By Pastor Martin and Jeff Foerster
Talking (or writing) about money is usually a touchy subject with people. However, at Elim, you have asked us to keep you informed regarding the church’s financial status.
Last year was an amazing year. In its first quarter (January-March) we experienced an average weekly giving of $7,352 and our average weekly budget was $6,505. We celebrated God’s goodness and this congregation’s generosity and faithfulness.
During its second quarter (April-June) we saw a decline –which is always expected as we head into summer – but the average weekly giving was $6,606, which was still above budget.
Fast-forward to the fourth quarter (October-December) and average weekly giving bounced back to $6,903. However, this amount was buoyed significantly by the last three weeks of December, when we experienced extraordinary year-end giving, due in part to our Give Away Sunday.
When looking at the big picture for 2013, the 2014 budget, which requires an average weekly giving of $6,909, seemed reasonable and well within our financial capacity.
However, giving for 2014 has started out a lot like the stock market: Down! Our average weekly giving through February 2nd has been $4,964. As you can tell, this is $1,945 per week short of our budget. While giving will fluctuate month to month, it doesn’t normally dip this far below budget for more than a week or two at this time of the year.
As the Elders and Stewardship Team pray through this issue and seek God’s wisdom we ask the inevitable question: “Why?” Is the decline due to the mortgage being paid off, and therefore people don’t feel the need to give? Is the decline due to higher healthcare costs related to the Affordable Care Act? Ultimately, we don’t know the answers to these questions.
The Elders are informing the Elim Body of this need and then calling us to pray for discernment for the Elder board and Stewardship Team. Pray also for a renewed faith and willingness to honor the Lord with our finances. We are fond of the truth that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills but He expects us to be responsible stewards of the beef He has given to us.
In addition, we are freezing the following spending until giving meets budget.
- Pastoral Staff expense accounts.
- All non-essential property spending.
- All non-essential ministry program spending.
- Pastoral Staff H.S.A. (Health Savings Account) distributions
While we may not understand the decline in giving, I realize that many people already give sacrificially. You have said “no” to many things so you can say “yes” to honoring our Lord. Thank you! Your sacrificial gifts are sacred to God, and Elim’s leadership feels the weight of responsibility to use them wisely to further Christ’s mission for His church.
I also realize that many people may not be giving sacrificially, or some not at all. I would encourage you, like the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:5, to present yourselves first to our Lord and then to the work of Elim. Stewardship begins as a matter of the heart: A heart first for the Lord and then for His work.
Now that the mortgage is paid off, (a savings of $304 per week or $1,320 per month) what’s next? The Elders are praying through options. In the near future, we will present some options for Elim to prayerfully consider. So far, we have briefly discussed the much-needed repair and expansion of the Youth House (aka MOPs house, Children’s Ministries House …) to partnering with a church plant in the Puyallup area. I’m certain that as we continue to pray and wait on our Lord, more ideas will come to the table as well as much-needed clarity. Until then, we have established the Freedom Fund. This is a fund where we make monthly deposits out of our budget that would have gone to make the mortgage payment.
Given how God has blessed us in the past, we trust that even during this present shortfall God has great things in store as we dedicate ourselves to following Him! Therefore we will praise Him and seek Him. We worship because of how He has delivered in the past, and how He will deliver in the future. Whatever He has planned, we rush toward it expectantly, excited to see how His greatness will be demonstrated in the face of these circumstances.