Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.
Malachi 3:10 – The Message
Let me share a number that’s causing me to lie awake nights.
$1.9 million dollars.
That’s how much the Oregon Conference has to save before we can meet our 2020 budget.
$1.9 million dollars.
In a moment we’ll do the numbers, but first I want to remind you that your conference executive committee, administrative team, and yes, I personally, take the responsibilities you have given us very seriously. You can be certain that we’re fully committed to openness in this budgetary challenge, a process where together we must maximize efficiency while minimally the impact on mission.
This challenge is not something leadership can solve alone, but provides a unique time where we must work together - each church member – each leader – each retiree – each young adult – each of us – the entire Oregon Conference family giving all we have to grow our family into a stonger ministry.
With that understanding, let’s do the numbers.
Since 2019 tithe revenue was nearly 2 million dollars lower than projected, the finance committee has voted a 2020 budget based on tithe revenue of only $32.1 million. That’s $1.9 million less than the 2019 budget.
How do we save $1.9 million dollars? Here are three options:
1. Reduce staffing by $1.9 million.
2. Pray for God’s blessings and make no changes.
3. Challenge our members to increase tithe by at least $2 million in 2020.
Since 78% of the conference budget is in personnel costs, this means that “cutting” costs by $1.9 million dollars will require reductions in personnel. Here’s what the executive committee is recommending:
• 12% reduction in staff at the Oregon Conference office (6 Full-time equivalents - FTEs)
• 6% reduction in pastoral staff across the territory (8 FTE)
- Less Assistant Pastors and larger districts
• 5% reduction in Oregon Conference Education (6 FTE)
- Reduced conference subsidy for teacher salaries and reduced conference school support
It is possible that God is just “putting us to the test,” and that this is the perfect time to pray while moving forward. However, it seems quite presumptuous to just move ahead, assuming God would somehow “come through,” on the budget. It also feels like an abrogation of the financial and administrative responsibilities God has granted to the leadership of our conference.
There are about 37,000 people registered as members of the Oregon Conference. A bit more than 1/3 of those attend church regularly. That gives us about 12,000 active members, or somewhere around 8,000 family groups.
If 8,000 families gave $25 of new tithe money each month, the total income would $2,400,000. That’s more than enough to cover the deficit while maintaining the current level of staffing and teacher salary support.
I wake up regularly wondering which option is the wisest one, the one God would have us choose. Personally, I prefer Option #2. “Trust God and push the accelerator to the floor.” Trouble is, God trusts us to use His resources wisely, to be good money managers, to not push the conference into debt. So, Option #2 is a “No Go.” For me.
Option #1 is the logical, rational, careful, and wise approach. It maintains mission with minimal pain. It’s probably the best way to go.
But I keep coming back to Option #3. Maybe that’s because it comes with so many good questions.
1. Why is it that only 1/3 of our recorded church members attend on any given Sabbath?
2. What might make weekly church fellowship more attractive and essential for members?
3. If I am already giving a full tithe, how could I increase that?
4. What might happen if 8,000 families decided to “test” God each month?
5. Is it possible to give so much that God’s blessings cannot keep up with my giving?
No one has asked for my vote, but I’d place it on Option #3. Imagine what we might learn from that level of trust!