We had a difficult Advisory Council meeting on Wednesday night. It's really a bummer that we've gotten to this point as a church. We had to make some serious budget cuts.
In managing our personal finances, Erin and I follow Dave Ramsey's advice, "spend every dollar on paper on purpose before the month begins - it's the only way to win with your money." A major responsibility as pastor is to faithfully manage the resources God has entrusted to TFC and I follow that same principle, although we do it on a yearly basis.
Last July, we set our fiscal year (07-08) budget based upon projected monthly giving of $8,400. That's what we averaged over the previous fiscal year. We were right on that pace, hitting it exactly, through the first half of the year. Starting in January however, the bottom dropped out of our giving. I'm completely at a loss as to why. We've come up $2,000 short each of the last three months (that's assuming our offering is $1,000 on Sunday - our offerings through the first four weeks of March were only $5,700).
So at Wednesday night's meeting, we took a hacksaw to the budget. We cut every single thing we could, except for Children's Ministry budget (if this continues, that will be next). After that, we'll be down to wondering how we'll pay rent and salary.
There is a good thing to come out of this, we've had to reevaluate our priorities and we've realized we'd over budgeted for some categories, which were easy to cut. For example, we thought it would take $3,000 to fund small group child care this year but to date we've spent less than $1,000. So we were able to 'find' $2,000 there. Unfortunately, I have to tell our small group leaders that we have to cut it out for the rest of the year. It could be that the $8,400 we were averaging early on was to help us provide for the basics when we hit a slump. We've had to ask ourselves tough questions about the top budget priorities of our church's mission. And that's a great thing to reevaluate.
One of the things that took a hit is the money from our evangelism/outreach budget that we thought we could use for Love Wins. We have had some money come in from outside the church to support this ministry. Because of the cuts however, we had to use that money to repay ourselves for what we've spent.
My wife pours her heart into this ministry and it's seeing incredible results. It broke Erin's heart that we had to alter the budget in that way. Now, it's only $385, I'm thinking there has to be a way God can supply that need. Maybe it's from the fact that other churches are supporting this or maybe it will come from somewhere else. Maybe since this is an obvious way God is working, we need to keep moving ahead with it, trusting that God will supply our needs.
Which would mean we're following same principle in funding this ministry as a person follows when they tithe: You do what's right by giving to God first and know that he'll take care of you with what's left.
Maybe it's a spiritual thing. Maybe since such great things are happening with new people coming to Christ, other people are being tempted to put other things above their financial commitment to God? Maybe I'm being tempted to focus upon this rather than all the new people. I have to be honest and admit that when trying to pray for the new people, my mind naturally goes back to financial worries. My attention and energy has been taken away from new people, which is a failure on my part.
I also know that God works despite the disobedience of his people. In fact, he doesn't need us, it's for our benefit that He asks us to partner with him. This is God's church! God's using TFC to lead people to Christ, surely he won't let us drown!
David Brush said it beautifully at our meeting last night (I knew I should've written it down, I won't say this as well as he did) "If this is God teaching us to better manage our resources then we'll figure out how to trim the budget. If this is because of the disobedience of God's people, He'll take care of it - we don't have to worry about it." It was more eloquent than that, but very prophetic.