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February 22, 2021 - 

Congregations are pledging to contribute less for shared denominational ministries than funds  received in previous years, but many churches that have never contributed are now pledging funds. The contributions, called ministry shares, support the Christian Reformed Church’s administration, missions, the seminary, and congregational service ministries. 

The update on pledges was received by the CRC’s Council of Delegates, meeting by video conference Feb. 17-19. The Council is the governing body of the denomination, which acts on behalf of synod, the broadest assembly of the church.

For the first time in the denomination’s history, the budget for the coming fiscal year (starting July 1, 2021) will be based on what churches pledge to contribute. In the past, budgets were created first and then churches were asked to remit a certain amount to meet that budget. 

Moving to a pledge system is all part of Reimagining Ministry Shares. The denomination embarked on this change in 2019 because churches were routinely remitting less, sometimes considerably less, than the requested amount. Denominational budgets were based on trying to estimate what amounts would be collected. Now, congregations, in conversation with their own classes (regional group of churches), make a pledge to send in a specific amount, and budgets will be made accordingly.

Reference: Synod Decision: Reimagining Ministry Shares

Executive director Colin Watson Jr. reported to the CRC’s Council of Delegates in February that with pledges from 928 churches (out of 1,031), financial commitments in the U.S. are less than those given in 2020 by about 15%. The reduction in Canada is smaller at about 5%. 

“We are grateful that in a number of cases, churches that previously did not participate in the ministry share process are now opting to participate. This is especially true in some smaller and ethnic minority churches,” Watson said. “We praise God for this new level of commitment.”

Potential Cuts

In preparation for the new way of budgeting, ministry leaders were asked to list what programs could be scaled back or eliminated if the money received was less than the previous year’s budget. Perhaps hardest hit are the congregational services ministries, since 70% of their budgets are dependent on ministry shares. 

Some of the suggested service cuts include but are not limited to: 

  • Reduced faith formation resources, affecting Christian school partnerships and catechism resources
  • An 8% reduction in the budget for Dwell curriculum
  • Reduced faith formation coaching and consulting
  • Reduced worship resources
  • Reduced continuing education grants from Pastor Church Resources

While money received in Canada and the U.S. is kept separate, the majority of denominational ministry is joint in nature and relies on combined funding from Canada and the U.S., according to Terry Veldoom, director of finance & operations (Canada). “The 70/30 split, which approximates the ratio of CRC members in the USA and Canada respectively, has been used as a general rule of thumb for the cost sharing of joint ministries and synodical activities,” he told The Banner in an email. 

Distributing the Pledged Amounts

Also new is how the received ministry shares will be allocated. In the past, that allocation has typically rolled over from year to year, with ReFrame Ministries (formerly Back to God Ministries International) receiving 12%, Calvin Theological Seminary receiving 10%, Resonate Global Mission receiving 31%, and Congregational Services sharing 23%. (The remainder goes to denominational services and a special assistance fund.)

Under Ministry Shares Reimagined, the ministry leaders will together decide on allocation annually, looking at the various joint ministries and initiatives more intently in terms of strategic priority, according to Veldboom. He noted that those strategic priorities may not be the same in Canada as in the U.S.

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