The church council had a lively discussion in March as it reviewed Faith Lutheran’s current financial status. The short version: offerings have been significantly lower in the first months of 2014 than in previous years. In January, giving dropped by 16% from what it had been just one year earlier.
While the council discussed this problem, many questioned how to communicate it to the congregation. This was not a question of logistics. Church leaders want to get the word out that Faith needs increased offerings, without creating a culture where people only give when there is a crisis. We remain thankful to the faithful people of this church who continue to support it, while still asking that they, and everyone else, step up and do more.
Faith Lutheran reached several significant financial goals at the end of 2013. We met all our mission commitments with no borrowing for a 5th straight year. We paid off all the operating debt from prior years when the church did have to borrow. We expanded our staff while reducing budgeted expenses for 2014. With all this, we still retained an $18,000 cash balance entering 2014.
Despite spending below our already lowered budget, Faith already faces a $35,000 deficit in 2014. Because of this, our church does not have funds to give timely support to ministries like Common Cup. We may soon be in a position of having to borrow again to meet basic monthly expenses.
We have so much to be thankful for as we begin 2014. But the many gifts Faith received at the end of 2013 seem to have created a sense of giving fatigue. With summer and the traditional drop in giving not far off, this is deeply troubling. We may be playing catch-up for the rest of 2014. Faith’s leaders have worked hard for five years to improve the fiscal health of our church dramatically. Now is the time to move forward, not to slip backward!
One thing seems clear as we write this on the first day of spring. It is time to challenge the church on its approach to and reasons for giving. That’s right. We’re extending a challenge to you.
We challenge you to discover the joy that comes with giving. Let’s break the cycle of lurching from crisis to crisis. Let’s respond in generous gratitude to the boundless blessings God pours out on us. Let’s commit to the mission God is doing through Faith Lutheran. Please prayerfully consider your giving in light of how God has blessed you.
We challenge you to recognize that giving equals mission. We will show you glimpses of what this means throughout 2014. Faith’s freedom from operating debt increases our ability to further the work of God’s kingdom. The people of Faith can do face-to-face ministry in our own community, but the dollars you give can be easily used at home and sent all over the earth. We still have the potential in 2014 to provide and support ministries both at home and around the world.
We challenge you to continue to give generously. Even as we thank God for Faith’s much-improved financial condition, we also challenge Faith’s members to give generously as God first blesses us, so that we can support more Christian work here and around the world. Just imagine what new and important work God can do through us for Jesus’ sake in 2014!