Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fiscal Responsibility...

We have been subjected to relentless news media speculation, polls, pundits and prognosticators about the 2012 Presidential Election. Who is the best candidate, who is leading the latest poll, who has the best plan for economic recovery and so forth. You also hear a lot about government spending and calls for balancing the budget and fiscal responsibility. For all the hot air blowing out of politicians’ mouths in Washington DC just 65 miles south of us, you’d think our climate would be more tropical and there would never be a need for a jacket!

Well at Calvary, we take the concepts of fiscal responsibility and balancing our budget seriously because we are stewards of money that does not belong to us, it belongs to God who will hold us accountable for how we us it. (Wow – what a novel concept for our government – stewardship & accountability because the money they’re responsible for belongs to someone else! Sigh.)  We began our budget process in July of this year and after many rounds of discussion and tedious work, we believe we have a balanced budget plan for our church in 2012. Often the task of budgeting for ministry needs is pretty overwhelming and hard to actually calculate. Since we know it gets more expensive every year to operate, the ministry leader might create a safety valve and simply add 3, 4 or 5 percent to what was budgeted last year trying to plan and anticipate ministry needs. Sometimes this approach serves us well and we’re right on target.

For the first time in our church history that I’m aware of, our 2011 budget was just over $1,000,000 (one million dollars). While that is exciting to some degree, we’ve not consistently been meeting our weekly budget need this year. What I’ve learned in my experience and have been taught is that not meeting your budget need over the course of the year can have a negative effect on your overall church giving. People see that you are not meeting your budget and can become discouraged that it cannot be made up if the target is too far out there.

Okay, this is where I need to say “relax and take a deep breath” for some of you because you’re worried about the financial health of your church. We are fine financially. Our church is a great steward of the resources God gives us for ministry. Even though we’re behind in our budget giving, we never spend more than we take in and there are things we budgeted for that we’ve not spent or it cost less than we figured. This combined with the fact we’ve not been paying an associate pastor or full time ministry secretary mean we’ll end 2011 with a budget surplus that we’ll save toward future ministry needs. So the church is in sound financial shape and God’s people are faithful to give to support the work of the kingdom.

One of the things I asked our finance committee and our ministry leaders to do this year was to prepare their Ministry Action Proposals (MAPS) based on actual expenditures. This approach gives us a more accurate picture of what we really need to have to fund the ministries at Calvary. It is still hard however because of the generosity of God’s people who pay for ministry related needs out of their own pockets and never turn in receipts for us to reimburse them for those expenses. I have asked our ministry leaders and finance committee to pare this budget down to a more realistic figure but also maintaining a faith component and to dream God sized dreams for what He wants to do through our church ministries in 2012. This is no small challenge! I'm pleased that the finance committee's hard work has reduced our overall budget that we as a church family will discuss on Sunday evening November 20th. In this issue of "The Way", you will find a copy of this budget plan for 2012.

As your Pastor, there are several things I would like to ask of you related to this budget proposal. First of all, I’d like for you to review this prayerfully and become familiar with it knowing it represents much hard work by our ministry leaders and finance committee. Secondly, I’d like for you to plan to attend our budget discussion Church in Conference on Sunday evening November 20th at 5:00 p.m. so you can make an informed decision regarding our church budget. That meeting is your opportunity to ask questions or provide input to our budget process. I’m concerned that the vast majority of our members will vote on such a critical church family issue as our ministry budget and have no idea or understanding what they are voting on because they did not come to the discussion meeting. Thirdly, be ready to support the final adopted budget with your vote on Sunday December 4th. Finally, prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you commit to regarding your offering giving over and above your tithe. The tithe is non-negotiable to the Lord, 10% of your income belongs to God (Malachi 3:10). What you need to ask God to show you is what He wants you to commit to give in 2012 as an offering to Him. That is the percentage over 10% you give to the Lord. I remember my pastor years ago saying “The tithe is a good place to start but a terrible place to end.” I whole heartedly affirm that. Some years God has told me to give 11%, one year I remember God had me to commit to 14% of my income. Whatever God says to you, you can commit to be obedient to Him knowing He will provide.

Remember Paul’s inspired message to the Corinthian Church in 2nd Cor. 9:6-8 “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

I praise God for the generosity of our Calvary Baptist Church family and for your faithfulness to the Lord in your tithes and offerings for Kingdom work. I appreciate all the hard work all of our ministry leaders in this budget process and our Finance Committee, particularly the leadership of our Chairman Bill Karczeski. I believe God has great things in store for us as church family in 2012 and I am excited to see what God will do as we partner together, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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