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A decline in ministry share revenue was referenced several times over the February meetings of the Council of Delegates (the Christian Reformed Church’s ecclesiastical governance board) and its two operational governing boards, the U.S. and Canadian ministry boards. Ministry shares are pledged contributions from the member churches to the denominational expenses, including shared ministry and operating costs like the services needed for synod (the denomination’s annual general assembly), communications, and other functions.

As churches have been shrinking, so too have the contributed funds.

Related: 2023-24 Ministry Share Allocation Adjusts to Organizational Changes (Feb. 22, 2023); Synod 2023 Agrees to Make Ministry Shares Program More Flexible, Continue to Study Response (June 13, 2023); Ministry Share Income Down for 2023 Fiscal Year (May 10, 2022); Classes Talk About Ministry Shares (Oct. 23, 2019, from CRC Communications)

The decrease in this stream of revenue has prompted an increased focus on advancement or fundraising activities, particularly for the CRC’s newest agency, Thrive, which was formed last year from nine former ministries.

Thrive is allotted 38.8% of the portion of ministry shares to be distributed, after governance costs are covered, for the coming fiscal year beginning in July. Canada Specific Ministries will receive 7.2%; Resonate Global Missions 24.6%; ReFrame Ministries 11.4%; Calvin Seminary 10.4%, and Calvin University 7.6%, according to the 2024-25 Ministry Share Distribution Proposal adopted by the Council. Those percentages are of the portion of ministry shares remaining after 35.4% is taken from the initial total for the governance costs of the denomination—the services in the Office of General Secretary and U.S. and Canadian Ministry Boards. “Because governance costs are a necessity for a denomination, we recommend that they be taken out of the expected ministry shares,” reads the proposal from the CRCNA’s transitional executive director of Canada, U.S. Ministry operations director, general secretary, and chief administrative officer. “The remaining will be distributed based on the percentages (above). Any reduction in governance costs will enable more ministry shares to be distributed based on these same percentages.”

Some delegates were concerned about treating the governance functions as fixed costs.

Wayne Brower, Classis Holland, noted that in the proposal’s scenario of a 10% reduction in ministry shares coming in, the expected expenditure for the governance functions didn’t decrease. Instead the portion of ministry shares it would take went up (from 35.4 to 39.4%), leaving even less to be distributed across ministries.

“We're asking those governance organizations not to even consider any reduction,” Brower said. “I think it limits our leadership in doing their job. … Shouldn’t we give them the opportunity to tighten their belts like we're asking the other organizations?”

Shirley DeVries, chief administrative officer within the Office of General Secretary, said, “The reasoning there is that we have to have synod and we have to have the Council of Delegates. There are some really big-ticket items that we have to have. We will be looking diligently at ways to trim those costs … knowing that we have to do that, we have to get this in a leaner form.”

DeVries said also, “One thing we know is that our churches continue to be generous. We see a higher percentage of monies coming in as above ministry share—those are given to agencies. I don't know of any above-ministry-share money that has gone to those governance functions.

“We will be doing a better job of promoting some of that, like our candidacy and our ecumenical work that maybe people forget is included in those governance components,” she continued. “Our challenge is that over time, we think that there will be fewer churches, and so although our churches remain generous, there are fewer of them, which means there are fewer dollars coming our way.”

Calvin University, which presented to the Council of Delegates this meeting as part of the rotating schedule of reporting partner institutions and agencies (Calvin Seminary and World Renew are the other two), made a plea to receive an increased amount of ministry shares over the next few years to buoy the school through a demographic hump. Calvin president Wiebe Boer said he’d “like to challenge the denomination to consider a surge in ministry shares. We are very close to having enough revenue that we can be self-sustaining, and if the denomination could help us with that and give a surge, an increased amount of ministry shares, rather than a smaller amount, then within three to five years we may actually be at a point where we don't really need ministry shares again in the future.” That request, though received through the report, was not specifically addressed at this meeting. Asked about it by a delegate, Council of Delegates chair Michael Ten Haken said “I think that's something that staff can certainly hear from Weibe and take into consideration in subsequent years.”

The Council’s finance committee also shared updates from an ongoing review of the ministry share process, a request made by Synod 2023 after it received an initial review that had been requested by Synod 2022 (Acts of Synod 2023, p. 987). Finance committee chair Henry Eygenraam, a Canada-at-large delegate, said this was a work in progress with more findings to be shared at the May meeting of the Council.

Eygenraam presented the condensed financial report from CRCNA ministries, as of December 2023, which the Council accepted and forwarded to Synod 2024. Only the Office of General Secretary showed a net deficit, of $20,000, at the six-month mark of the fiscal year.

Encouraged by a request from the trustees of the Canada and U.S. Ministers’ Pension Fund, the Council agreed to form a task force to create updated compensation guidelines for CRC churches. The last denominational advice on this came from Synod 2001 for churches participating in the Fund for Small Churches.

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