Dear Church Family & Friends, Our Financial Situation Seems Critical
Our year has been filled with great faith, great planning, and hopes for a future of service to God and God’s people, all embodied in our recent year-long planning process. We have pledged ourselves to three great loves (support for families, creating relationships of depth and care, and serving neighbors and world by offering ourselves in risk-taking mission and service), and many great projects are already underway.
- We have one of the very few youth groups that welcomes young people across the board.
- We have important faith-based support teams and groups that connect hearts and hands to needs, in the church and in the community.
- We have thriving worship and prayer opportunities throughout the week.
- And our building is offered to support blood drives, non-profit meetings, social groups, and musical events.
In short, we are a vibrant place where the life and ministry of Jesus is put into action, not just words.
If you have participated in any of these ministries, or have received word of them and support them with your tithing, you have my undying thanks. You are making a difference.
So What’s the Deal?
There are several factors that have combined to put all this good ministry at risk. Like most churches, we depend on member giving to fund our ministry and support people and programs. This year, in part due to deaths and departures of long-time supporters, we have seen a decline in the number of people who returned 2020 pledges and also the total amount estimated. So far, the total amount pledged and estimated is $91,000 short of our projected need of approximately $410,000.
For 2019, we are also running behind in the pledges and other revenue by about $13,000. The finance board has poured over every expense line and wanted me to assure you that neither our current deficit, nor our projected gap are the result from inappropriate or extravagant spending. Boards have all stayed within budgeted limits, and most have stayed well under. As one board member put it, “we don’t have a spending problem, we have an income problem.”
How Did We Get Here?
Last year we received about 100 pledges. This year only 68 so far. With a congregational rolls of about 300 individuals (and about 200 households) this means that our financial base is balanced on very few households, despite very loving generosity.
When visitors used to come, we often were blessed by their generous gifts, too. But nationally, and now here, fewer and fewer people are donating to churches. Church donations from visitors have declined by more 50% in the last decades, and it seems the trend may be moving to regular attenders as well. Newer and young families also have extraordinary demands on them, unknown in years past. Student loans, new tax laws, and a rapidly declining number of people under 50 attending services are factors in play. (For a detailed explanation of this trend, you can watch the video below the projected budget at the end of this post.)
We have also lost several generous donors to death, or the need to move. The death and move of just two households in 2019 resulted in a decrease of over $24,000. That amount is more than several of our part-time staff combined.
What Can We Do About It?
Believe me, there is a lot we can do, and the Church Council, Finance Board, and all the staff are working hard to find and encourage solutions. Here are some thougthts:
- If you’ve never pledged, pray and act. Great faith, great community takes great commitment. Could you do $100 a month? $75 or $250? Pray about a weekly or monthly amount that is right for you then act. Click here!
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- If you are a little behind on your hoped-for giving, now is a great time to try to catch up. If you like, Patti Smithson, our financial secretary would be happy to let you know where you are (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Consider increasing your pledge. If you are already giving a full tithe, thank you! If not, a great profession of your faith and devotion might be to increase your existing pledge. What would it take to give until it feels really good? Click the button above if you’d like to modify your gift, or you can contact Patti Smithson, our financial secretary at the link above.
- Give to a church ministry as a way of giving Christmas or birthday gifts! For example, make a gift to the church then send a card that you are providing 5 hours of quality child care ($75) in a friend or family member’s honor. Or donate something extra to honor a musician in your life by “sponsoring” the cost of providing beautiful bells, organ, piano, and choir leadership for a week ($500). The possibilities are endless and will help us close the deficit in either year.
- We are praying for a donor or donors who could make an over and above gift to help us hire some communication and financial consultants. As the world has changed, the church’s understanding of how to best share the Good News to a wider audience has not kept pace. We identified this in our long range plan and the now we need to implement it. Good consultants and good tools cost money, and we’re looking for one or more people who might be able to help us invest in a more stable future. We have identified some possibilities and we need about $23,000-$28,000. I know it’s a lot to ask, but you should know the need in full, and I can’t think of a greater leap of faith to make sure that the love, ministry, hope and worship of God will have a firm foundation.
What Are The Plans for Moving Forward?
On December 8, 2019 we will gather for a meeting of prayer and financial review. Between now and then, I hope you will pray with me about the best way forward. We want always to be faithful to a greater vision, but respectful of what is possible. We need all our hearts and minds focused on the possibilities so we don’t overlook any of them.
If you have not ever thought of giving the church an estimate of what you might give, this is the moment. Even if it’s just a very few dollars per week, we will be stronger if we are all in it together, each to our ability. The Bible shows over and over that loving faith is magnified not in the amount, but in the effort. Please join the effort if you can. You can make a new pledge or increase your existing one by clicking here:
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You can also support one another with creative ideas about how we might increase our generosity: are there people in your life who need the kind of love and encouragement Union Church offers? Do you have a creative way we might increase our revenue? Do you have a gift or skill we could use to help offset some of the projected cuts? All of these are ways to be faithful and proactive.
Church council has reluctantly approved a possible budget for us to consider if no more pledges come in. You can see below that it cuts many important things across the board, including a much needed health care adjustment for our secretary, youth programming, and church maintenance. It also would drastically cut our mission giving and use 100% of our endowment earnings, reserve funds, etc. It goes without saying that all salaries have been frozen and some cut to bring the projected deficit down. Many of the major changes are highlighted in yellow in the spreadsheet below.
Family, I hope and pray this will not be what we are dealing with, and I hope and pray we will be able to work together and encourage one another in the calling God has given to us. We have more good work to do! Please join me in prayer and positive action to step out in faith and find a way through to the ministry God intends for us.
With faith and love,
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