Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Blessings and Challenges of Ministering in the Small Church (Part 4).

Challenge: Moving from a budget driven church to a vision driven church.

People don’t give to “budgets” anymore. Those days are long gone! (Would someone please tell the PCUSA this tidbit of information, please!). People give to ministries that they believe are going to make a difference in the lives of people.

When I came to Evergreen eleven years ago the focus of our fall fundraising efforts (“stewardship campaign” in church lingo) was “budget” based. Our session would come up with a budget for the following year. That budget had nothing to do with reality! It would be $50,000 or $60,000 more than we expected to collect. So… every year the session and its committees would have to be as frugal as possible so that their spending was in line with how much was collected.

We used to give thousands and thousands of $$$ to the mission budget of our Presbytery. Several years ago our Presbytery combined the per capita giving (“membership tax” for the non-Presbyterians out there) with the mission giving. More of the budget went to paying for the operation of the Presbytery and less to “mission” as giving to the Presbytery dropped. It has gotten to the point where very little of the mission $$$ that go to the Presbytery actually goes to mission. A funny thing happened when Evergreen’s session decided to only give our “fair share” to the mission side of the Presbytery budget—Evergreen’s financial situation changed. We couldn’t “afford” to do anything because we were giving over $18,000 in “mission money” to fund the running of the Presbytery. We have since adopted a missionary in Chile. Evergreen has formed a sister-church relationship with a small Presbyterian congregation in an Alaskan native village. We have assisted them many times over the few years that our partnership has been in effect. We have tripled the number of families that we help during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Our number of “shoe box presents” for Operation Christmas Child has shot through the roof! We recently gave $2000 to cover one month’s expenses for the new Presbyterian ministry in Tacoma. We will be sending a group to worship with them on November 4th. Our youth group is going to begin doing things with some of their youth. We are in the process of becoming an emergency shelter in our area. All of these things began when we stopped fundraising based on a projected budget! We are the one church in our area where LOVE, INC (“Love in the name of Christ” is a clearing house we use to assisting those in need outside of our congregation. LOVE, INC makes sure that the need is legitimate and finds churches to help meet those needs.). We are the one church in our area that they can count on to help meet financial needs. Most churches are willing to help with $20 or $30 for someone’s $200 electrical bill. They know that Evergreen will step up to the plate and meet almost any unmet financial need. We are probably the smallest church that they work with in our area but we meet the bulk of the big ticket needs. Just a few minutes ago I received a call from LOVE INC about a need in our area. They were only able to find one church that was willing to help. It was a fairly large church and it is giving $30. Evergreen in meeting the rest of the need! Our “fund” that covers such needs has never run dry! We teach about tithing and proportionate giving. We have been running in the “black” for a couple of years.

The change in our financial picture occurred at the time we were becoming a Purpose Driven Presbyterian Church. Our church has a compelling vision of what it means to be a church. We focus on the five areas of a Purpose Driven Church: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry & mission/evangelism. We are thinking “outside” the normal Presbyterian box.

Moving from a budget based church to a vision based church has not been easy and it is not totally completed. However, it has energized our church and its people.


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