The latest numbers show that denominational ministry share giving is still down from last year. Ministry shares are a major portion of the money local congregations send to fund shared ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.
With an anticipated 10 percent decrease in giving, denominational ministries continue to tighten belts.
"Projections, economic indications, and what we're hearing from major donors and churches mean we anticipate a 10 percent drop at this point," said Rev. Jerry Dykstra, executive director of the CRC.
Directors of all the CRC's ministry agencies met with their staff and identified $2 million in program expenses that could be cut or postponed for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Those cuts include reduced travel, adjustments in programming, cancelled conferences, and more.
For example, Rev. Mark Stephenson, director of the Disability Concerns ministry, will take just three short driving trips this spring to help churches continue to incorporate people with disabilities into the life of the church. All other travel and speaking engagements at conferences and classis meetings have been cancelled.
For the fiscal year that starts July 1, each agency prepared a budget that anticipates a 15 percent drop in income. A consolidated budget from all the agencies will go to Synod 2009 for approval.
"Budgeting for a 15 percent decline from this year's budget—we think that is conservative," said Dykstra. "If revenues are better than that, we can do some of the things we didn't budget for."
Denominational employees are also feeling the pinch in their own pocketbooks. Pending approval in late February by the CRC's Board of Trustees, changes to pensions and benefits will take effect immediately.
If the changes are approved, U.S. employees will see their health care premiums double from 10 to 20 percent—from $132 to $264 per month for families. In Canada, employees will start paying $29 per month toward extended health coverage.
On both sides of the border, employer contributions to employee pensions would be cut by nearly two-thirds.
Because of rules established by synod, contributions to the pensions of ordained personnel working for the denomination cannot be changed. So those employees, on both sides of the border, would be assessed 4 percent of their salary for pension contribution.
Those changes are expected to generate about $400,000 in savings over the last four months of the fiscal year.
Another proposal going to the board is to freeze the salaries of all employees for the coming year.