever we ask for a parents' meeting -- they come.
Arafa has been with us for the last four years, and she has grown both physically, socially, spiritually, and -- despite the fact that she's a Muslim -- she loves Christianity very much. What she needs is just our support, our prayers, and she's making a difference, even within the family where she comes from.
So we thank God for her. We can't force her to make anything, but out of the goodness which she is seeing within our site, she is deciding later, and we know that she will make a sound decision, and our prayer is she will eventually come to Jesus, and even make the family know Jesus as their Savior.
In our project, we have about 15 families which are Muslim...
Sorry, in advance, about the length here. Feel free, as always, not to read it. I can't do my normal editing-for-blog-length here.
But Seth asks some very fair, thoughtful questions. Pretty impressive, given that he's from Texas.
(This is a joke. I know not to mess with Texans. They're all, to a person, packing heat. Multiple heat.)
It seems that a real line has been drawn in the sand here between what you think healthy church is and is not. It seems you think that you have been involved in the not-so-healthy side of things for a while.
Nearly my entire life. I'm a PK, myself, of a fundamentalist background. I've also been a full-time youth minister with a church I still love. (Short bio note and disclaimer: I've told few people my whole story. But when I have, the usual response is, "It's amazing you're a believer." With that as a backdrop, and if I am all wrong here, please be patient with me.)
I have found that many of the trappings -- the non-essential, cultural understandings of "church" -- are at odds with the movement that Jesus intended. Honestly, I *think* this is less about the continual hypocrisy, at high levels, we've run into, and more about growing in our understanding of what Jesus was talking about.
Remarkably, despite growing up exclusively in churches that "preach the Bible", I never encountered the very message that Jesus called The Good News. I'm not exaggerating. It was never explained to me, "Here's what He meant by 'the Kingdom of God'..."
Now you have found a group of individuals who are in agreement with you on how healthy things should be and you all are politely bowing out of the Church that you have attended.
Not really. None of us "went to church" together before. We've known these people for awhile, and it's not so much that we agree on "Here are the Things that Will Make for a REALLY Good Church", than we have all -- I mean this -- seemingly come to the same conclusions about what we're supposed to be doing as believers.
None of us is charged up about, "Hey, let's start a 'home church'!" -- it's more of a homeless one.
There is no new 501(c)3 organization. There is lots of gumbo, because two of the families are Cajuns. I don't know how that happened, but it's a delicious development.
First question would be: Do you consider what you are doing throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
No. I feel like I can see the baby better.
A lot of things come into focus. Now, I don't have to struggle with how our money is being spent, given my experience in developing nations. Now, I don't feel like there are a hundred Little Kingdoms at stake with every decision. Now, I'm not prone to using a big church worship meeting as an ego trip, even at an sub-conscious level. For me: Temptation averted.
Now, rich people can truly be on the same level as the poor. When there's no big budget to meet, what good is your big money here? I know some wealthy people who would actually welcome that!
Now, there's a very clear understanding: Bringing people into the Kingdom is NOT "the pastor's job". That concept now makes no sense. Speaking of jobs, no one needs feel tempted to make or defer a decision to protect his job.
Now, the Worship Band roster is: Anyone, Who, Wants, to, Be, in, the, Band. No problem with people who are talented players in worship bands, but -- you'll admit -- there's something sweet, and Kingdom-like, in allowing anyone who wants to play, to play along.
("But I can't imagine letting everyone play in front of hundreds! That wouldn't work, and..." -- exactly.)
Yes, if I need to express my artistry, or want some spotlight, I'm sure everyone in our group would show up at the Square Grouper or a coffeehouse if I wanted to play there, and they'd cheer for me.
Now, the MVP's are not people who are excellent public speakers and musicians. It so happens, I'm a public speaker and musician, so this is -- no kidding -- a downer for me, personally. These skills make me a "real asset" to the typical American version of church. But the guy who doesn't do this stuff, but still yearns for significance...? He can find it with us. After watching men, standing on the sidelines for so long, wondering what the point is...forgive me if I get goosebumps. It's no wonder that "house churches" seem to have so much more male involvement.
