In addition to reading these, please plan to participate in one or both of the upcoming Dessert & Discussion forums: Wednesday, October 2 at 6:30 p.m. or Sunday, October 6 at 1:30 p.m.
Does the scope of the plan need to be so big? Yes. To have the needed impact on our operating budget and long-term ministry health requires multiple initiatives with personnel, property, and finances. To implement an alternative plan in a piecemeal fashion would require us to visit the same challenges again and again. We have learned that lesson about revisiting the same challenges over the last few years.
All of this seems too much too fast; can’t we take it slower or do it in smaller pieces? Our church has been taking it slowly for the last several years, making smaller changes and holding fast to our personnel structure and our property, as well as shoring up our finances with savings. At this point, smaller pieces would be too little too late to have the level of impact needed.
Since the church has savings, why is one part of the plan to increase savings? Staff restructuring will allocate a significant part of our present savings for severance and honoraria to bless staff members whose roles have been changed, and to recognize their dedication and hard work. This restructuring will help our operating budget be healthier, but will not restore our savings. Because it is vital to have funds available for a campus emergency or ministry opportunity, the Overseers and Council concluded that replenishing our savings requires action sooner rather than later.
It seems like selling the Crossman-Barney House is unnecessary; other than the cash it offers, what other benefit is derived from selling it? The sale reduces our cost and liability. By selling the house we reduce the portfolio of property that we as a church, and more specifically our B&G Team, manage. Instead of five buildings to maintain, we will have four. An aging property, the Crossman-Barney House requires overhauled plumbing and window replacement, at a minimum. Selling the house instead allows us to focus our human and financial resources on a smaller footprint in real estate and on the maintenance and improvement of fewer aging structures, especially our main church building. Caring for more property than we need demands human bandwidth that sidetracks us from the call of our ministry.
What is a "balanced budget"? In our case it means creating and adhering to a budget that does not use savings to bring expenses and income into balance. The congregation expressed the expectation of a balanced budget at the Annual Business Meeting in January, and the Stewardship Team affirmed its commitment to that goal at the Dessert & Discussion in May. Subsequently, the Overseers set a balanced budget as a priority for the Senior Pastor to implement in 2020. Over the last five months, he has worked diligently with the Overseers and Council to prayerfully discern and articulate a plan to realize that priority in our fall budgeting season.
I regularly use my savings to make ends meet; why should the church be different? Every household circumstance is different. However, history would show that our church’s use of savings to make ends meet has become the rule rather than the exception. Upon careful study of long-term trends and prayer to discern God’s will for our ministry, the Senior Pastor, Overseers, and Council concluded that continuing to prop up our bottom line by drawing on savings represented neither a sustainable future plan nor responsible stewardship of the resources God has entrusted us with.
Can we meet our ministry needs in light of positions transitioning from paid to volunteer? Absolutely. These transitions, in particular, align us with the expectation Scripture has for equipping the church for ministry and fit nicely with our efforts to encourage greater engagement among the body.
Why consolidate the responsibilities of the Camp Administrator with those of the Associate Pastor for Youth Discipleship? This consolidation is a strategic decision that furthers our goal of fully integrating Camp Cedarwood into the ministry of the church. While the strategic purpose is our priority, we do not overlook the realization of some financial savings. The desire is to better position the ministry to fulfill its part of our mission.
How will the new Church Administrator role strengthen the operation of the church office? This new role will combine mission-critical aspects of two currently paid positions: the Administrative Secretary and the Treasurer. In light of new technologies and the affordability of outsourcing some tasks, a church the size of BBC no longer requires two paid staff members to fill these roles. This consolidation enables us to consider what functions are essential and best managed in-house, with a human touch, and what we can accomplish more efficiently otherwise. The phase-in transition to a Church Administrator model gives us time to craft the role responsibly.
We’ve always had a paid Treasurer; how’s it going to work as a volunteer role? Our church is unique – especially at its varying size throughout the years – in having employed a Treasurer from the earliest days. We have been blessed to have employed and been supported by impeccable servants who took seriously the responsibility to handle finances above reproach. We have designed the transition to a volunteer role with a long runway to allow for proper preparation. Oversight by the Church Administrator will ensure continuity of integrity and quality when it comes to finances. While the Treasurer will be a volunteer role, the Treasurer still will work closely with the Stewardship Team and others who volunteer to handle the finances of the church.
What will pastoral visits look like without the Associate Pastor? The Senior Pastor and Governing Overseers stand ready to ensure solid pastoral care. As we deliberately grow our Deacon team, we will have an effective way to provide care for our church family. Proposed changes to the Constitution are designed to dovetail with staff restructuring. The revised Constitution will facilitate growth in ministry at the Deacon level and will provide more flexibility in composition and terms of service in ministry teams.
What if we can’t find a volunteer organist/pianist; will we still have a choir and a traditional worship service? There are no plans to end the traditional service or to dismantle the choir. While believing it is a sound and wise decision to have the organist/pianist role be volunteer, we made this decision trusting the Lord to provide. With great gratitude we can announce that Linda has decided to continue as our organist/pianist in a volunteer capacity.
