Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why the "Great Faith Experiment?"

I explained in my November newsletter column (click here to read)that we are doing financial pledging for 2010 differently this year.

In this post I will try to explain why.

In years past, pledges were done in a very traditional way. Pledge packets were delivered or mailed to the households of the church, the people filled them in and brought them back. The church's financial stewards opened the pledges, totaled them up and reported the total to our bookkeeper and finance committee chairperson.

And that was that.

What many people of the church probably don't know is that the sum of the pledges received for the coming year did not affect the amount of the budget for that year. Each annual budgets is formed by committee chairpersons and activity chiefs making a request for funding to the finance committee, which as a whole considers the requests, puts together a draft budget and re-evaluates the submissions. Some requests are sent back for reconsideration and after additional analysis and discussion, a final budget is formulated. This budget is sent to the church council for final approval.

The reason the sum of pledges received did not affect the budget amount is because almost 90 percent of our budget consists of fixed costs that can't be adjusted based on nothing more than amount of pledges. The heating/cooling bill, for example, is what it is. Property insurance costs are what they are. The payroll is the payroll. (Salaries did not rise for 2010, by the way.) Those expenses must be paid; in a strict sense they are not budgeted, but estimated, for the coming year. Some estimates are precise but others are only approximations. But they will not vary whether the pledged sum is high or low.

Furthermore, the money budgeted for ministries of the church forms the core of what our church is all about. Although from a strict financial-accounting perspective these expenses are "discretionary," they really cannot be. If we fail to fund our ministries then we cease to be a church in any meaningful sense of the word.

So we of the finance committee asked ourselves in the last few months, "Why continue to do pledging the same old way?" After all, once the pledges were totaled, nothing more came of them. No one ever got a "bill" from the church nor did anyone compare a pledge's amount against the amount actually given. Furthermore, many people declined to render a pledge.

We concluded that continuing to do pledges that way was not well advised. And so the Great Faith Experiment was born. We will still pledge to support the work of the church financially, but our way of receiving pledges will recognize that giving is part of both worship and discipleship. In that regard, our pledges are promises made to God.

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday.

During each worship service there will be a time to come forward to lay your envelope, with the pledge sealed inside, on the altar as a gesture of solemn commitment to God and God’s work of redemption by our church.

Afterward, volunteers will collect the envelopes and pray for each person by name that God may grant each of us grace to remain faithful to the commitments we have made. Then they will mail the unopened envelope back to you. Please keep it and use it through the coming year to remind yourself of the promise you have made to God to support the work of his church.

A final note: the budget approved by the church council for 2010 amounts to $275,332, a decrease of $23,760 (-8.6%) from 2009.

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