NOTE: This is a transcript of a letter that was mailed to the congregation on Thursday, October 15, 2015.
This past Sunday in worship, I told you that a letter would be arriving in your mailbox sometime this week. Well, this is the letter. I wish this letter could tell you that things are going smooth on our financial front but we have hit a few potholes and speed bumps.
In 2013, our church was in a steep decline. Sunday morning attendance had dropped to under 475, our children and student ministry was dead in the water and our buildings were in need of major repair, especially our A/C units. But thanks to incredible lay leadership and a dedicated staff, First United Methodist Church Missouri City has experienced a resurrection. Because of this new energy and vision to grow our ministries, our expenses have increased by an average of 9% since 2013.
An increase in expenses is a positive sign of a church becoming healthy and vibrant. However, an increase in giving has to go along with the increase in ministry expenses, or else cash flow problems arise. And that is the speed bump we have hit. Since 2013, our expenses have increased 9% but our giving has steadily declined 2-3%. The most significant hit has been in the last 4 months, which has seen our giving down an average of 11%, while our expenses have increased by 11%. All of these factors have caused us to experience a strain on our cash flow; we are not able to fully fund our budget and our designated funds. (For more “number” information, click the links to the simplified financial report and loan document at the end of this blog.)
We have analyzed the situation and have discovered a number of possible reasons for the decline. There are a number of people who are giving the same amount as previous years, but are now splitting that amount between the operating budget and the ReImagine campaign. There seems to be a group of folks who filled out a pledge card for ReImagine thinking they were making their pledge to the operating budget. There are also those folks who have moved, passed away or are experiencing health, employment issues or other life-changing events.
After meeting with the Finance Committee, I want to share with you the plan to help improve our cash flow for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016:
- I, along with Richard Burnham, am deferring my November salary.
- We are asking the staff and leadership only to spend on immediately essential items.
- We will have a traditional pledge campaign in January 2016.
- We are encouraging people who might have had confusion regarding the operating budget and ReImagine to re-evaluate their commitment.
- I am cutting my salary back to my 2014 salary. And we are evaluating other areas that we cut/reduce in the 2016 budget.
I know there are those who will read this and believe that the “glass is half-empty” but I believe our “glass is half-full.” I have discovered over the years that these problems are part of a church that is in the midst of a turnaround. We might be experiencing cash flow issues but it is because we are experiencing the resurrection; we are becoming the best church for our community.
I love the story of Jonathan found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jonathan was the son of King Saul and was a young man of incredible faith. One day, Jonathan was faced with a decision to either choose to side with his father or choose to follow God. He made the choice to follow God when he decided to fight against 1000 well-armed, well-trained Philistine soldiers. He woke up his armor bearer and told him, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf.” Jonathan understood that not everything in life is guaranteed. He knew that there are some things you can know and some things you won’t know. He knew that his God was powerful enough to get the job done, even if the numbers were 2 against 1000. So he said, “Hey let’s go pick a fight. Maybe God will help.”
I love that the only thing that mattered to Jonathan was to be aligned with God’s purpose. He understood that to align with God meant to have a life full of uncertainties. I love that Jonathan is able to step out with that kind of faith; to have total confidence in God in the midst of uncertainty. That is the faith that we are called to have; that is the faith I want to have. And I hope that you will join me in living life like Jonathan!
I am asking for your help. If you have been confused regarding the operating budget and ReImagine, please take a few minutes to re-evaluate your commitment. I would love it if you will prayerfully consider increasing your financial commitment to the operating budget. If you desire to make a change or have additional questions please contact our Finance Director, LeAnn Jackson or me.
I believe if we make the choice to follow God, He is going to show up!
Take care and God Bless . . .
To view a copy of the SIMPLIFIED FINANCIAL REPORT, click HERE.
To view a copy of the LOAN SUMMARY, click HERE.