Friday, January 29, 2010

Congregational Needs and Needs In God's World Converge

I continue to process last week's congregational annual meeting. It takes a long time to rehash 150 minutes of statements, speeches, questions, resolutions and ideas. Though I connect the raised levels of anxiety with a lack of focus, I do believe that people approached the meeting in good faith--I attribute this to faithful leadership and a desire for good. I do not believe malice reared its ugly head at the meeting.

A few observations:

+ Several observations and questions surfaced about daily expenditures and the current financial state of First Lutheran Community Church. Some questions that were asked were answered in previous annual meetings or available in current or previous annual report. Questions can also be posed to the Business Adminstrator, Dave Lester. I do not believe there was financial mismanagement at FLCC. Any organization can improve levels of efficiency and evaluate expenditures. The fact of the matter is that congregational giving is related worship attendance. Since Pastor Allen's departure, worship attendance is down between 12 and 13 percent. Giving receipts are down around 15 percent and pledges are down about 20 percent. In order to keep 2010 wages/salaries at 2009 levels, a significant amount of extra giving was needed to meet that congregational desire, which was articulated and affirmed at the congregational meeting. Those voting at the Annual Meeting made a commitment to follow through on that raised giving for remaining congregational members. That giving is not complete, and the congregation will be informed about progress toward keeping staff wages/salaries at 2009 levels. The responses to Pastor Orv's letter and in the call to the congregation were powerful and impressive.

+ I noticed that in general that the people of FLCC did not sacrifice a calling to serve the needs of God's world (Haiti, for example) in order to meet the financial needs of the congregation and its staff. I learned from Kris Corteau that FLCC put together a gift of approximately $7000 dollars after the call to give on January 17th. Approximately $4000 was collected on and around the 17th, $2000 was collected from the fund that collect funds for building homes in Haiti, and $1000 was given in matching funds from Thrivent Financial For Lutherans. Some people wonder if special appeals take away from general giving to the congregation. Though I don't have current data to back this up, my experience has been that if the appeal is made clear that gifts are above and beyond household pledges that special appeals do not hurt general pledge giving. Even if a congregation does not make special appeals, that doesn't mean that household would take that money and raise their giving to the congregation. The important thing is that we give people an opportunity to give on multiple levels.

+ I made a statement at the Annual Meeting that in an anxious financial time, it is tempting to talk about small expenditures like lighting and supplies. These are small expenditures. If the congregation continues to bicker over these expenditures, you will do it to your own demise. I truly believe FLCC's major challenge to meet the congregational desire to maintain wage/salary level for its current staff is to make up for the loss of income from decrease worship attendance and the struggling economy. On the flip side, I am working with the leadership to broaden the scope of stewardship during my remaining time as your interim pastor through classes like Financial Peace University and opportunities to increase legacy giving and large gifts for long term congregational growth and mission/vision support and general health of the congregation.

I am pleased with the response of dedicated givers of time, talent and treasure to meet the needs of the congregational transition. The Transition Team is making significant progress toward the assembly of a Ministry Site Profile which will be the foundation for a Call Committee. The current use of congregational surveys is an indicator of their progress. Your continued prayers are appreciated.

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