How'd we get here?
Two months ago we attempted a risky church maneuver. We dropped all of our automatic recurring givers and asked them to renew their commitment on a different giving platform. The risks of attrition and shrinkage were obvious. And for a few days, the gifts we automatically received shrunk from around $6000/month to $0.
But the risk was bearable because we knew our manner of talking about money and the tools we used to make giving a seamless and easy process would not allow us to grow into the church we already were. We needed to reframe what it means to be committed financially to DOWNTOWN CHURCH and significantly increase the number of giving units (usually defined as a household) and the amount each one of those units committed to give to DTC.
So we dropped our recurring payment provider and moved everything to a new platform. At about the same time, I preached a sermon that defined stewardship in terms of community and challenged our church to not mooch off each other or God's grace. At that time 34 households were contributing over 50% of the money that the church needed to receive from the congregation to keep the lights on, maintain our programs, and cover salaries. That's astounding (not in a good way) when you consider our Sunday average for worship attendance in 2013 is about 250 people.
Something needed to be done. We were/are growing faster in numbers than we were in our commitment level. It wasn't sustainable - eventually we would run out of money.
So now what?
This realization compelled us to focus our attention on sustainability. Starting a church isn't easy, but the subsidy provided by the local governing body of our denomination, Trinity Presbytery, allowed us to focus on gathering people and not be as concerned with the financial support of the people we gathered. Our strategy worked. It worked so well that we met our five year goal for average/Sunday worship attendance in 18 months.
It worked so well that we were immediately under-staffed and short on chairs. We ordered more chairs at $8/each, bought a stage, improved our sound system, and added an extra staff person to assist with set-up. But the real expense of being a church with 350+ regular attendees ("members") is still in front of us.
In 2014 our budget will need to expand by 16% to $350,000. In 2015, we will be on our own - without any grant support from our partners. This means in the next 18 months, we need to increase the annual amount that the congregation gives through Sunday and recurring offering by $105,000.
I share these details for two reasons:
- We need to be transparent about our finances. We work hard to keep our expenses low, and for that we are proud. We do a whole lot with the gifts we've been given and I think most people would be surprised that it doesn't cost more to do what we are doing. Still, the leadership of the church is committed to sustaining the entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to this church while not losing money along the way. We'll be sharing regular financial updates via the blog in the future.
- It's time to grow up. DOWNTOWN CHURCH needs a boost. There is a wide gap between the church we already are and the funds available to sustain it. It's not a new church, it's your church.
In the coming months you'll be hearing more about our efforts to immediately close the gap by creating a reserve, investing in some much needed program development, and enhancing our worship experience. We are calling this campaign "BOOST" and we are excited because we never believed we'd be at this juncture this early.
Until then, you can do 3 things.
- Make a recurring online gift and join the 44 households that have committed. Click here for the secure form. If you want to make an annual pledge to help us budget without submitting your debit or credit card info, that option is now available.
- Begin praying about how you can serve at DOWNTOWN CHURCH. We've already dispelled many myths about what a church has to look like and do. The one myth I'd most like to prove false is that 80% of the work in a church is done but 20% of the people. Click here to see where we need help.
- In the next 6 months we'll be offering opportunities to make a commitment to the BOOST Campaign. If you think DOWNTOWN CHURCH is doing something worth supporting, begin thinking about what your part will be.