By now, most of you know that this Sunday we are voting on a proposed budget for 2014. Too often, money and budgets are contentious issues in church families. I am pleased to say this is not the case at Elim. That being said, we want members and attenders to be aware of where the money goes. Our goal is to be transparent. The money you give is donated to God as a “… fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice …” (Philippians 4:18). God considers these offerings sacred and they need to be used accordingly to support the work of the Gospel ministry through Elim.
At first glance, budgets aren’t very exciting. They’re like feet … not very attractive but extremely important. The largest budget area at Elim continues to be staffing (pastoral, support, and custodial staffing and associated costs). There is a 4% increase proposed for 2014. Ministry programs are asking for a 10% increase to accommodate growth. Half of this increase is to help cover the costs of student ministry leaders going to the EFCA Challenge conference in July 2014. The ministry area with the largest percentage increase is facilities. In 2013, we budgeted $22,240 for maintenance and mortgage. In 2014, we are proposing $32,240. This includes an additional $6,400 (for a total $16,400) to cover additional maintenance costs like resurfacing the parking lot and painting the exterior of the main building and annex. In addition, $3,600 is being requested to go toward paying down the principle of our mortgage, which is in addition to the mortgage line item. There are numerous smaller changes — increases and decreases — throughout the budget which you can observe at your leisure. All of these changes take the bottom line from $338,536 in 2013 to a proposed $359,491 in 2014 — a 6% increase.
This raises the question, “Can we afford this increase?” Our average weekly giving as of November 10 is $6,541. The proposed budget will require $6,906 in weekly giving. While giving will fluctuate from quarter to quarter, $6,906 is well within the range of our capacity if 2013 is a reliable indication. For example, in the 1st quarter in 2013 our average weekly giving was $7,342.
What is God’s heart in this issue? What is He most interested in? While budgets and financial trends are helpful, the issue in which God is most interested is the condition and attitude of our hearts as we give to Him. Are we generous in our financial gifts to Him? Does our giving reflect the generous grace He has given to us? In 2 Corinthians 9 Paul writes:
11 “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
In summarizing what Paul writes, we could state, “Grace came down; generosity welled up; the Gospel is lived out.” Budgets aside, what matters most to God and therefore to the Elders is the generosity of our hearts. I’m glad to say that generosity is a part of the fabric of Elim. However, we must never take it for granted. There is a culture around us and within us that would seek to erode away giving by turning generosity and joy into begrudging obligation. Therefore, let us always protect, promote, and value joyful generosity.