. . . you are permitted to remember the association and to increase your gifts to the ministry of our churches-in-association. However, you ought to also ask me to make the case as to “why.” I promise if you keep reading you will discover some things helpful to the overall missional engagement of your church.
I have four things to share with you. Our situation. Your situation. Places where God is at work. Generosity pathways.
When I began as your Director of Missions 13+ months ago the association was spending almost $5,000 more per month more than its income. We were fast depleting our reserves. More than 90 percent of our income came from our churches-in-association. So, that was your money.
I began taking immediate actions to cut back our spending. We looked at every item for cost savings. My third month we downsized a staff position. We then adjusted the 2018 budget to be more in line with our income.
There were consequences. Funds we previously sought to make available to individual churches-in-association with ministry needs could not be provided. Parachurch ministries the association had traditionally supported could not receive funds. Cathy Locklear and I—the two remaining in-office staff—along with our outside accountant—Harry Langley—picked up the administrative and financial tasks.
During the past 12 months funds received from churches have stabilized but not increased. Halfway through this year we are about $25,000 short of needed income to operate and provide services for churches in our association. We are underspending the budget everywhere we can, while still increasing ministry among our churches-in-association.
Many of you are also struggling with finances within your church. We are both in the same boat.
You have staff and ministry needs you would like to address. You have unexpected and unwelcome building repair needs. You have deaths in your church or relocations from your church of members who have been strong financial supporters.
You have members and attenders who have economic stress of their own. People are on fixed income. People who have not yet become captured by the vision of tithing.
Additionally, you are not sure what the association does that requires funding. You thought the funds contributed through the Cooperative Program covered the association. You did not realize the association is funded separately from the state and national organizations with which your church is affiliated.
Then there is that question swirling around in your head that makes me cringe—“What has the association done for my church lately?” Of course, that question misunderstands that churches are the association. So, please begin answering that question by looking around and seeing what your church has done for your sister churches to help all CMBA churches-in-association be more vital and vibrant missional communities. The association is a catalyst for this type of activity, and this relates to the next section.
Places Where God is at Work
God is at work in many ways in all our almost 100 churches. The staff of the association seeks to come alongside churches and help them be more vital and vibrant. Just in the last 30 days this has included:
- Working with more than a dozen churches engaging in a day of compassion ministry through Inasmuch Days on September 22nd and 29th.
- Working with multiple churches needing to consider a different path for their future. One church has recently decided it would like to merge with another church. Another church is engaged in a six-week daily prayer emphasis to prepare them for what God has next for them.
- Helping churches during the period between pastors to have intentional interim pastors who will help them focus on their future ministry. Plus, welcoming the new pastors and staff members when they arrive.
- Connecting a larger church with a smaller church for partnership. The larger church wants to help increase the capacity of the smaller church. They see that as part of being a sister church.
- Helping 11 churches in our association who account for 60 percent of all our baptisms to not be satisfied but do in-depth demographic and lifestyle strategizing to move deeper into neighborhoods of lost and unchurched people.
- Increasing the capacity of churches engaging in hunger ministry to have greater capacity to alleviate hunger so they can also work long-term to eliminate hunger.
- Strategizing to start new congregations to address our growing and diversifying population.
- Connecting a suburban church who wants to invest in ministry in the city with a church that lost its meeting place to see what synergy of efforts can be developed.
- Planning Vision Tuesday gatherings for the fall that will now be called CMBA Family Gatherings.
What we would really like to do over the next year is to discover and make available various pathways for our churches to increase the generosity factor within their churches. Financial stewardship is a difficult thing for many pastors and staff leaders to address. Yet, we know it must be addressed. We want to help.
In the past 30-plus years with the reshuffling of our Baptist denominational family, many efforts dedicated to stewardship education have diminished or disappeared. The help churches could once count on to increase the financial discipleship of their members is no longer available.
Would you be willing to join me during the next 12 months in discovering and making available various generosity resources and processes? Would you even help fund it by increasing your gifts to the association so that we might create generosity pathways for all our churches?