Ministry shares revenue in the Christian Reformed Church has fallen by 7 percent compared to last year, and, if the current pattern continues, income could be $2 million less than what was received last year. Ministry shares are the monies given by congregations for the denomination's shared ministries and usually generate revenue of about $25 million annually.
John Bolt, the church’s director of finance and operations, said that some of the shortage is due to the weak Canadian dollar, which has recently fallen to 79 cents compared to the U.S. dollar. The fall in the Canadian dollar has an overall impact of a 3 percent reduction in revenue. “We have no control over the movement of the exchange rate, but it has a significant impact,” Bolt said. “The rate synod sets for giving by the Canadian churches is not adjusted for the exchange rate.”
Of more concern to Bolt is the 4 percent drop in what churches are contributing. He noted that the rate of giving through ministry shares giving is significantly lower than he has seen over the past 10 years. “I don’t know why it’s down,” he said. “Both the U.S. and Canadian economies are stronger than they were four or five years ago. I could go to 1,100 different churches and get 1,100 different answers.”
A study as recent as 2009 showed that the ministry shares program is still the most efficient way of collecting the money to do the shared ministries which the churches themselves have covenanted to do together.
Bolt said that denominational staff continues to get out the story to the churches of how their ministry shares dollars are used to support ministry around the world. In the meantime, he said, the shortfall means a heavier reliance on individual donor gifts. “It is much more expensive to have advancement teams raise funds through that method than the ministry shares system.”
Currently ministry agency staff is reviewing all expenditures. Bolt said in the near term, they are applying more effort to increasing revenue than making drastic cuts simply because cuts have a longer-term impact and take more consideration.
As budgets are prepared for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, all the ministries are being told to plan on ministry shares revenue being 8 percent lower than what was received this past year.