Now, I have more time to spend with people, face-to-face, which means more encouragement, more personal accountability, more correction, and more fun.
And, now, ironically, I "see" how my Vision, itself, can get in the way. I love how McManus puts it: He says, "When you join us, we're not the same, anymore." It's not about you plugging in, as a cog in my Plan.
If you are being distant from us, it's not that we note "Hey, this person's attendance is slipping, we need a follow-up form..."
Instead, if you're not a part of us, we haven't been together at all. We're different when you're not part of us.
The worst of it is that you have been burned by some apparent hypocrisy ... maybe? (Reading into it a bit here)
Well...yeah Not just the sexual hypocrisy (which has caused scandal in several of the churches we've been in the last several years, and, on a couple occasions, has been swept under the rug by people whose salaries depend on keeping the status quo) but the manner in which people have been BLOCKED from doing ministry, when it threatens someone else's Job Area. It's amazing how often this happens.
All of this is not anti-pastor, it's, in fact, the exact opposite: I think we put American Pastors, systemically, in a nearly impossible situation, spiritually, and vocationally. It's totally unfair. I've blogged about this, before, and I hope to do it again, soon.
What Kingdom-minded leader wouldn't welcome a reinvigoration of people saying, "Bro, it's not just you, anymore. We're all coming alongside you now..."
So in turn you have unique perspective of the church that others do not have. You have been to other countries and seen first hand the poverty and you have seen things that make you sick when you return home. You've seen all of this and you know that "leaving the Church" is not the answer. It never is.
Bingo. Seth, this is not just a consideration for me.
I think I've taken one too many trips. I can't listen to "Where the Streets Have No Name" anymore without crying. Here are a few of the faces I see:
In Calcutta, I met a little girl who looks just like the other uniformed girls in her Christian school in the slums. One difference: When they shut the lights off at the school, and everyone goes home, she stays in the darkened building. She lives in the hallway. No parents, and no chance, save her Compassion International sponsor.
In Sumatra, I met a Muslim Imam who hated Christians -- until our little group cried with him as he searched for his little boy after the tsunami. After just a week, he said he now understood we were not his enemies, we loved him, and he wondered why his "brothers" were not helping. The church there, somehow still there, needs our money.
I looked out the window at buildings, still containing bodies, during an underground worship gathering of about 20 people in Banda Aceh. They had no money, only the clothes they were wearing, the smell of rotting bodies was still in the air, and they sand, a capella, in their language, "How Great Thou Art." I couldn't sing.
In the slums of Costa Rica: People positively mobbing us to get their very own copy of the Bible.
Most memorably: In the slums of Nairobi, there's barbed-wire around some church gathering-places. When some hungry Compassion kids get their food -- other kids try to jam themselves through the wire, from without. I watched crowds of moms, and kids, watch from without, while the kids within had a chance.
In Kibera, Kenya, we visited a desperate church with a "job-training" program: They trained girls to be cosmetologists. They proudly showed us their two old-school hairdryers, and they proudly showed us a few half-empty bottles of shampoo.
Please tell me, again, about how we need to "attract" more Americans, using more features, to a building, when in some places, they have to fence kids from the church building, for lack of funds?
This really IS a big deal to me and Carolyn. I don't know how to get around this. I'm sorry. Again, please be patient with me. I can't figure this one out. The overhead should not be this high.
I wonder if leaving the current model and people there altogether isn't reactionary...My Dad is a Pastor of an inner-city church in Missouri. He's not interesting in big numbers, or big salaries. Just getting people clothed, loved and taught the gospel. There are also healthy small groups that meet within this small Church. It is hard for a man like that in that location to find help. The people that do help often are ones that need help just as much as the people they are helping. I look at a situation like that, with my dad, and think... "Man could my Dad use the help of a Brant."
