03 December 2008

Food for thought

We had Cook's Night Out at church tonight. It's the first Wednesday of the month and a different committee or ministry group hosts it on a rotating basis. This month, the youth group put out lasagna, garlic bread, salad and cakes. It was a nice time of fellowship.

Afterwards we had a "town meeting" at church to discuss a deficit between the projected budget and the projected income for next year. Right now, in order to balance it, the church really has only three options: cut salaries, cut outreach giving, or make up the income. Or it can approve a deficit budget. Which it did last year and is now running with a surplus.

It was an interesting meeting. There are many faithful people on all sides of the issue and nothing is cut and dried. Personally, I think the staff is essential and at least one of them is probably underpaid anyway. And I think the outreach is faithful and necessary, though I think it has become a little removed from the personal realities of many congregants because the church takes care of it for us.

When it comes down to it, I think I'm a big fan of leap-of-faith deficit budgets. This church has scrupulous record-keeping and pays impeccable attention to where the money goes. Balanced budgets are a tradition, I think. But in the three churches I've worked in as a paid employee, budget deficits of up to 1/3-1/2 of the projected budget were so commonplace that no one batted an eye at approving a budget with a projected $30,000 shortfall. And every year, the needs were met somehow. Sometimes I think a little affliction for the sake of gospel is a good thing that we mainliners don't usually experience. But I know that there are lots of people worried about financial afflictions in their own lives/ businesses right now. One more worry might be one affliction too much. We'll see.

In the meantime, these fellowship opportunities are probably just what the Spirit would order. At the end, the senior minister asked us all to join hands and pray the Lord's Prayer and everyone just sort of automatically (though with a teeny bit of bumbling) made their way into a large circle. The minister said, "See? You just know how to be church!" And it's true. They do. We do. And we'll figure out this latest challenge together.

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