The Church of the Brethren is recording exceptionally generous giving to its denominational ministries this year, the Mission and Ministry Board learned at its Fall meeting. The financial reporting was given by treasurer Brian Bultman and assistant treasurer Ed Woolf. For a full report from the meeting, and a report of the 2016 budget decision, see the story below.
This year, total giving to denominational ministries as of the end of August amounts to $3,959,533--a 17.9 percent increase from 2014.
Other high points for 2015 include an overall 50 percent increase over 2014 in congregational giving to denominational ministries, in terms of dollars--which includes a 584 percent increase in congregational giving to the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). The number of congregations and individuals who are donating also has increased.
This generosity was received with gratitude and appreciation. “We are receiving generous gifts from our donors,” said Woolf.
The reporting to the board, however, revealed more than a half million dollar shortfall in the Core Ministries year-to-date budget.
Generosity focuses on Nigeria disaster
The EDF, which includes the Nigeria Crisis Fund that financially supports the Nigeria Crisis Response, has received a sharp increase in giving from both congregations and individuals. This year, as of the end of August, the EDF has received $1,437,431 in giving from congregations, $262,118 in giving from individuals, and $164,936 from disaster auctions. In 2015, total giving to the EDF adds up to $1,864,485--a 230 percent increase over 2014.
Donations to the Nigeria Crisis Fund since it was started in October 2014 total $3,604,209, as of early October 2015. That total includes the $1.5 million that the Mission and Ministry Board contributed as “seed money” for the new fund: $1 million from denominational reserves, and a $500,000 transfer from existing monies in the EDF.
The giving to the EDF and the Nigeria Crisis Fund is making it possible for the Church of the Brethren to partner with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) in a ground-breaking disaster relief effort responding to the violence that has affected hundreds of thousands of Nigerians.
The Nigeria Crisis Response builds on decades of Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria, and the hundreds of Nigerian leaders and American Brethren mission workers who developed the Nigeria mission. It is considered the Church of the Brethren’s largest disaster relief effort, and perhaps the largest ever undertaken in the worldwide Brethren movement. The crisis work in Nigeria is expected to be needed for some years to come.
Core Ministries budget suffers
At the same time, however, the Core Ministries budget of the denomination is experiencing a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of the end of September, the 2015 Core Ministries budget has a net deficit of $513,516. This is in addition to last year’s $528,000 deficit in the Core Ministries budget.
There are several reasons for the shortfall, but primarily it relates to lagging giving. “The Core Ministries budget depends on congregational giving, that’s the bottom line,” Woolf told the board.
As of September, total giving to Core Ministries is behind by $251,000 from what has been budgeted for 2015. This represents a shortfall of $183,000 in giving from congregations, and a shortfall of $68,000 in giving from individuals.
Asked by a board member how the programs of the Core Ministries can continue to operate with such deficits, Woolf explained that the net asset balance of the denomination continues to remain at a healthy level, as does the organization’s cash flow. As of the end of August, the cash balance of the Church of the Brethren registered a total $1,425,000.
Factors in the Core Ministries shortfall
A number of factors contribute to the budget shortfall in Core Ministries. In addition to a seeming shift being made by donors to emphasize giving to disaster relief over Core Ministries, other factors include less-than-expected investment income because of the recent economic downturn, and unexpected expenses in some departments, such as extra expenses related to the transition in the General Secretary’s office.
Bultman explained that many of these departmental budgets will balance out as the year progresses, and that the Fall finance report reflects fluctuations normal for this time of the year. Also, an up tick in giving to the Core Ministries usually occurs toward the end of the year, when congregations and individuals make Christmas-time gifts and fulfill their annual allocations to the work of the wider church.
A shift of giving from Core Ministries to the EDF is normal in years when there is a major disaster. This happened in 2010, in response to the Haiti earthquake, and in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina. The shift in giving patterns from 2014-15 in response to the Nigeria crisis is the largest recorded in some time, and is larger than either the response to the Haiti earthquake or to Hurricane Katrina.
Out of overall dollars given in 2015, as of the end of August, 47 percent has gone to disaster relief and only 37 percent to the Core Ministries. In terms of congregational giving, out of the dollars congregations have given to Church of the Brethren ministries as of the end of August, 52 percent of congregational giving has been to the EDF, and 40 percent to Core Ministries. In terms of giving from individuals, the comparable numbers are 30 percent to the EDF, and 27 percent to Core Ministries.
To put this year’s shift in giving into perspective, in the year Hurricane Katrina hit 49 percent of total giving to the Church of the Brethren was to the Core Ministries, with 47 percent to the EDF.
What are the Core Ministries?
The Core Ministries of the denomination are so named because they represent ministry that is central to the nature of the church:
-- Congregational Life Ministries encompasses age-related ministries such as the Youth and Young Adult Ministry and Older Adult Ministry, among others, and also includes Intercultural Ministry, the Vital Ministry Journey, and other work of the Congregational Life staff.
-- Global Mission and Service encompasses Brethren Volunteer Service and the Workcamp Ministry, carries out the international mission of the Church of the Brethren, ranging from South Sudan to Vietnam to Haiti and elsewhere, and oversees the Office of Public Witness. (Global Mission and Service also oversees several “self funded” ministries that are not in the Core Ministries budget, including Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, Material Resources, Global Food Crisis Fund, and Emerging Global Mission Fund.)
-- The Office of Ministry provides services to districts and congregations in areas such as pastoral placement and ministerial training, helps to oversee the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership in partnership with Bethany Theological Seminary, and provides oversight of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives.
-- The General Secretary’s office provides oversight of the whole work of the denomination, provides staff support to the Mission and Ministry Board, and carries out the ecumenical relationships maintained by the General Secretary.
-- Additional behind-the-scenes work necessary to the denominational organization also are a part of the Core Ministries, including finance, communications, website and e-mail services, donor relations, information technology, human resources, Zigler Hospitality Center, and maintenance of buildings and grounds.
The following Church of the Brethren ministries are not included in the Core Ministries budget and are financed in other ways:
-- Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services are funded by donations to the Emergency Disaster Fund.
-- Brethren Press is funded through the sale of books, curriculum, and other resources.
-- The Conference Office, which represents the staffing and financial undergirding of Annual Conference, receives funding from registration fees and donations.
-- Material Resources is funded by fees paid by ecumenical and humanitarian organizations that use its services to warehouse and ship relief goods.
-- Messenger magazine is funded by subscriptions, advertising, and donations.
-- Management of the Global Food Crisis Fund and the Emerging Global Mission Fund are financed through donations to the respective fund.