Tonight, the family was at a Super Bowl party and we received further proof that Olivia absolutely loves football. She was enjoying herself and having a good time throughout the entire game until the moment the game clock reached all zeros at the end of the 4th quarter. At this point, she started screaming and yelling.
What are you going to do now?
When discerning how to handle the conflict rising in me, I created a list of priorities:
- Need to be home more.
- Need to make no less than my current salary.
- Need flexible schedule.
- Need to continue doing something I’m passionate about.
At first, I started thinking about if I should try to flesh out “Brandon Kraft Tech Services”. When friends, small organizations I’m involved with, etc have asked me to help them on some level with a website, I use Tech Services as a platform for offering them webspace, domain name and some other really basic things at a low price that, frankly, I would like to see offset the total cost of my website. I don’t spend much on this, but it would be nice to be able to tell Vanessa that all my geekness is budget-neutral. I’m too nice and never charge enough to really offset all of my costs, but whatever.
That would give me 1, 3 and 4 (to a degree). That’s scary though. With little savings (at least little when you have a wife and kid, thinking about all of the possible unforeseen expenses there) and only one income source (my salary), I don’t feel that it would be a prudent choice to do that. Simply stated, there’s too much that could go wrong with no safety net and I would have to seek out and find any and all support structures for starting this business.
I’d would like, sometime, to do something like that or freelance, but I know I need some more structure and experience before completely jumping off the deck. If nothing else, need to make it a hobby that produces a side income first.
I started thinking about other churches or non-profits, but quickly dismissed that thought. Moving into something similar than what I’ve been doing, while safe, wouldn’t be different enough to meet my objectives.
While all of this thought is going on, I’ve been increasing being more active with the Knights of Columbus. Originally, I joined the St. Ignatius council, built and currently operate their website. The UCC started a new push to reactive their dormant council and as part of that, I was convinced to serve as the Financial Secretary for the new council, something that is actually fun and I’m enjoying.
The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal benefits society, which means they exist to give benefit to their members. In their case, the Knights offer life insurance, annuities and long-term care insurance to their members and I met a few different field agents who work toward that aspect of the Knights.
I found my way into contact with the General Agent for this area who told me more about the position and that they were looking for someone in Austin. It would allow me to office from home while meeting with families in their homes. My schedule would be flexible, as long as I get the work done. The salary starting off is in the right ballpark. The mission of ensuring the financial well-being of a family after a death is important to me.
For those that don’t know, my father, the sole-income source for my family, died when I was 12 years old; without his life insurance, I have zero idea how my family would have survived. Losing him was incredibly hard emotionally, but financially, he had planned well-enough to ensure that we had enough to make ends meet.
If you add up working from home, with a flexible schedule, suitable income and a cause I care about, it resulted in a possibility with real merit. Vanessa and I talked. The Knights and I talked. I will soon be the newest Knights of Columbus Field Agent.
Why are you leaving the UCC?
I met my wife through a mission trip that I only went on because a
friend asked me to go in the UCC computer lab. Four of the five priests
and the deacon at our wedding I knew through the UCC (and the fifth I
met because of the trip I met my wife on!). We went to the marriage
preparation workshop here and had our daughter baptized here. As much of my family existing is because of the UCC, they are my primary motivation in moving on.
Having two weeks at home after the birth of Olivia got to me. I liked
being at home. I liked being able to go in from working in another room
into the living room with Vanessa and Olivia. If I missed Olivia, I
just picked her up. I liked that a lot. As much as I tried to shake it,
I simply missed being at home with my family. I know, I know, most
people spend 40+ hours a week at work outside the home and that’s
great. It’s not what was enriching me though.
I was fortunate enough to transition out of pastoral ministry into a position driven more by operations when Olivia was born, which was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it established regular, set hours and allowed me the freedom, without guilt, of being at home even though most things within the building happen in the evenings. The curse, however, was that I missed the students.
In all fairness, there’s no way to have my cake and eat it too. Can I have all of the hours at home I want while still doing everything that satisfied me at the UCC? At least with our current workload levels, it’s not possible. Do I do something that isn’t as enjoyable while not being as home as much as I want, do I do something I enjoy quite a bit but be at home even less, or do I go for a third option?
I’m choosing option three.
After much discernment, prayer, conversation and a bit of gut feeling, I am resigning from the University Catholic Center, effective March 1st. I’ve been employed at the UCC full-time through various positions since the summer of 2005 and have done a great range of project and activities. These five years with all of the experiences I’ve had, new friends I’ve met and folks I’ve (hopefully) had the blessing to help have been quite amazing, unique and, in the true sense of the word, special to me.
I’ve seen quite a bit at the UCC. When I started, Fr. Dave was a year into the director chair, Fr. Ed Koharchik was a newly-ordained priest, Fr. Richard was packing up after helping with the transition of leadership. Deacon John was still working full-time at the UT System and thus not at the UCC anywhere nearly as often as we see him now. Pat Martin was the business manager not long after taking over for her husband, Deacon Terry Martin. Terri Grayson welcomed students and parents at the Front Desk. We had no development office or effort, all of the musicians were volunteers and I was the first student-employee in a number of years.
Fr. Dave left to serve as vocations director for the Paulists. Fr. Ed Koharchik left to serve the Paulists in outreach ministry and was tapped by then-Bishop Aymond to serve as pastor in Dripping Springs. Fr. Richard went back to hospital and other pastoral work. Pat moved on to start her own business and Terri left us to move on to other opportunities. I’ve had the pleasure of working, on staff, with some amazing folks– Jimmy Rose, Chris Babb, Amelia (Perry), Michelle Goodwin, Amber Fogarty, Ana-Cristina Gonzalez, Vanessa Mena, Deacon Tom Johnson, Ruben Garza, Beth Boren, Rosa Marroquin, Eugene Martir, Patrick Sheffield, Allie D’Amico, Adam Henry, Emily Bivona, Alicia Bivona, Maricar Reyes, Rob Johnson, Scott Ball, Jason Pinkstaff and the rest of the CCS crew here during the Diocesan campaign and eight great students from San Juan Diego Catholic High School. I’ve learned from all of these folks and so many more in our student organizations and our resident community.
The UCC was my spiritual home when I first walked onto the 40 Acres in August 2002. I’ve been in this building, more or less, every day since then. I can’t remember how much has changed. The baptismal font, crucifix behind the altar, the chairs, the altar and ambo, the stations of the cross were all great changes in the chapel space. I used to talk to Gloria in the office that’s since been renovated into our reconciliation chapel, the computer lab used to be just another classroom, the basement had completely inadequate heating and cooling, our parking lot used to have a full-time attendant facilitating the double-parking. I’ve fought with people who couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t let them park in our lot at 7:45 p.m. on a Sunday night (I don’t care if the Tower has a big “1” on it for the football team… you can’t park here!)
This building, this community, these organizations have been a home to me when I first left home and helped to guide me into making Austin my home. This community took a know-it-all, overall closed-minded 17-year old into a know-most-everything, relatively open-minded 25-year old. (The transformation seems more extreme in my head than it does typed out.)
In short, it has been truly an honor and blessing to be able to call this place my home and my workplace for all of these years. The University Catholic Center and all of the people I’ve encountered through it will hold a dear place in my heart.
I’ll follow-up with more on why I’m leaving and where I’m going.
I was directed toward a review of a book, Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money. The review mentions has poorly American Christians donate. Some of the numbers:
If just the “committed Christians” (defined as those who attend church at least a few times a month or profess to be “strong” or “very strong” Christians) would tithe, there would be an extra 46 billion dollars a year available for kingdom work. To make that figure more concrete, the authors suggest dozens of different things that $46 billion would fund each year: for example, 150,000 new indigenous missionaries; 50,000 additional theological students in the developing world; 5 million more micro loans to poor entrepreneurs; the food, clothing and shelter for all 6,500,000 current refugees in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; all the money for a global campaign to prevent and treat malaria; resources to sponsor 20 million needy children worldwide. Their conclusion is surely right: “Reasonably generous financial giving of ordinary American Christians would generate staggering amounts of money that could literally change the world.”
Chapter 2 outlines the dismal reality of what American Christians actually give. Twenty percent of American Christians (19 percent of Protestants; 28 percent of Catholics) give nothing to the church. Among Protestants, 10 percent of evangelicals, 28 percent of mainline folk, 33 percent of fundamentalists, and 40 percent of liberal Protestants give nothing. The vast majority of American Christians give very little–the mean average is 2.9 percent. Only 12 percent of Protestants and 4 percent of Catholics tithe.
A small minority of American Christians give most of the total donated. Twenty percent of all Christians give 86.4 percent of the total. The most generous five percent give well over half (59.6 percent) of all contributions. But higher-income American Christians give less as a percentage of household income than poorer American Christians. In the course of the 20th century, as our personal disposable income quadrupled, the percentage donated by American Christians actually declined.
What exactly does it mean to tithe? While I haven’t read this latest book for their definition, typically, “to tithe” means to give 10% of your income. We most commonly see “tithing” in the context of the Old Testament in various forms. As Christians, we are not subject to the law strictly, but as we believe that all we have belongs to God, we are bound to contribute back toward the greater good. In some circles, 10% is considered the ideal, in others the baseline for giving back.
My wife and I decided to literally tithe, giving 10% of our pre-tax income away.
Where to give? Do give it all to the church? No. Canon 222 states that as faithful, we have two particular financial obligations: to support the Church and to support the poor. We have discerned that means roughly 5% should go to the Church and 5% should go elsewhere.
Since “the Church” is both the local parish and the local diocese (through their annual appeal), we have decided to give 4% to our parish and 1% to the diocese. The remaining 5% is split among a number of organizations including our parish’s monthly second collection for charity, Meals on Wheels, Casa Juan Diego. We deviate from the 5% for church and 5% for others as we give to a religious order and to the Peter’s Pence out of the 5% for others.
For us, 10% is a sacrifice. Before getting married, I gave what I thought was a fair amount to the parish through our parish’s monthly automatic giving program. When we sat down with a calculator and our paystubs, I was shocked how little I was actually giving. After adjusting to consider only my income, I only gave less than 1% of my income to church and a much lower amount to other charities.
Years down the road, we may be blessed with the financial capacity that 10% is no longer a sacrifice. If that day ever comes, I pray that we’ll realize our blessings and give even more back toward the greater good.
Whether or not you can donate 10% of your income isn’t the point. Are you purposeful in your giving? Do you actually pray and ask God to help guide you in your donation decisions? Do you give your first fruits (i.e. give to others when your paycheck arrives, or do you wait to see what’s left before the next payday)? If you’re married, have you had a conversation about what causes you think are important and worthy of your donations? Have you discussed why you think they’re important?
Tip of the hat to The Deacon’s Bench for bringing this book to my attention.
A few random notes from various items I found today.
There’s always a way.
The first comes from the problems in Galveston. The city has been using the San Luis Resort and Conference Center as the base of operations during the storm, as the hotel was one of the best built buildings on the island to weather an event like this.
The generator on-site is functioning fine, but city officials simply needed more juice. A request from FEMA returned with a “we don’t install generators in private buildings” reply. What is a mayor to do? The mayor commandeered the facility and declared it a city facility.
FEMA generators are now installed in the building. [original story from chron.com]
The City of Galveston starting allowing individuals to “look and leave”, giving residents the first chance to check out what happened to their homes or businesses. A chron.com blog entry details the shock that fell upon one gentleman, 20 blocks from the seawall, who saw his never-flooded-before-in-70-years home ravished by at least two feet of water. More than what I can type here, so head to chron.com for the story directly.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
If you can’t tell by now, chron.com, the homepage for the Houston Chronicle newspaper, is an excellent resource for information. Virtually every time you refresh either their homepage or hurricane blog page, new information is present.
One of the things currently on their homepage is a before and after photo spread of Bolivar. Says only things pictures can say.
Mini-update on Vanessa’s parents
According to news from earlier today, The Woodlands will not be fully back on the grid until September 26th; however, the area of town where her parents are at should be restored today. We haven’t heard anything from them yet, so we’ll see.