The Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren held its summer meeting on June 29 in Greensboro, N.C., with a focus on finances. On the agenda were approval of a 2017 budget parameter for the Core Ministries of the denomination, approval of budget revisions for this year 2016, and affirmation of plans for a new financial campaign, among other business.
The board made revisions to the denomination’s 2016 budget for Core Ministries, and approved a Core Ministries budget parameter for 2017. Both decisions represent efforts to shore up the Core Ministries funding with “draws” or “bridges” from other funds held by the denomination, as well as reductions in spending that have been recommended by the Financial Planning Working Group that includes both staff and board members.
At its March meeting the board named five board members (Don Fitzkee, Carl Fike, Donita Keister, David Stauffer, and John Hoffman) along with the executive staff to the Financial Planning Working Group. The group was charged with the task of bringing a new financial plan to the Annual Conference meeting, not to be based on program reductions but on a new sustainable vision that includes a significant new stewardship effort. Out of the work of this group, aided by consultants Lowell Flory and Jim Dodson, emerged a plan for budget revisions plus a new financial campaign.
Revisions to the 2016 Core Ministries budget include less in projected giving from congregations, and various changes in anticipated expenses--mostly related to the hiring of additional staff in some areas, and recent losses of staff in other areas.
The “bridges” totaled together for the years 2016, 2017, and 2018 amount to some $2 million to $2.5 million, which interim general secretary Dale Minnich urged the board to consider as an investment in our future. “Recognizing it is a big step,” he said, “we are investing $2 million to $2.5 million in getting to a more sustainable place and not have cuts [in staffing and program] so regularly and so deeply.”
For example, in 2016, the “bridges” consist of up to $130,990 in transfers from redirected one-time funds, and up to approximately $350,000 in transfers from the New Windsor Land, Building, and Equipment Fund. The latter decision was made in light of the intention to sell significant portions of the Brethren Service Center property located in New Windsor, Md.
In 2017, the “bridges” will amount to about $900,000 including about $541,000 in one-time use of board-designated funds, and up to $350,000 in transfers from the New Windsor Land, Building, and Equipment Fund.
Specifics of the 2018 budget will be considered in upcoming board meetings.
Revisions to the Core Ministries budget for 2016 bring the total to $4,764,000 for the year, a decrease of $50,000 from the previous budget parameter of $4,814,000.
A budget parameter of $5,352,000 was approved for the church’s Core Ministries in 2017.
As part of the budget discussions, the board received results of a telephone survey of Church of the Brethren congregations that provided information about their giving to the denomination, and reasons congregations have cited for increasing or decreasing their financial support.
New financial campaign
The board set in motion work toward a new financial campaign to support Church of the Brethren ministries--another of the steps proposed by the Financial Planning Working Group. That group and others have been meeting with consultants in order to assess the possibilities for a campaign. It has been many years since the denomination has engaged in such a fundraising campaign.
The board discussed the various constituent groups in the denomination who may be approached, how such a campaign may help share inspirationally about Church of the Brethren ministries, and how important good communication will be to the success of a campaign, among other topics.
The board decided to “affirm the plans underway to prepare for a financial campaign to begin by the end of 2018.” The board’s recommendation to begin to prepare for a significant stewardship effort was approved unanimously.
Minnich noted, “I am proud of the board for courageous action pointing the way to a new day, and committing $2-2.5 million of reserves to operate with stability until the new plans are carried out.”
An early implementation step will be a series of listening meetings in key geographic areas, with the first of these meetings beginning in September under the leadership of general secretary-elect David Steele.
Ministry Enablement Contribution
The board approved a new “Ministry Enablement Contribution” that will be applied to all restricted gifts to the denomination. This will help cover the costs of carrying out the intended purpose of such gifts, and will replace internal cost charges that have been made to Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Global Food Initiative (formerly the Global Food Crisis Fund). The board approved a 9 percent Ministry Enablement Contribution.
The board and executive staff for some time have been searching for ways to reduce the competitive nature of fundraising in the denomination. Popular programs funded with restricted gifts have been pitted against the denomination’s Core Ministries. Competition for funding has become particularly evident with the exceptionally generous response of Brethren to the crisis affecting Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
As a result, the past two years have seen especially strong support for Brethren Disaster Ministries and Nigeria initiatives, and a noticeable shift away from giving to the core programs of the denomination. “On the one hand this causes us to rejoice about the generous out-pouring of support, while on the other hand we grieve the loss of support for the vulnerable core,” said a report by Minnich, which was shared in advance of the meeting.
The Financial Planning Working Group proposed the new Ministry Enablement Contribution to the board, noting that it represents a more equitable sharing of the costs of carrying out church ministry. A similar recommendation had been received from the denomination’s auditors.
The board action, in full, “approved a Ministry Enablement Contribution of 9 percent on all restricted gifts to help cover the costs of carrying out the intended purpose of the gift, and in the case of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Global Food Initiative to replace internal cost charges currently assessed.” Cost charges are made for expenses like rent, and services provided by staff who work in other areas such as the Finance office and Information Technology.
The Ministry Enablement Contribution will go into effect at the beginning of 2017 and will be applied to all restricted gifts received by the Church of the Brethren denomination.
In other business
The board welcomed and received comments from international guests representing Church of the Brethren denominations and missions in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nigeria.
Five congregations and one new church plant were recognized as new members of the Open Roof Fellowship (see www.brethren.org/news/2016/open-roof-fellowship-welcomes.html ).
Four board members who are completing their term of service were recognized, among other business that included a number of reports and the introduction of interim staff. Retiring board members are Jerry Crouse, Janet Wayland Elsea, W. Keith Goering, and Becky Rhodes.