ABC’s New Financial Challenge
by Pastor George Van Alstine
In two recent Messenger articles, Tim Eby-McKenzie, our Church Moderator, reminded us from the Bible’s familiar Genesis story that God provides for his creation abundantly and is intimately involved in all that he has made. Tim showed us that these qualities of abundance and intimacy should also characterize our giving back to God. I’d like to follow this up with a snapshot of where we are right now in our church finances and how you can help in the spirit of abundance and intimacy.
At our March 31 Annual Business Meeting we adopted a budget for the year ahead, and we were fully aware that it would require a stretch in our faith and commitment through increased donations by ABC members. The week after that Business Meeting, we received a letter from Community Life Fellowship, who have been renting the church for Saturday night worship for over ten years. They informed us that the group was disbanding, and they were giving us ninety days notice that they would no longer be renting from us after June 30.
This was a real blow, because rental income from them was built into the budget we had just adopted. The amount the church’s income will be down, beginning in July, is just under $200 per week!
This seemed to be such an important issue that our Deacon Board decided to meet in a special session last Thursday night, April 26. We spent two hours looking at the church’s financial health from every possible angle. It was a time of team-building, as this was the first meeting for three newly elected deacons, and it was also an opportunity to share our various visions of how money relates to the Lord’s work. Here are some of the things we learned:
(1) While weekly giving has not been keeping pace with budget needs, other unanticipated resources have helped take up the slack. Most noteworthy, Extreme Learning, a tutoring program connected with the public schools, paid use fees of over $16,644 during the past year, and they seem quite likely to continue in the year ahead. Though we don’t want to be too dependent on income that may or may not be available in the future, it does give us a cushion to help tide us over while we come up with a more stable solution.
(2) We have begun to search for other congregations that are looking for worship space who may be willing to meet on Saturday nights. We invite others in the ABC family to be on the lookout for promising leads.
(3) We looked through the Expenses side of the church’s budget to see where cutbacks may be made. We are not prepared to recommend any at this time, but will continue to study these. Infrastructure costs, such as utilities, insurance, etc., are hard to reduce, and we spend very little on program expenses for worship, education and outreach. The only places significant cuts might be made would be in staff and missions, and we want to think very carefully and prayerfully before we reduce any of these.
(4) There was a consensus opinion that our people need more consistent teaching and preaching about tithing and stewardship, and the two pastors are already discussing how we might provide this.
(5) There was a concern that financial reports are not clear to many in the congregation, and there were a number of ideas about how this can be improved.
(6) Fund-raising events and projects of many types were suggested as a way to supplement giving through tithes and offerings. Some of these will be pursued in the weeks to come.
The deacons and pastors feel that we can safely wait until our next Quarterly Business Meeting, July 29, before taking any serious steps. Meanwhile, we want to challenge every member of the ABC family with this: Can we, between us all, come up with $200 more per week in regular giving so that by the time of our Quarterly Business Meeting we will decide no more drastic action is necessary?
If the Lord has inspired you to become part of the solution, please communicate to one of the pastors or to Finance Chair Ivory Webster the portion of the needed increase you will provide.