Reimagining Ministry Shares Moves to Implementation

‘Ministry Shares Reimagined’ Moves to Implementation
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This is the last fiscal year (ending June 30, 2021) that the Christian Reformed Church will fund its ministries using the old ministry share system. 

For fiscal year 2022, the budget will be based and funded on the amount of giving pledged by churches and their classes (regions of churches). (See “Synod 2019 Upends Ministry Share System.”) The new method is called Reimagining Ministry Shares

That means that later this year, each church council will be asked to prayerfully consider how much its congregation can and will give for their ministry shares. This fall, each classis will evaluate the collective commitments and report to the denominational offices how much it will pledge by Feb. 1, 2021.

The denominational agencies and educational institutions will then, for the first time, develop budgets based on that pledged amount. Until now they have established budgets first and then asked for the money to meet them. 

The denomination has used the ministry share process since the mid-19th century, collecting what were then called assessments. It worked well for decades, many times affirmed as the most efficient way to collect the money for denominational ministries without the expense of fundraisers. However, in recent years, the amount actually remitted by the churches has steadily dropped, regardless of what amount was asked for. In 2016, only 58% of what was requested was actually received.

Synod 2019 approved the Ministry Shares Reimagined process in principle, recommending that Synod 2020 implement it. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Synod 2020 was canceled and the Council of Delegates had a special meeting to deal with part of the agenda, including implementing the change to ministry shares.

One church in southern Ontario sent a communication requesting that implementation be held off for a year, stating that it is too weighty a matter to be decided independently of synod. 

Several Canadian delegates also wanted implementation delayed until Synod 2021. Ralph Wigboldus, Classis Huron, noted that changes in the governance structure has left a number of things in flux, and COVID-19 has caused so much disruption, many churches are on hold.

Aaltje van Grootheest, a Canadian delegate at-large, agreed. “We’re too early trying to do this. We need the year coming up to get everything organized.”

Canadian ministries director Darren Roorda noted that several classes in Canada received the materials regarding the changes too late for their fall meetings and many spring meetings were canceled due to COVID-19. 

Most delegates were not convinced to delay implementation, saying the concept had already been approved by Synod 2019 in principle. 

The Council voted 28-15 to move ahead with implementation. Wigboldus, van Grootheest, and Mark Vande Zande, Classis Heartland, registered negative votes. 

About the Author

Gayla Postma is news editor for The Banner.

See comments (3)

Comments

If major changes like this can be implemented by committee (Approval in principle usually means let's have another look) I wonder if we can scale the official synod agenda back by somewhere near 50%. Let's determine Administrative "material" and let the CRCNA executive along with 7 Executives of the COD get those done and ratified by Synod. Then meet as a full synod every two or even three years for more theological issues.

By the time this funding proposal (which I support except the Classis evaluation piece)) is implemented, the funding of Synods the way it has been done in the past will no longer be viable.

By next February (2021) I trust the Canadian AND American pledged totals, ranked by Classis, will be published in the Banner.  This will let all those interested know how the new funding model is developing. For comparison use the base line of 58% of the 2016 total updated with the last available "old method" number for 2019 fiscal year.

Though I can appreciate the desire to re-think “ministry share” giving within the denomination, however branding the discussion in terms of “Reimagining Ministry Shares” is an unfortunate turn of phrase in that ministries have financially operated on the basis of two budgets, i.e.

  1. Budget #1: average of actual monies received annually by ministries; and
  2. Budget #2: imagined “ministry shares” approved at Synod

Since the 1980’s, annual ministry shares receipted by the denomination have averaged between 55-60% +/- of what was adopted at Synod, i.e. 40-45% of projected giving expectations can be said to have been “imaginary.”

 

For 40 years denominational ministries have requested annual increases in their ministry share without grappling with the variables related to the “imagined” gap between the local church pew “giving” and ministry administration “ministry share” requests. The question that arises is why Synod and/or the BOT/COD have been unable to get denominational ministries to re-evaluate their financial expectations. In the process, is the same behavior being mentored in the local church exacerbating the problem from top to bottom of the denomination?

 

Asking the local church council to report their proposed annual “ministry share” giving at classis up-ends reformed polity and accountability. It places the council in the untenable position of guaranteeing monies they are in no position to speak for, in that these monies are based on member giving capacity, willingness to give, and other variables. Moreover, it undermines Church Order in that providing for the minister and local church needs takes precedence over denominational ministry shares. In that mix are also priorities related to classical ministries, as well as, new and emerging initiatives in staffing and ministries at the local church level.

 

Heeding advice to defer this matter until 2022 might have been the better course of action, in light of the current pandemic and the potential financial fall-out, the aging demographic in the denomination, the continuing decrease in denominational membership, the trend towards smaller churches in the denomination with less financial capacity, etc.

While I hope and pray that this new method of making pledges toward CRCNA revenue will be successful and effecitve, I concur with the concerns expressed by Lubbert.

A few years ago, I was involved in an examination of the Ministry Share system initiated by Classis Hamilton.  We examined how the ‘ask’ was gradually being increased each year, over a period of decades.  Typically, the CRCNA would ‘ask’ for roughly $40-million in order to actually receive roughly $25-million.  This inflated ‘ask’ peaked in 2010 when the denomination asked for 168.96 per cent of what it anticipated receiving as per its own budget and financial statements.

Of the 18 years that we reviewed, in 10 of those years the ministry share revenue exceeded 100 per cent of what the CRCNA had budgeted for according to its own financial statements. In five of the remaining eight years, revenue exceeded 95 per cent of what was budgeted.

The consequence of this inflated ‘ask’ was that churches knew the denomination was not truly budgeting to receive the full $40-million – they were expected about two-thirds of that amount.

Rather than shifting to a 'reimagined' system that could get bogged down at the local council and classis level, I would have thought that the first step would have been to hit 'reset' and return to 100 per cent meaning 100 per cent.

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