Words From Our Pastor
Fall officially began September 22, 2017. This is a season some of us enjoy while others wish we would remain in summer or just skip ahead to spring. Fall is that time of year when the trees start to shed their leaves and life seems to slow down as the days get shorter, the nights longer, and the temperatures drop. Some of us hope and pray for rain, while others dread the thought of another wet and cold winter that is just around the corner. With the coming of fall we all realize, children and grandchildren more than others, that Christmas is just around the corner and so is another change of seasons.
However, in the life of the church the slow-down of fall is actually a speed up of sorts. Fall is the time that we prepare for a new church year by looking at a slate of officers to lead the church, develop a financial plan for the coming year, submit our reports on the state of our church to the Conference, decide if we want the pastor to return for another year, and look forward to our All Church or Charge Conference. The busyness of fall continues through Advent and into Christmas.
Of concern to me each year at this time, and this year is no exception, is the financial status of our church. For the last four years that I have been your pastor, and for many years previous to my tenure, this congregation has had a deficit budget. That means what we project to have as income from our tithes, offerings, miscellaneous giving, and other income sources will not cover the expenses we have projected for the upcoming year. Not long ago we were creative in saying we are developing a spending plan and followed that plan. We asked for designated contributions to help fund some of items in our spending plan and members of the congregation stepped up to help fund what touched their hearts.
However, deficit spending is not sustaining. The money to operate our church must come from some source. If we do not contribute enough to operate the church the funds have to come from our available reserves. If we continue to dip into our reserves we are going to come to a time when our reserves are not our reserves but an empty well. We try to show the congregation the financial status every month in the article Noses $ollars and $cents. If you have been watching that column over the course of the last few months you notice a lot of red, which is not good financially. We want to have all the numbers in the black – especially on December 31st.
This is one of the reasons we hold a Stewardship Campaign in the fall. The Stewardship Campaign is a fundraiser. It is our tool to help raise the awareness of the congregation. It is a means to remind us of our commitment to the life of the church to support not only our congregation but the larger church with our gifts.
A church is not like a business. We are not a for-profit organization. We do not sell a product. We do not generate a specific amount of income to support what we do. We are reliant on the generosity of our membership and those who attend regularly to help support and operate our church. There is no return on investments, unless we look to the collection plate to measure our return.
Your Finance Committee is working hard to craft a budget (spending plan) that reflects the good stewardship of resources we all expect from our leadership. I have asked our District Superintendent, David Samelson, to come to our October meeting of the Finance Committee to talk to us about budgeting – specifically what he sees in our budget, the trend across the district and conference, and offer suggestions for us to consider in the coming year. Before going into ministry, he was a banker with one of the major banking institutions in this country.
I, as your pastor, understand that a number of us are retired and living on fixed incomes. I get that. All I ask is that we prayerfully focus on our congregation. What are we being called to do in this community and in the world beyond. Let us prayerfully listen to the messages we receive during our stewardship campaign and how we feel the Lord is calling us to respond with those gifts that go along with our prayers, presence, service and witness. On October 29th I am going to ask the congregation to commit (or pledge or whatever term you would like to use) to support First United Methodist Church in 2018. I ask that we all take the steps we feel necessary to show our support for our church on that day. Please come and help support our congregation for the coming year. For those who cannot make it to church, commitment letters will also be mailed.
On another note, a number of you have been approached and asked to serve in one capacity or another on one of the leadership teams of our church. Names were not pulled from a hat but thoughtfully considered. Again, we ask that you prayerfully consider serving if you are asked.
In preparation for the Annual Church Conference or Charge Conference, which will be in November (the exact date has not been set as of this writing), various members of the church are preparing reports on the state of the church or a church profile. This gives the Bishop an idea of what is happening in our congregation. The aggregate reports from all the congregations in the conference will help to guide her in the decision she will be making in the months to come as she leads the California-Nevada Annual Conference into 2018.
One of those reports is the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) evaluation of the effectiveness and ministry or your pastor. Although it is the members of the SPRC who compile the evaluation and recommendation to the Conference (which is confidential, by the way), each of you may have input by informing the SPRC Chair, Chuck Parker, or any of the other members of the SPRC of your thoughts. I will also be providing my input and the total package will be forwarded to the Bishop. All our reports, except the budget, have a deadline of December 1. The budget needs to be completed for the Church Conference so it can be approved.
As you can see, things are going to get a bit busy in the next couple months. If we all work together we can get through the meetings, reports, and Charge Conference and move on to celebrate the joy of the Christmas Season.
So, until next month, Shalom.