Sharing is Caring!

I really love my job. I am privileged to travel around the state of Virginia to greet pastors, educators, and congregations in my work as Church Relations Officer and to extend gratitude for the relationships built between our respective institutions. In addition to preaching, making presentations and sharing about the exciting happenings on both campuses of Union Presbyterian Seminary, I am eager to listen for ways in which we, as a Seminary, can support congregations as a regional body for curriculum, enrichment and further study.

With this goal in mind, the following is our latest installment of resources for the upcoming Lenten Season! We may be half way through this first season of Ordinary time in our liturgical calendar, but you still have plenty of ordinary time to intentionally prepare for Lent.

Below, you will find printed materials, online sites and local events to assist pastors, educators, and all believers for this coming season of Lent. Many of the publications can be found online at your favorite book distributor.

*Please note that the publications and sites listed below represent my personal recommendations and should be treated as such. As always, we would love to hear your favorites so please make a comment below!


“Writing to God: 40 Days of Praying with My Pen” by Rachel G. Hackenburg (Paraclete Press, 2011)

I am not one to take time to sit and write. In fact, I find it incredibly challenging to stick to a regimen of journaling my thoughts, prayers or reflections in ministry. For this reason, Lent tends to be an excellent time to challenge myself to pray with my pen! This is an easy guide to praying with your pen, allowing God’s Spirit to move and to strip away insecurities about praying right or praying well. Challenge yourself to use a pen and not a pencil!

“40 Days, 40 Prayers, 40 Words” by Bruce Reyes-Chow (Westminster John Knox, 2016)

Short on time and attention? Join the club. As a new mom, I find it more difficult to center on daily practices for spiritual renewal as my little sprout grows. In my search for an applicable and accessible resource for Lenten study, I came across this gem from Bruce Reyes-Chow. Each devotion is centered upon a word inspired from the lectionary reading for that day, followed by a short reflection and prayer to summarize the study. Grab a cup of coffee and center in on God’s word for a fresh start to your morning.

“Lent for Everyone: Matthew, Year A” by N.T. Wright (Westminster John Knox, 2013)

Searching for a great study to use with a weekly group? Lent for Everyone is really for everyone. I found this study to be accessible for believers of all stages and walks in faith. Wright takes readers through the entirety of the Gospel of Matthew from Ash Wednesday through the week after Easter. Use this study alongside your favorite bible translation and reflect upon applications of the text to daily life. I have found this to be a real crowd-pleaser for both individual and group study!

“Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter” by Laura Alary (Paraclete Press, 2016)

This year I became a mother, but I have always been “Auntie” to 7 kiddos, ages 6-20. This year, I also became a Reverend so I am the go-to, theological resource person in my family (which is frightening and humbling all the same). In my search for practical resources for kiddos, I found this beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully written book for children ages 8-12 (but you know your child best so use discretion). Let’s face the facts: Lenten stories and themes can be difficult to understand and scary for some little ones. This resource offers concrete examples of Jesus life and ministry and challenges little hearts in practical ways: Making Time, Making Space and Making Room as we wait for Easter. Check this one out for yourself and see if it is a right fit for you and your family!


Reviews of books for children and youth are written by students, alumni, faculty and friends of  Union Presbyterian Seminary.   The reviews are created using a common set of evaluative questions developed by Dr. Pamela Mitchell-Legg which consider literary elements and style as well as theology, Scripture and faith questions that can be  the used with different age groups.

 I love Storypath for use with children and families. The link above connects to books chosen based upon Revised Common Lectionary (Year A) and will offer a book for each week of study during Lent. They are listed in chronological order. So head to your local library and check out these fabulous books to use with your little ones as you prepare for Easter.


Seasonal devotionals are written by alumni, faculty, staff, students, and trustees. Check back to this website and sign-up to receive daily scripture readings and meditations! You can also download the entirety of the devotions and print them for daily use. This is a fabulous resource to use individually, as a congregation, or at home with your family. Enjoy!


EVENTS* (For those within driving distance to Richmond, Va)

“Preaching for Lent” by Rev. Jill Duffield, Editor of the Presbyterian OUTLOOK and Dr. Steve Eason, Interim Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Richmond.

Thursday, February 16th at Presbytery of The James office, 9:30am-12noon


Now we need your help!

*Is your Presbytery or local church hosting a Lenten Study Series or continuing education opportunity for pastors or educators?

Do you have a favorite Lenten publication or children’s resource you wish to share with others?

Sharing is caring! Comment below.


Rev. Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer


A Prayer for a Divided Nation


As our nation prepares for a divisive Presidential Inauguration, we offer this prayer to God, our one true Leader.

For those who believe and those who do not,
We pray for your presence.