Seth, I think the way we've done things, itself, undermines the hope of your Dad getting some help. Too much is put on pastors, period. We've set up a system that works, quite nicely, for me if I want Christianity without following Jesus.
It just seems like the churches that shouldn't be dying are the ones that are dying while the big churches just get bigger. I wonder if there is a way to do both. I don't know the answer. Whether we should all quit going to these big buildings and start over.
I don't say this idly: There are some people I positively admire who are working in mega-churches, or churches just shy of that status. Frankly, many of their churches grow because other church leaders are just convinced they need to have a rock band, and the vid projector, and the slick blah blah blah -- even though they don't have the talent for that model. So it comes off as...strange.
My experience: A lot of times these mega-church people are real thinkers, really care about people, and attract other leaders. But there are many who try to copy them who don't share their gifts.
All this said: In previous discussion on Kamp Krusty, we talked about how the "going to church" idea got started, and, ultimately, a commenter referenced the Temple, and how we are adapting the idea that we "go" to a building to have church. For those who approvingly cite this, please study how Jesus felt about the Temple. There wasn't room in that town for the two of them.
I do know I am thankful for the honesty here that continues to keep the wheels turning.
Me, too. I stand correctable, and frequently corrected.
More of a question, really, for you. And I'd love an answer:
How much would you need to make, say, for a family of four, to be reasonably healthy, happy, and safe?
I'm looking for a minimum number. This is a per-year, household figure. I won't post your answer, in order to protect anonymity. But go ahead and fill out a comment-thing, and I'll collect the numbers and report back the averages and stuff.
Yes, I know there are ambiguities in the question. ("But what is 'reasonably safe'?" "Do we have health insurance?" -- I'll leave things up to you, because they rather get at the point, don't they? You may think, hey, the world has made it into the last century without health insurance, or you may think you need a major medical policy, or perhaps you can't survive without a full-service HMO. It's up to you.)
I know there are regional differences. If you're in an exceptional area -- as we are, in trendy SoFla -- please let me know what region you're in.
Don't over-think it.
No wrong answers: You're not going to be judged.* I'm just dang curious. I won't post your figures; I will post other relevant comments/clarifying questions if you like.
And I'll follow-up on Friday, with the average and such. I think this will be interesting.**
Yesterday, I walked back from the gym. I realized, mid-way, that I'd left my iPod case behind. I thought, "Perhaps I'll go back sometime today."
When I got home, I looked in the parking spot in front of our place, and decided that yes, I would, in fact, go back to the gym today. Because I'd left my car there, too.
I know this about myself: I can always be wrong. Perhaps I'm wrong about this church thing. Heck, I'm the guy who passed on LaDainian Tomlinson in my fantasy draft. (Non-fans: This makes me, in football terms, a "doofus".)
So I could be wrong about this church thing. Perhaps one really does need to attend an hour-and-a-half presentation on a weekly basis, and perhaps this is supported by scriptures I've yet to properly interpret.
Perhaps we really are called to go forth, and, among other things, attract people to that event. Perhaps the teaching I need is best-served by a paid expert in a mass environment, where I can't ask questions or offer a thought of my own.
Perhaps people really are, deep down, yearning for a corporate structure in which to "plug in". Maybe the only real reason they're not attracted to it is because they're worldly, and won't take their medicine, or give our awesome worship band a chance. Or maybe it's not them -- it's US. By us, I mean, of course, the preacher, who just isn't as good as that other guy.
Or, just maybe, we'll get to heaven and find out...The Problem? The problem was that our transitions weren't smooth enough.
Perhaps the above logo -- drawn up as a joke for our little community here (a logo? ha) will confirm what you already thought: Brant just wants to have some fun. After a lifetime of existing in American Bible-Believing Churches with Biblically-Correct Structure, I don't want it anymore. I do want the Kingdom -- God's dream for the world -- and I'm pretty dang excited about it, and about learning, growing, and leading others to help the Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.
