More Discerning to Come

A few months ago, I had a conversation with Adam Fink. I was talking with Adam about the work of church moderator. I explained to him that we had experienced much change over the last few years. My hope was that we could settle down a bit and keep things a bit more static. In the past couple of years, we have changed our worship schedule and added staff. These are not insignificant adaptations for any congregation. Little did I know that God would be calling us to more adjustments.

As some of you already know, we are experiencing budgetary constraints. Giving to the church remains static if not slightly decreased. At the same time, in 2012 we experienced a decrease in giving. We ended the year with a $40,000 deficit. Such decline is characteristic in churches throughout the country. We are not the only ones having to adjust to a new world and culture.

In 2007 three professors at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis studied church giving. They found that baby boomers were donating about 10 percent less to religious bodies than their parents’ generation did at a comparable age — and almost 25 percent less than those parents were donating. A 2010 study by Empty Tomb Inc. reveals that giving to churches declined to 2.4 percent of a donor’s income, lower than during the first years of the Great Depression. We are not in this alone. Mix these stats with the fact that fewer people are attending church and it is no surprise that income is lower.

We have had a church-family conversation on stewardship in the months of January and February. We talked about biblical stewardship and our calling to be faithful. As of the end of February, our financial situation has not changed. We are going to need to adjust. As the new CCT begins its work in April, a leading priority will be to develop a balanced budget; this is no easy task.

As has been our practice over the past few years, we will be using a discernment process in this endeavor. Budgetary cuts can be difficult; we can not lean into our personal preferences. We must devote ourselves to seeking the Spirit’s direction as we move forward. Only He has the necessary wisdom to lead us in the right directions. Perhaps God is calling us to reconsider our use of resources. We may find that cuts do not mean less ministry; they may be a vehicle to empower all of us to be involved in ministry. We no longer have the luxury of plentiful staffing; we will have to find creative and less resource-intense ways of functioning. My prayer is that this challenge will increase our dependence on the Holy Spirit’s leading. My hope is that we will adjust in ways that will build up our congregation. I pray that we will be empowered to walk with God in all that He is doing in our community.