For those who are scared and those who celebrate,
We pray for your presence.

For those who will watch, and those who have no way,
We pray for your presence.

For those who cannot spend time worrying about government leaders,
For those who have nothing else to do,
We pray for your presence.

For those who will spend their day searching for their next meal and place to lay their head,
We pray for your presence.

For those who sit in the hospital waiting room, wondering if they will receive treatment next time,
We pray for your presence.

For those who fear for their loved ones, their families, their neighbors,
We pray for your presence.

For those on the right and those on the left, for those in the middle and those who do not know yet,
We pray for your presence.

For those around the world, with fears and hunger deeper than ours,
We pray for your presence.

For those who worship in hiding, and those who have yet to worship,
We pray for your presence.

For those who rejoice and share hope with the world,
We pray for your presence.

For those who stay silent, for fear of persecution,
We pray for your presence.

For all– divided and united, home and away, known and unknown,
We pray for your presence.

Gracious God, you have given each of us the gift of your Love even though we do not deserve it. You give us the strength and the knowledge to follow our own unique path, guided by your Word. You have chosen us and called us, rejoicing in the different interpretations we bring to Your Story.

As many try to divide us, may we feel this Love and hear your Word so that we might unite. As many try to divide us, may we stand together and sing Your praises as we drown out the words of hatred.

Your children are terrified, and they are excited. Your children yearn for an answer and they see glimpses of hope.

May we all remember, may we all see, may we all hear, may we all share Your Word, Your Light, Your Love, and Your Grace in this broken and hurting world.


Rev. Jordan B. Davis, Church Relations

The “B” Word

It is the time for annual meetings in many, if not most, congregations. Are you ready?

I will never forget sitting in the annual meeting during my internship year. I was completely enthralled, and completely confused! Reflecting on that time, I think my confusion came mostly in the area of the budget and I am sure I was not alone!

Budgets are a confusing thing, especially for those individuals who might not even have a defined household or general monthly budget. At the time of this particular meeting, I had tackled the monthly budget but at the age of 25, that didn’t include too much.  I was, and am, no different than many of our parishioners and it has had me thinking— are our budgets one of the walls that have been built and are keeping individuals from being further involved in the life and ministry of our congregations?

Over the last few years, I have tried to understand budgets a bit more. One class offering at Union that helped me greatly as I started down this road was “Church Business Administration” which is also available through our Leadership Institute over the course of 8 separate and focused classes (one class completely devoted to, you guessed it, BUDGETS!). I highly recommend it to any church administrator, pastor, and clerk of session! (Learn more about our CBA offerings in Charlotte and in Richmond.)

I have recently looked at several different budgets in an effort to learn more about the congregations I am serving through Church Relations and have seen some really great ones, as well as some not so great budgets. As you begin, or finalize, your work on this year’s budget I offer these models to you–

  • wp-1484083706787.jpgThe Narrative Budget– this just might be my favorite that I have come across. This budget tells a story and draws the people in. Each ministry within the congregation shares their story of what has happened over the last year and what they hope to achieve in this coming year. Numbers are attached to the story, but are not the focus. These are the budgets that I have seen as most successful because we see a story and want to be involved. We see successes and dreams, and want to support that however we can.
  • wp-1484083534645.jpgThe Line Item Budget– almost complete opposite of the narrative, these budgets give a line by line breakdown. They are easily seen and understood for the most part, but show very little of where the money goes beyond each committee. These might be harder for individuals in the congregation to invest in, both financially and with their time and efforts. In my opinion, this budget might work best as an attachment to the Narrative.
  • time-budgetTime Budget– This is something that I saw for the first time at Peace Presbyterian Church (Winterville, NC). Their 2017 budget offers a narrative and line item model, but also includes the amount of time that is used for each ministry and the monetary value of that time.
  • weighted-budgetWeighted Expense Budget– Another new budget for me, introduced by Peace Presbyterian. This budget breaks down the overall budget (or a line-item) and explains what percentage of the budget goes to different aspects of ministry. This particular budget even includes notes about the percentage of the pastor’s time, helping to explain the age old questions of “What do we pay you to do?” and “Don’t you just write a sermon and visit a few people each week?”


Budgets are a tricky a thing, but the good news is that there are so many examples out there! Ask your neighboring pastors if you can see how they do their budgets, or dig around online (several congregations will be sharing them on their websites this time of year!). Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something new or even ask your congregation what they would like to see!

I am a firm believer that many individuals are not as involved as they could be, because they don’t understand the language that many congregational leaders use. If we can make budgets accessible and use them as an avenue to share more about our ministry, we might be surprised at who shows up as a new committee member next month!

What type of budgets do you use in your congregation?
What has worked well for you?

I invite you to share your experiences so that might all learn from them!

Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer