Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More on the Church's Financial Condition

Last week, I commented that here in mid-October, with our Stewardship commitment from 2006 coming up (Sunday, November 6, 2005), we find ourselves about $767,000 in the red in terms of cash flow for this year. In other words, a lot less money has come into the church’s ministry budget than has gone out, or to put it the other way around, we have spent over three quarters of a million dollars more than we have received at this point of the year for the support of ministry. Now we have had negative cash flows of around a half million dollars before and still finished the year in the black. But we have never been this deep in the red before. Our current cash flow deficit is about $250,000 deeper than we have ever experienced. If historical patterns continue, then it could reach a total of around $850,000 by November 1, 2005 (or about $350,000 more than we have experienced before). If that happens, we will probably have exhausted our reserves, and serious budget cuts and constraints will have to be taken for the remainder of the year, and the 2006 budget might have to be cut as well.

Nevertheless, last week I also said that I am actually excited about this challenge. I think it is so good for our congregation. I gave you a little taste of why on Sunday morning, but let me elaborate here.

First, our current cash flow deficit is not the result of a failure of generosity. We are not in our present financial situations because you are not giving. In fact, your giving is comparable to (or even a little better than) last year at this time. Giving to the ministry budget (which includes operating and benevolent expenses) is only a few thousand dollars behind your pace of giving last year. Faith Promise giving is also strong at this point of the year, and looks to be on track to meet what was committed to missions and evangelism for 2005-2006. Additionally, the congregation has not only pledged, but also already generously given to the church’s sanctuary expansion costs. So when you take into account your giving to missions and sanctuary expansion, we have probably had more given to the church by the congregation this year than at this time last year.

The key here is for us all to remember the importance of our regular, undesignated giving/tithing to the basic church budget. For us to meet our expenses this year, the congregation will need to give about 6% more to the ministry budget of the church than we did last year. With 100 new families added to the church this year, and all of us doing our part, this is not the impossible dream – but a very doable challenge.

Second, our cash flow deficit is significantly related to our aggressive debt retirement. While it is nearly impossible to know all the factors involved in church giving, we do know several things for certain. The major thing is this: the church is paying off the Twin Lakes Conference Center capital expansion to the tune of about $50,000 a month. That is an expense that we were not having to carry last year, and accounts for much of the difference between this year’s and last year’s cash flow status at this time of the year. The good news in this is that the conference center expansion, only just completed in the Spring, is already half-paid for, and at this rate will be paid off completely in about three years.

Again, however, this puts a squeeze on the church’s ministry budget (which is already pretty lean when in comes to the church program). So unless we make up for the extra demands by generous giving, our ministry here in the local church will be hampered.

Third, our cash flow deficit gives us a unique opportunity to trust in God and walk by faith. First Presbyterian is blest with so many generous members that we are rarely stretched in our sense of utter dependence upon God and moved to give in a truly sacrificial way in support of the ministry of the church. And those are two exceedingly good things. It is good for us to be in a spot in which we must completely depend on the Lord to provide. It is good for us not to presume or expect the budget to be met routinely, year after year. It is good to have to look hard at our budget and ask if certain things need to be cut. It is good for members to have to give beyond their comfort zone because they are committed to the work of God through the ministry of the local church, and they count it a privilege to be able to sacrifice their own comforts for kingdom gains. These things are exceedingly good, and so this situation is –to me– exciting. It’s an opportunity for us to take stock, make healthy changes, sacrifice in order to support ministry, and to be utterly dependent on God. What a blessing!

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

No comments: