Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NRSV)
I was hoping that I would never have to write an article like this one. I dread writing these words, but the fact of the matter is that our Operating Funds are running low. Not unusual in a small church such as ours, but it seems to me that giving is often an indicator of things deeper than the bottom line.
When you believe in something, you support it. We see this everyday as folks wear clothing emblazoned with the names and logos of their favorite sports teams – especially lately, as the St Louis Blues made their successful run for the Stanley Cup. Public Radio and Television both rely on financial support from the communities they serve – hence those “never ending” pledge drives. Charitable and Non Profit organizations also rely on the support of those who believe in their missions. The same is true for Blue Mound UMC: We cannot pursue our mission without your financial support.
Here’s where we stand: In order to meet our total budget of $11,345 per month, we must collect an average of $2,618 in our weekly offering. To date this year, our offering has averaged $2,109 per week. That’s a significant difference! The effect is that we are operating at or beyond the limits of our budget. There are no reserves. Sandy, our treasurer, is forced to determine which of our bills is more important than the others; expenses are being deferred. This means we are digging ourselves into a hole. If giving bounces back, we are good again: for awhile. If not, we are forced to make cuts: a part-time pastor, a multi-point charge, a cancer of deferred maintenance on our building – all possibilities, and there are more dramatic options.
So I’m a numbers guy – I enjoy using spreadsheets to tell me the story, and Karen, our Finance Committee Chair, provides excellent numbers – although not good ones. Here’s what the record shows: average weekly giving (the same number as shown above) shows a $78 increase from 2016 to 2017; an $820 decrease from 2017 to 2018; and a $332 decrease from 2018 through May of this year. At the same time, average weekly attendance has decreased from 42 to 38 to 36 to 29 so far this year. Our mission is being impacted, which leads to the question, “why?”
Perhaps attendance has been impacted by pastoral changes and denominational issues. Perhaps folks have simply fallen away as age and other factors have had their effect. Or perhaps our mission has faded to a point of no longer being relevant – no longer seen as worthy of financial support. As is so often the case, the answer is likely a blend of those factors, and probably a couple more. Or maybe I’m just over reacting to a short-term financial setback – but the facts don’t back that up.
The bottom line is this: if the mission of Blue Mound UMC is important to you, then support it with your time, talents, and treasures. Attend worship and Christian education opportunities, take an active leadership role, and provide financial support on a regular basis (within your means, remember the story of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44 is as much about condemning a church system that expected a widow to give her last penny as it is about her being a faithful giver). If our mission is no longer relevant to your life, then I challenge you to do the same – attend, lead, and provide, with an emphasis on that second one: Lead. Instead of silently shrinking away from the church, seeking something new somewhere else, have the courage to join a team that will lead this congregation into a new future, and a new relevance! Provide feedback, seek change. We are missing at least two generations in this church – there has to be a reason for that. Let’s figure it out together and chart a brighter course together – Jesus’ message has never been more relevant. Our mission is to connect folks to Christ, there is nothing more relevant or important. Cheerfully support our mission. Amen.
PS. It’s been a month, how are you doing on your “Why do you believe, and why should I” statements?
Pastor Kevin will be ordained on Saturday, June 8th at Annual Conference in Peoria. The service begins at the Peoria Civic Center at 9:30am.
The plan is to gather at Obed and Isaac’s (321 NE Madison Ave, Peoria) afterwards for lunch. Please join us if you are able; an RSVP for lunch would be appreciated.