The 2020 budget for denominational ministries was a key item at fall meetings of the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board on Oct. 17-21 at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill. Meetings were led by chair Patrick Starkey, assisted by chair-elect Carl Fike and general secretary David Steele.
The board approved a total budget for all denominational ministries of $8,527,880 income and $8,584,200 expense, resulting in an anticipated net expense of $56,320 for 2020. The decision included budgets for the six major ministry areas of the Church of the Brethren: Core Ministries, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Brethren Press, Conference Office, Global Food Initiative, and Material Resources.
The Core Ministries budget of $4,969,000 income and expense represents a cut of almost $180,000 compared to 2019 budgeted expenses. It includes a 1 percent cost-of-living increase in all employee salaries, along with continuing employer contributions to health savings accounts. Most areas of Core Ministries reduced expenses from 2019 in order to balance income and expenses for 2020. Finance staff reported that budgets are monitored closely and that, for the most part, staff under-spend their budgets.
Core Ministries includes the General Secretary’s office, Global Mission and Service, the Ministry Office, Discipleship Ministries, Brethren Volunteer Service, workcamps, the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, communications, the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, and the finance department, among other areas of work.
Sources of income for Core Ministries include, among others, giving from congregations and individuals. A years-long downward trend in giving from congregations is expected to continue. The board engaged in discussion of this trend, with some board members also expressing concern about how much is drawn from quasi-endowments to fill the income gap. Also of concern were the net losses and asset deficit balances in the budgets of Brethren Press and Material Resources. Mission Advancement staff shared information about their work to increase efforts to engage more closely and frequently with donors.
Board members and staff leadership noted that staff have worked hard to be good stewards of their budgets without sacrificing programs and ministries. There was appreciation and affirmation for the staff’s efforts.
In year-to-date financial reporting for 2019, the board received good news about the state of the denomination’s investments and asset balance. Net assets as of Sept. 30 are at their highest level in five years, at more than $38 million, having grown by about $5 million since 2015. These assets include invested funds with and without donor restrictions, real property, and cash, among others.
In other business:
The board approved a revision of the funding formula for grants from the Brethren Faith in Action Fund, routine updates to financial policies, and 2024 meeting dates.
The board affirmed a staff decision to remake the National Youth Conference Fund into a Youth and Young Adult Conference Fund in order to help finance a wider variety of events.
John Hoffman was named as an at-large board member beginning in 2020. He currently is filling a one-year uncompleted term on the board.
The board received a presentation from “Plains to the Pacific,” a small think tank-style Brethren group that had its start in an initiative of former General Board staff. Plains to the Pacific is closing out its work.
Some time was spent on a question raised during compelling vision conversations at Annual Conference: what is the next “big idea” for the Church of the Brethren? Small table groups brainstormed responses. The exercise is seen as contributing to the work of formulating a new strategic plan for the board. Leaders of the board and staff will be assessing the relationship of a strategic plan with the compelling vision statement that is expected to come to Annual Conference for approval next year.
As always, the board meetings included worship, prayer, the singing of hymns, and time for fellowship. A class from Bethany Theological Seminary were in attendance to observe the board’s work and led Sunday morning worship in the chapel at the General Offices.
Find a photo album of the Mission and Ministry Board Fall 2019 meeting at www.brethren.org/album .