Since I know that most of you didn't have a chance to pick it up, I want to summarize it here for you, and then give you a copy of an email I sent to the pastor yesterday (11/17/08) with 12 questions, some of which I hope he can address PRIOR TO the vote on Wednesday. As our country heads into what may be some very tough economic times, he needs to address how our church is preparing. As he preaches to us he considers himself to be the bastion of courage in these difficult days - but in addition to telling us to be courageous (and to keep tithing), he needs to also be pragmatic and explain the implications of the tough economy on our church budget and operations and ministries - and let us know that he is demonstrating leadership in taking prudent steps. Here is a summary of the budget:
There are several interesting aspects of this budget requiring explanation:
1. Why is "Communications" and "Business Admin" increased substantially, while other areas are cut?
2. Why did giving to the Cooperative Program under the "Missions & Evangelism" category increase 10% from $500,000 to $550,000? Wouldn't it be best to hold this constant giving our overall budget is unchanged? (I have my own views as to why this is so, but I'll save that for later)
3. Apparently the much needed "emergency" repairs that Mac arrogantly and abrasively asked us to give in two weeks to avoid going into debt are NOT budgeted, since the facilities budget was not increased. Perhaps it is there, but it doesn't look like it. We hope that the difference between the actual amount given in the special offering and the needed $1 million dollars are included in the 2009 Facilities/Maintenance budget.
But here is the email I sent to Mac on 11/17/08 that covers these three items and some others. If any of these are concerns of yours as well, please email Mac at firstname.lastname@example.org. He didn't respond to my email as he does not reply to anonymous emails. Feel free to send any response you get to me, or post them directly here in the Comments section.
Hello Mac - I understand that we are voting Wed 11/26 on the 2009 budget this coming church year, and I have some questions about the budget. I understand your policy on anonymous emails and I respect that, but still I do feel compelled as a member to write you anonymously for my own personal reasons. If you don't provide a personal response because of your anonymous email policy, perhaps you could provide answers to some of these questions from the pulpit in advance of the vote Wednesday night. I do understand trustees were present last Wednesday after the service for questions, but many members, including myself, were not aware that the budget would be discussed and were not present to ask questions. But here are my questions:
1. I am concerned about the cuts in ministry that are made in all but two of the ministry areas. Can you tell us what the amount committed to the budget was on the Chest of Joash day? How does the amount committed compare to the amount committed last year?
2. I am concerned that this budget shows no detail whatsoever on salaries and benefits paid to our employees. How might we find out detailed information on at least the salaries that are included in each of the categories?
3. Under which category(ies) does your's and your wife's salary and benefits fall?
4. As most companies and non-profits are tightening their financial belts in anticipation of the pending recession, can you share with us what leadership you are providing in prioritizing expenses and perhaps cutting the lower priority costs? Have you looked at personnel cuts and restructuring of staff responsibilities as a way to prepare for the difficult year ahead?
5. Related to question 1.: can you explain the decision making process that leads to a reduction in the budget for ministry areas, but an INCREASE in "Communications" and "Business Administration"? In tough economic times I would hope that cuts could be made in business and communications BEFORE we cut ministry, and certainly wouldn't expect to see INCREASES in Communications and Business Administration while ministry is being cut.
6. I see zero expenditures on the "Pastor's Conference" line item under "Community Life". I assume the revenues and expenditures related to the Pastor's Conference are off-budget, perhaps in another 501(c)3 organization. How might a member find financial information on these expenses, and the anticipated revenues from the pastor's conference from both attendee enrollment and the selling of pomotional space? What is this 501(c)3 organization?
7. Have we considered cutting the expenses of our consultants like the A-Group and Conexus Group and doing some of these tasks in house with our staff and support staff to save money? How might a member concerned with our expenditures on marketing and promotions consultants find enough detail in our financials to see what are the amounts of these expenditures in the last fiscal year?
8. In that the "Facilities" line item under the catetory "Facilities/Maintenance" is cut by 4% from last year, does this mean that the portion of the $990,000 needed for the repair of our facilities that has not been raised through the special offering, is NOT included in this budget? If so, why is this? Why are we not paying for ongoing maintenance of our facilities in our budget?
9. About the Communications budget, which is increased by $400,000 dollars over last year, can you explain what this money is being spent on? We are concerned that this represents TV ministries on the INSP network that might be a low priority, given that we are archiving on the 316 network. Again, clarification as to why "Communications" spending is increasing over last year while ministry budgets are cut is a major concern.
10. Our cooperative giving budget was increased from $500,000 to $550,000. Can you tell me why this is so, and why we are cutting local ministry expenditures but increasing cooperative expenditures? Would it not be more prudent to simply hold that budget expenditure to last year's level?
11. The costs of starting the satellite next year: can you tell us what category these new costs for 2009 are located in the budget?
12. I understand from several deacons that questions were asked by deacons who wanted to see more detail. Were the deacons who had questions given the detail they requested prior to asking them to vote on the budget?
Thank you for reading my email, and I'll await your response via email or from the pulpit.
FBC Jax Watchdog