Year-end financial report for Church of the Brethren denominational ministries

By Ed Woolf, Treasurer for the Church of the Brethren

The 2023 year-end financial reporting covered both Core Ministries and the Self-Funding Ministries, including Material Resources and the Conference Office. Special purpose funds, including the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF), which supports Brethren Disaster Ministries, the Global Food Initiative Fund (GFIF) which supports the Global Food Initiative, and the Emerging Global Mission Fund were also reported on.

Core Ministries

The Core Ministries are considered crucial to the denomination’s program and include the General Secretary’s office (Mission Advancement, Communications, Brethren Press, Messenger magazine, Human Resources, and the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy); Discipleship and Leadership Formation (which includes the Office of Ministry, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Older Adult Ministry, and Intercultural Ministries); Global Mission; Service Ministries (Brethren Volunteer Service and FaithX); and Organizational Resources (Brethren Historical Library and Archives, and departments that sustain and serve the program work including Finance, Information Technology, and Buildings and Grounds).

Congregational giving to Core Ministries totaled $1.5 million. This was down $46,000 from last year and $23,000 behind budget. At $652,000, individual giving to Core Ministries was down $58,000 from last year and $84,000 behind budget. Total combined giving to Core Ministries was $2.15 million. This was down $105,000 from 2022 and $108,000 behind budget. Income draws to Core Ministries from the Bequest Quasi-Endowment, Endowments, Savings, and BSC Quasi-Endowment funds were behind budget by a combined $97,000. Since giving finished below budget and investment draws were lower than anticipated, staff needed to use the entire $186,000 budgeted transfer from designated funds. This was the first use of designated funds to support Core Ministries since 2019. As a result, total income to Core Ministries ended the year $221,000 behind budget.

Director-level expenses were under budget by $171,000 as staff did a good job of allocating resources during a high-inflationary economy. Despite being under budget, expenses outpaced income and Core Ministries finished the year with a $50,000 deficit. Despite the loss, Core Ministries maintained a $2.15 million net asset balance.

Material Resources

Material Resources finished the year with a $69,000 loss. Contributing factors included fewer donations, loss of processing income, and an increase in packing supplies expense. With the sustained losses, the Mission and Ministries Board made the difficult decision last October to close the Material Resources program and wind down operations over a period of up to 30 months.

Conference Office

The Conference Office, which supports the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, sustained a $63,000 loss primarily due to less registration income because of low attendance. However, the Conference Office finished the year with a $66,000 surplus due to a $129,000 transfer of designated funds. Staff are working toward a more sustainable model as continually funding Annual Conference deficits from reserves is not a long-term solution.

Brethren Disaster Ministries

In 2023, Brethren Disaster Ministries continued global responses in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Ukraine, and Burundi. The rebuild program supported families impacted by the tornados in Kentucky and Children’s Disaster Services had nine responses last year. Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) donations totaled $1.9 million. This was down $327,000 from last year. The EDF ended the year with a $2.2 million balance.

Global Food Initiative

Last year, the GFI supported domestic projects in New Orleans, Florida, and Texas. Internationally, projects in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and South Sudan received grants. Global Food Initiative Fund donations totaled $262,000. This was down $60,000 from last year. The fund ended the year with a balance of $231,000.

Emerging Global Mission Fund

The Emerging Global Mission Fund ended 2023 with a balance of $120,000. This was an increase of $2,900 from 2022. In the past, grants have been used to fund church missions, new and emerging international missions, and church planting in the United States.

Net Assets and Investments

At $42.6 million, the denomination’s total net assets increased $2.9 million from the beginning of the year. The increase in net assets was primarily due to market gains–helping to offset some of last year’s losses. Net assets continue to be in a healthy position, with the second-highest total over the last five years. The denomination also is maintaining good liquidity with operating cash balances.

The denomination’s investments are managed by Eder Organizational Investing of Eder Financial, Inc. Investments totaled $36 million, an increase of $2.7 million over last year. Despite uncertainty throughout the year with surging inflation and interest rate hikes, Church of the Brethren accounts produced solid results with an 8.7 percent return, compared to the 16 percent loss from the year before.

The annual goal is to have enough income to cover expenses for current ministries. After all expenses are paid, it is good to have a small surplus left–not simply to store up treasure, but to provide sustainability for leaner years or years in which ministries are expanded. The year 2023 was a challenging year in that the denomination realized a decrease in both congregational giving and individual giving. In addition to the decrease in income, the denomination experienced a year of high inflation and increased program expenses. Although the denomination fell short of the annual goal, it was blessed to have sufficient reserves set aside to help offset the loss.

Despite the challenges from last year, the Church of the Brethren continues to be humbled and sincerely grateful for both our donors’ faithful giving and for their active participation in support of our programs. And we are thankful for our staff’s dedication in carrying out the denomination’s ministries.

[The above amounts were provided prior to completion of the 2023 audit. Complete financial information will be available in the Church of the Brethren, Inc. audit report published in June 2024.]


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