If we don’t have enough money to maintain our operating budget, why is this the first I’m hearing about it? It may seem this is the first time you are hearing about it, but it is not. Financial need has been communicated for several years at Annual Business Meetings. Over the past three years, in addition to those written and verbal updates, there have been multiple mid-year reports. Most recently at our Annual Meeting in January, discussion led to approval of this year’s budget with the expectation that our 2020 budget would not again borrow from savings to balance. At the May Dessert & Discussion, the Stewardship Team affirmed that expectation of a balanced budget. In July the Senior Pastor and Stewardship Team Leader wrote to update you and ask you to pray as decisions were being made concerning staffing, ministry, and missions.
Who made these decisions? This has been a multiple-month process involving leaders of several teams to ensure that a breadth of thought and experience came to bear on all decisions. In all, the Senior Pastor and 8 elected leaders (Council and Overseers) were guided by the checks and balances built into our Constitution and sought prayerfully and wisely to assess our challenges and develop an effective plan to move the church forward, respecting our mission and honoring the Lord.
What can I do? Pray for each staff member. Encourage them. Be informed. Ask questions. Don’t gossip. Think well of others as a priority. Give thanks to the Lord for guiding this process, and ask Him to continue blessing our way forward.
What does our mission have to do with the budget? The budget is a tool used to further our mission. To talk about budget requires starting with our mission. By understanding God’s leading and His call, we are able wisely to appropriate funds to advance our mission: to follow Jesus and lead others to Him.
Is fixing our finances a focus on the secular at the expense of faith? Not at all. We are called to be stewards of God’s gifts. He owns it all, but we are called to manage it faithfully. To be able more readily to use His gifts to propel ministry rather than retreat from it is ideal. What if we were able to think more abundantly every budget season because our staffing structure and physical property more properly fits a church our size? What if we could respond to needs both near and far using our savings rather than routinely depleting our savings to sustain a large staff structure and physical plant beyond our capacity? Imagine the opportunities we can be ready for when our operating budget is healthy.
You say our church has weathered difficult times; what do you mean? In this case, it is a blessing to be unaware. Rejoice in what you see: the good that the Lord is doing in and through His church. Our church is not unique in its experience of the peaks and valleys of life. Our church gives testimony to the Lord’s goodness over the past 67+ years. However, the leaders that the Lord has called to serve His church here seek to learn from those difficult times so that we can make wise decisions that enable us to have continued influence in our mission field for years to come.
I love our staff; are we really doing right by them? By God’s grace we have attempted to express our love and appreciation for each one and tried to be generous through honoraria, severance, and notice. We believe doing what is right for the church in this case also gives opportunity for the Lord to move on behalf of each of our staff members affected by these decisions. It would be presumptuous of us to think that the Lord has guided our decision concerning the church but is not guiding those affected by that decision. Thankfully He is sovereign and good on every occasion, both in the life of our church and in the lives of each of our beloved staff members.
If you’re asking the church to give at a greater level now, why didn’t you ask us before? While our finances are handled above reproach, they are not healthy relative to the size of our campus, the size of our staff, and the size of the opportunity that saturates our local mission field or that of the missionaries we support. It would have been irresponsible to seek your support on the one hand while neglecting our duties of stewardship on the other. Rather, our leaders sought first to make the necessary adjustments to our budget, staffing, and real estate, and then to seek greater investment in the ministry of the church.
I see things turning around. Do you just not have enough faith? Thankfully, God does amazing things with even the smallest of faith! Indeed, things are turning around, but it has taken much work and prayer… even more reason not to stop short. It is a special kind of foolishness to ignore reality, which is what we would be doing if we did not address the challenges before us. It would be much like jumping from a bridge and expecting that gravity won’t do its work.
It seems like we’ve had a lot of change lately; can we handle more right now? Why not wait? The truth is that change comes, no matter our anticipation of it, no matter our preparation or lack thereof. To prayerfully anticipate and plan for change is far wiser than to simply let it wash over us. The consequences can be dire when the warning signs are not heeded. Instead it is better to seek the Lord, seek wise counsel and, once convinced, to move forward confidently and resolutely in the Lord. As a church we are choosing to do that, because not doing so is the less wise and more costly course.
You say that long-term trends point to ours being a smaller church. Should we be concerned? We are not without bright spots and awesome blessings! Remember the report of our short-term mission trip team to Honduras earlier this year? Remember the testimonies and baptisms of two sisters just recently? Remember our 5th Sunday Serve events at Providence Rescue Mission or in the park over the summer? God’s blessings abound at Barrington Baptist Church. Still, for far too long now our church has seen consistent decline in the numbers of people who worship week-to-week, the number of those giving to support the ministry, the sum of our giving for ministry, and the number of members committed to the mission of the church. This is our reality, and it is a challenge the Lord has given our leaders to address at this time.
Be assured that this is not the beginning of the end. Quite the opposite: our leaders see this plan as a turning point and a new beginning. Rather than staring this challenge in the face any longer while our resources – both human and capital – fade away, our leaders have prayerfully sought to do something about it. Because our blessings abound, it is time to seize this moment – deal with our reality – and depend upon the Lord in this season to turn it all around.
This is a plan that calls for rejoicing, even while we wipe our tears because of the toll it has on those we hold so dear. It is also a time to remember the goodness of God… to trust His care for those very same people… and to follow His guidance throughout this process to help us triumph over this challenge.
~September 24, 2019~