As we pass the halfway point of 2019 and head into the Fall, it’s a good time to take stock of where we stand.
So far our average giving this year has been $156,685 per month, while average expenses have been $171, 906. We have two accounts with the Florida United Methodist Foundation that contain $5,103 and $7,711, and two accounts with Merrill Lynch that contain $44,458 and $12,938. Our various deposits and payments come and go into a checking account with BB&T, so it rises and falls accordingly without carrying a significant balance.
We are about $2.5 million in debt from the construction of the D building. We have been making interest-only payments for the last several years, though the Foundations for the Future capital campaign of two years ago did manage to bring the debt down from where it was before at $3.5 million. Starting in January, we will have to begin making principal payments as well, so your finance team is in conversation with the Florida United Methodist Foundation about refinancing the debt. Otherwise our loan payments will be almost triple what they are now in 2020.
Our monthly expenses are being held below budget as I’ve asked the staff to seek approval from me before all purchases, to find ways to put off any expenses that can wait, and to cut out any expenses that we can possibly do without. What that means is that all new, innovative plans for improving what we do at Heritage are either being put on hold, or are being done in a scaled back manner.
With the staff’s help I have been exploring possible fundraising ideas. These include renting rooms for Eckerd College to hold classes, after school programs, advertising us as a wedding or conference venue, developing a smartphone app for the church with giving functionality, dinners with keynote speakers, and connecting with concert promoters as a performance venue. Your Finance Team has asked for various small groups, committees, and teams of the church to come up with fundraising ideas and make them happen, and there has been one response to that request–our women’s ministry team is going to hold a silent auction the night of the Christmas Tree Lighting. There are no other groups with projects currently in the works.
Some Perspective on Current Giving at Heritage
On average the families of our church contribute about $330 per month. For perspective, a family at the poverty level ($27,500) that tithes (gives their first tenth) would give $229 per month. If a family tithes by giving $330 per month, their household income is $39,600. However, the average income for households in our area is $70,174 (U.S. Census Bureau).
While finding new income streams would of course be helpful for accomplishing more in ministry to our congregation and community, the real need is for our congregation to begin to move toward the discipline of tithing so that the staff members we’ve hired–none of which were hired for their fundraising skills–can do the work we’ve hired them to do in equipping our congregation to do the ministry to which God is calling us.
Your Finance, Staff Parish, and Trustee Teams have all made drastic steep spending cuts to reflect the realities of our congregational giving to date. As you can see above, these cuts have reduced the budget, and the spending freeze has helped us underspend the budget so far this year. Nonetheless, our congregational giving is not covering our expenses.
However, God continues to call. He continues to call us to serve Foster Care families, to partner with schools, to assist with the Mount Olive food pantry, to teach children and youth group students about Jesus Christ, to do confirmation, to do funerals, baptisms, weddings, the sacrament of Holy Communion, visits to hospitals and nursing homes, offering small group opportunities, worship services, music, preaching, and teaching. So, we must change.
We must change because God has not called us to retreat. We must change because God has not called us to be afraid. We must change because our community needs us to, because Jesus invites us to, and because the Holy Spirit equips us to. So, we must change.
We will expand worship. We will all give sacrificially to an offering next month called The Expansion Project that will equip us to upgrade and improve and innovate. We will be better.
We will not do a “pledge campaign” this fall. Most of our members and friends give the same amount year after year, and so we are going to set the budget using a forecast based on past giving trends, rather than asking for everyone to turn in pledge cards through repeated announcements, letters, emails, and phone calls. This will allow us to set the budget much earlier, and to make plans earlier as well.
We will grow as disciples. This fall we will introduce the Disciple’s Path as our new spiritual growth system. It will challenge each of us to score ourselves in the various disciplines of the disciple of Jesus Christ, and based on that score, we can set goals for ourselves to improve and grow and learn and deepen our connection to Jesus Christ. Because as that connection goes, so goes the church.
We will leave a legacy. We’ll talk about what it will look like to make Heritage a resilient church that will lead our community for generations to come. We will give sacrificially to programs that serve next generations and prepare them to take and lead the church into the future–Vacation Bible School, acolytes, clergy explorers, children’s ministry, camps and retreats, youth ministry, service projects, mentoring, and more. We will improve our worship services so that they will be times of gathering in which children feel at home, so that one day, when our generation is gone, they can make it their home, and the home of many others as well.
We will have an impact. Your vision team is bringing together the finishing touches on their three years of work with SLI, and is almost ready to share the new vision for our church’s impact on our community that came out of our season of prayer during Lent. The Countryside area of Clearwater will be transformed by God’s work through Heritage United Methodist, and I can’t wait to watch it all unfold with you!