(Chesterton said liturgy -- work -- is wonderful...but it's the work of earth. Play? Now, you're talking about better stuff: the work of heaven. Disagree? Feel free to write G.K. a strongly-worded letter.)
I know well: This all will anger some. Others, including MANY Kingdom-minded pastors whom I know and respect, are nodding in agreement. They may also identify: There's the church, and there's the American Understanding of Church. Jesus has ruined me on much of the latter, and made me very, very excited to be part of the former. But I could be wrong.
Turns out, the Kingdom is a party. Turns out, most people -- not all, Jesus learned -- like parties. But I could be wrong.
I now have a copy of Left Behind: Eternal Forces. I did not pay for Left Behind: Eternal Forces. I also did not steal Left Behind: Eternal Forces. I quite literally don't know who gave me Left Behind: Eternal Forces.
Here are the answers to the questions simmering on your mind:
Does Left Behind: Eternal Forces let you kill people?
Yes. But only in self-defense.
With a tank?
But you're protecting others, so it's morally good, then.
No, it costs you Spirituality Points. It's still bad. But sometimes, you have to kill bad guys, but it's still morally bad, but you should do it sometimes, but it's morally bad, but sometimes you just have to, you know? But it's bad.
How can you tell who the bad guys are?
What do you mean?
Each character has special traits and abilities. The Christians all have "Pray" under their special ability section. Like, there's a woman who's the Worship Leader, and her special abilities are "Pray, Crowd Worship" When you equip her with "music" and "public speaking" training, she gets the ability to "positively rivet the audience nearby."
Awesome. But she doesn't cuss.
No. Bad guys have "Swearing" as their special abilities. All of them. For example, non-Christian musicians get special abilties "Swear, Sing" or "Swear, Play", or -- for the Level 3 Rock Star -- "Swear, Perform Concert" And she wears a scanty blouse-thing, which should tip you off that she's fixin' to swear.
ALL the bad guys have "swear" as their special ability?
Yes. It's pretty realistic of the end-times, when cussing will increase ten-fold. The Gangster bad guy has "Swear, Rumble", the soldier has "Swear, Explosive Bullets" and thief, curiously, has "Swear, Pickpocket, Poison", which is an awesome name for the next Shaun Groves CD, in my opinion.
We quit going to church. And -- who knows? -- we're probably not going back.
I'm not interested anymore, and neither is Carolyn. I'm going to write about it in the days ahead, and fully realize this is going to offend some, particularly those who read this blog and have their livelihoods, or self-worth, or ways of life tied to church-as-it-is. There's no way around this, save not writing about our convictions.
There's also no way to say, "Here's our conviction," without others thinking, "He's saying, 'we all must do this.'" I'm saying no such thing, but whenever one advances a different idea, a different conviction, or has thought about something differently, it's often taken to mean, "I prescribe this for all others." Fact is, I'm prescribing nothing.
I'm fond of an extreme form of editing, particularly for blogging purposes. I don't like reading much text on a screen, and presume you don't, either. Brevity makes for snappier writing, but it also makes tackling a subject like this difficult. Nuance is rarely afforded in a tight economy of language. I apologize in advance for this.
We are NOT done with the church. We're done attending one. We are not done trying to follow Jesus -- quite the opposite -- and we are not doing what so many churches have warned me against, "forsaking the assembly". We're still getting together with other believers. In fact, more than ever, and more fruitfully than ever.
Turns out we have more time for this, since we quit going to church.
We're not done supporting churches with our money. We're just giving it to churches in Africa, who use the money for things like AIDS drugs and mosquito nets, to keep babies from getting malaria.
Turns out we have more money for this, since we quit going to church.
Because there's nothing more fun than forcing people to look at your own photo albums, here's an online version.
I can't force you to look at it. I can't even force myself to think you'd want to. But here it is.
Oh, the places you'll go!